How to Help Your Child Be Calm on a Plane

 

Airports are crowded, busy, and noisy. This constant bombarding of the senses can make your child anxious. Even if they are not visibly stressed, all of the stimulation does challenge their senses and can be tiring. If you have a child with autism or Sensory Processing Disorder, this is even more true. Here are some ideas for ways to incorporate proprioceptive input, aka “heavy work”, in your travel day.

Children with sensory processing disorder have difficulty managing sensory input. When traveling through an airport, their senses are bombarded by lights, noises, crowds, scents….the list goes on and on. It is likely that your child with Autism or SPD will be on high defense when traveling through the airport and on the airplane. Proprioceptive activities (also called “heavy work”) help “increase attention, decrease defensiveness, and modulate arousal.” (As described at SensoryProcessingDisorder.com., one of my favorite resources for SPD information.) I have found that even for children without Sensory Processing Disorder, adding some of these activities helps keep them calm on the plane.

My daughter, Ella (age 7), is a “sensory seeker”. So she craves extra sensory input and really enjoys the flying experience. Still, her senses are constantly triggered as she notices and takes in every detail of what she sees, hears, smells, etc., and it is easy for her to get overwhelmed. When that happens, a meltdown follows. These are some of the activities and tools we incorporate in our travel day to help her remain balanced and calm.

Activities-Waiting In Line

  • Have your child wear a rash guard, slightly tight, to give him/her that feeling of pressure on the skin. (Test this in advance to see if it’s something that your child likes or not.)
  • Have a (controlled) “arm wrestle” by just pushing against each other with clasped hands.
  • Thumb War. I am not positive that this helps a lot, but it seems to for my daughter, Ella. When one thumb is pinned, keep it pressed down for 5-10 seconds for deep pressure. Even if it’s your thumb that’s pinned, the pressure they are giving can help.
  • Give your child’s forehead pressure by putting one hand on their forehead and one behind their head. Push slightly for gentle pressure.
  • Jump up and down in place.
  • Squeeze each other’s hands or give hand massage.

Activities-In the Airport

Autism Sensory tools

  • Let your child use a ride-on suitcase. See our review of the SkootCase Rider here.
  • Have your child wear a backpack if he/she will. This is a classic way to provide “heavy work”. Keep this in mind for the school year as well.
  • If you are using a stroller or a rolling suitcase, let your child push or pull it.
  • Take a break from walking and do wall push-ups
  • Seek out children’s play areas so your child can climb, jump, and spin.

Heavy-Work-Backpack

Activities-On the Plane

  • Hand or Arm massage
  • Forehead pressure (as listed above under “waiting in line”)
  • After takeoff place the child’s backpack in their lap for weight.
  • Have your child squeeze their knees together while sitting in an upright posture. This will also help relax the muscles in the lower back.
  • Have your child push his/her own hands together in a “praying hands” position. Activities for the “Busy Bag”

Activites for the “Busy Bag”/Toys On the Plane

(For your convenience, I have created an Amazon store with the items I list below. You can find it at the bottom of this post. If you shop in my Amazon store I may receive a small percentage of the sell, which will help offset the cost of running this website. The cost of the product is the same to you. I appreciate your support!)

  • Scratch and Sketch Art Activity Book
  • PlayDoh (Don’t forget this needs to be under 3.4 ounces and in a Quart-sized Ziploc bag to get through security). Rolling pins and PlayDoh scissors add extra input.
  • Stress Ball
  • Mini Etch-A-Sketch
  • Erasers (The action of erasing with a rubber eraser gives deep pressure. Bonus if you get an eraser that can double as a fidget toy.)
  • Fidgets
  • Small dolls with comb or brush (I’m not positive that this counts as proprioceptive input, but it is definitely calming for Ella.)
  • Bubbles (I like to always have a mini bottle of bubbles in my Quart-Sized Ziploc bag of TSA-approved liquids. It comes in handy for extra-stressful moments like during a delay or when your child or another has just had enough. As a flight attendant I have stopped in the terminal to blow bubbles for a crying toddler.)
  • Sticker Mosaic (These tiny stickers require great focus and are a great chance to work on fine motor skills. You’ll have to keep an eye out for dropped stickers, but this is a nice activity, usually for ages 5-9, depending on ability.)

Foods-Anytime

Chewy foods and resistive sucking give proprioceptive input also.

  • Gum (Some kids love sour for extra sensory input. Stride Sour Patch Kids Orange is Ella’s favorite.)
  • Granola bars
  • Raisins
  • Gummy Candy (we love the kind from Trader Joe’s, which is naturally colored and real sugar instead of corn syrup)
  • Fruit leather
  • Sports Bars (Ella loves the original Power Bar)

Resistive sucking is also useful:

      • Lollipops
      • Water bottle with resistive straw, such as CamelBak
      • Chewable Necklace or Tubes
      • All of the items mentioned have been listed in this Amazon link for you to easily find. By clicking this link, I may receive a small commission on the products you buy. This will help offset the costs of running this website. Thank you for your support!


Categories: Autism, SPD, Special Needs, Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Child has Autism (or SPD): Should I tell the Flight Attendant?

I’m part of a group for parents of kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). In that group the parents often ask for tips for flying with their child. Although my daughter Ella was only recently diagnosed with SPD, I always knew she needed a little extra assistance coping when her senses were overwhelmed (or under stimulated, as she actually needs MORE sensory input in many cases). Many, if not most people with autism have sensory processing disorder, but it can also exist without the autism diagnosis, as it does for Ella.

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photography by Sugar Maple Portraits, used with permission

What Is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory Processing Disorder, in a nutshell, is when a person doesn’t process information from their senses the same as a typical person. They often feel imbalanced and have difficulty coping with additional sensory input, not only in our commonly-known five senses (sight, sound, taste, hearing, touch), but also sensing movement (proprioceptive) and where you are in your surroundings (vestibular) . A person with SPD can have an aversion to different types of sensory input, like when clothing tags or shoes are intolerable, or they can have a craving for sensory input, like needing to spin or constantly humming. Sometimes a person with SPD becomes so overwhelmed they are simply unable to cope with the surroundings and they may act out. Meltdowns, sometimes including screaming and possibly flailing or punching, crawling under the seats, or running might be the result.

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Parents want to know every tool they can use to make the flight go well. For parents of children with SPD, the added stress of wondering if your child will have a meltdown in flight makes parents more worried. It doesn’t help that there have been several incidents recently where families were kicked off the plane, allegedly because of an “out of control” child. (You can read about that in this response from Autistic Globetrotting, a great resource for traveling with Autism.) I usually tell people to let the flight crew know about their child’s sensory issues at the beginning of the flight,  but I wanted to hear from other flight attendants to see if they agreed on that advice.

I put this question to a group of flight attendants to see what they thought:

If a family came onboard with a child who had autism or “sensory issues”, would you, as flight crew, prefer they let you know in advance about the child’s issues, or would it seem to you like they were looking for attention or special treatment? If the child was prone to meltdowns, would it help you to know there was a neurological reason behind it?

The answer overwhelmingly came back: I would want to know.

Here are a few of the responses I got:

“Always good to be informed…It’s nothing to be ashamed of or worried about hiding and [it] only leads to further understanding.” –Melian S.

“Travel is stressful enough, I’d like to offer any help I can to the parents.” –Megan B.

“Being aware can prevent many safety related issues from happening. It’s never wrong to be over informed.” –Ben-Lee F.

“[Let us know] ahead of time so that the crew could assist and overlook any behavioral issues they may have. Some people, [even] Flight Attendants can be cruel without thinking.” –Christine G.

“I’d rather know than not know and then do or say the wrong thing if the child acted out.” –Heather P.

“It’s absolutely better to know in advance. I feel like they are more attention-seeking if they wait until a situation flares up and it gets out of hand.” –Sean P.

“…it would be nice to know in advance to diffuse anything and help the parents out any way possible. Many of our passengers may not be very educated with different sensory issues and they might assume something [threatening] is happening [when] that is not the situation.” –Matthew P.

“…Please tell me so if there is a meltdown I know how to handle it…If we know [then] we can [also] help the family for their privacy. So they won’t be judged [by other passengers].” –Sofia H.

This one summarizes all of the above sentiments:

Flight Attendant Emily Y. said, “As a mother of a son with Asperger Syndrome and one with “run-of-the-mill” autism, I’d let someone know mainly so that when the flight attendants addressed them they would know why they might have to ask their question twice or allow an extra beat for an answer. As a flight attendant I would want to know for the same reason I’d want to know if someone were prone to seizures or other predisposed medical issues…so I can ask the questions, “Will you need my help? If so, what can I do?”

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photography by Sugar Maple Portraits, used with permission

Conclusion:

So yes, if your child has unique needs and might have an outburst in flight, it is best to let the flight attendants know at the beginning of the flight. When is the best time for this? During boarding is best so that they will be informed before anything might occur. Yes, this is one of the most busy times for a flight attendant, but we don’t mind you giving us important information during this time. If you try to talk to a flight attendant and they are too busy and push you aside, try again in a few minutes or when the next flight attendant walks by.

Another way you could identify yourself is by letting the gate agent know and asking him/her to pass the information along to the flight attendants. This way the flight attendants can come to you as they have time during boarding to ask how they can best assist you if your child has a meltdown.

Many airports now have programs for those with autism. There are at least 16  U.S. airports that now participate in this program. They include “practice flights” and self-identification methods so the airport employees can understand and respond appropriately if your child is having difficulty. You can read about the latest program implemented at LAX airport here.

You might also be interested in this post: Flying With Autism.

Do you have questions about flying with autism or sensory processing disorder? Ask in the comments below.

Are you following us on social media? I post travel tips, blog posts, pictures and more on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’d love it if you follow and share! Happy Cloud Surfing!

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Categories: Autism, SPD, Special Needs, Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Car Seat Safety when Flying

Something that is very important to me is car seat safety. Three years ago today, Becky Fletcher, friend of my sister’s, lost her 6 month old baby when they were rear ended. Although her baby was actually in the car seat properly, Becky’s mission is to make sure everyone knows proper installation and fit. From this article in Union-Bulletin.com, which tells the story of the event: “Ultimately, her message is not that car seats are ‘100 percent guaranteed, but what you do have control over is being absolutely sure you’re using it correctly’.”

Car Seat Safety

A lot of people feel like car seats on vacation are not as important as at home. I see people at the airport jump into a cab with their toddlers and no car seat. Traveling with car seats truly can be a hassle. But there are many ways to make using car seats on vacation less painful. Here is a 3-part series from Trips With Tykes with all you need to know about flying with car seats. I couldn’t have written it better!

Flying with Car Seat

Whether or not you bring your car seats with you on your trips, please do check these links for information on safely installing and fitting your car seats. It is said that 68% of us are not using our car seats correctly. Be sure you’re not one of them. The last thing any of us wants to worry about in the event of a car crash is, “Did I install my car seat correctly?”

Please share this post and these links with your friends. If even one life is saved with the knowledge of proper car seat installation and fit, it is worthwhile.

Picture Guide to Car Seat Safety (Daily Momtra)  I really like this post with photos of the right and wrong way to adjust a car seat.

KidsSafe.org lists by state the places where you can have your car seat checked for proper installation:

The Car Seat Lady is a great resource with safety tips and videos, car seat reviews and fit tips, and more.

This is how we manage getting our car seat through the airport, using GoGoBabyz TravelMate, which attaches to the car seat, turning it into a stroller. You can read more about how we manage the car seat in these posts: #1 Travel Item Flying With Toddlers A Mom and Two Kids Fly Standby

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Categories: Blog (Cloud Surfing Adventures), Flying with Infants, Flying with Toddlers, Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Flying With Kids: App Review

I was asked to check out and weigh in my opinions on this new app: Flying With Kids. It’s an app that gives great advice for parents flying with their kids, especially babies, and gives a lot of great information!

Disclosure: I received this app for free for the purpose of giving my feedback before it launched. I am reviewing it on my own initiative and my opinions are my own. I am not being compensated for this review.

FlyingWithKidsAppFlyingWithKidsMainScreen

The Flying With Kids app gathers tried-and-true methods and puts them all together in an app that is easy to navigate. There are many useful tips, organized within 4 useful categories: pre-flight, in-flight, distract, and sleep.

Pre-flight

Tips from booking the flight to what to bring to airport tips.

In-flight

Articles to help soothe your worst fears about flying with babies as well as tips on entertaining the baby and what to do when nothing else is working.

Distract

Soothing music videos featuring smiley babies, cute animals, and more.

Sleep

Pleasant instrumental children’s lullabies.

Panic!

The fun part is the Panic button. Slide this button, and you find a page that you can edit to share a message with those around you.

“HELP ME!”

“CAN YOU REACH THAT BLANKET FOR ME?”

“ I NEED WATER!”

“I NEED VODKA!”

Whatever you want to type here as baby finally is going to sleep and you know that uttering any sound will mean you have to start all over again. I think I’ll edit mine to show an encouraging message to cheer me up if everything is going wrong.

Are you planning to fly with your baby soon? Check out this app! Available on  iTunes, it costs just $1.99 and can definitely help you save time and money in the planning aspect, as well as your sanity in flight.

Categories: Flying with Infants, Reviews, Travel Products, Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

My Interview with Rudy Maxa’s World Travel Radio Show

I had the privilege of being interviewed by Rudy Maxa on his radio travel show: Rudy Maxa’s World. We talked about a few tips for flying with kids. If you missed it live, you can hear the podcast here:

Rudy Maxa’s World June 20, 2015- Hour 1

I actually made a rookie mistake as I had a whole page of notes in front of me on things I thought Rudy might ask me, but the six summer travel tips I was supposed to talk about? Nope, didn’t write that in my notes. I thought he would be prompting them and I was so worried about “dead air” that I didn’t want to pause to think of my post. In short, I froze.

Luckily Rudy Maxa was an excellent host and graciously got me talking about some other travel tips.

**Disclosure: I was not paid to be on the show, and I am not being compensated for this blog post. Everything that I speak positively about reflects my own experience  and is not influenced by any outside party.

The entire hour is worth listening to but if you’re in a rush, I come on just after the 30-minute mark.  Here is the lineup:

  • Consumer travel expert Charlie Leocha of TravelersUnited.org discuses upcoming DC legislation affecting travelers.
  • Host of a new public television series, “Dream of Italy,” Kathy McCabe offers a strategy for booking a trip to Italy now.
  • Johnny Jet explains when to travel to find the best airline fares.
  • Flight attendent mom Beth Henry & CloudSurfingKids.com blogger shares six summer tips for flying with kids.
  • TechCraver Jason Harris suggests last-minute techie/travel gifts for Father’s Day.

I feel very honored to have been invited to participate in such a great show. If you haven’t checked out Rudy Maxa’s radio show yet, you definitely should! It’s so full of great travel tips and ideas. My Dad listened and had only one complaint: “Only wish he had people on for longer segments. In the three segments I heard I would start to get interested in the subject and then he was on to someone else.”

Well, I think that shows that Rudy Maxa has great interviews and great topics! You can listen to his show streaming live on Saturday mornings and they actually keep looping so you can tune in any time. Podcasts of each week’s shows are released on Mondays. Tune in! More details here: http://rudymaxa.com/rudy-on-radio/

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Tampa Airport Tiger Tale

When you lose something at the airport you feel the odds are that you’ll see it again. When this 6 year old boy named Owen lost his beloved stuffed tiger at Tampa Airport, not only did the employees ensure it was kept safe until it could be reunited with the boy, they took the tiger on an adventure and documented it! What a special story they Owen will now be able to share! Read about it here:

Tampa Airport Tiger Tale

 

Publicity gimmick or not, this was sure a great way to brighten a little traveler’s day! Way to go, Tampa Airport!

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Great Recipe for French Toast On-the-Go!

I’m always on the lookout for food that travels well that the kids will actually eat. This morning I made these French Toast Cups from The Wholesome Dish, and they were amazing! These could definitely be a grab & go item, not only for the plane, but for summer camp snacks, road trips, and school lunches. You can find the recipe here. Definitely click over there as her photos are so much prettier than mine! When I was taking these pictures I was not planning on writing a post about these!

I made some with diced pear and some with chocolate chips. As you can see, the chocolate chip ones were really messy, so I wouldn’t make those for travel, but they they were quite tasty! The pear ones were perfect for travel. Other ideas for toppings include dried cranberries, peaches, nectarines, or strawberries

. ToddlerChocolateMess

The recipe instructions say to put 2/3 of the mixture in the muffin tins, pack it down, add the toppings, then top with the remaining mixture. If you are making these for grab & go snacks then I would save a little bit more than 1/3 of the mixture for the top. I found I only had about 3 cubes of bread per muffing covering the topping, which wasn’t quite enough to hold it all together. I made these before bed and kept them in the refrigerator overnight, then baked them in the morning. Next time I’m definitely making at least two batches. These will be gone before the day ends!

French Toast Cups

These French Toast Cups were a huge hit. Both Ella (age 7) and John (age 2.5) ate two French Toast Cups, where they would typically eat just one or not even one whole muffin. I am not ashamed to tell you I had three for breakfast and I’m going to have one right now for snack. They are delicious!!!

French-Toast-Cups

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The Perfect Photo Opportunity

Last summer when we were in Ft. Worth, Texas for my sister’s wedding, John (age 1.5 at the time) and I were awake before the others. I decided to take John outside for a morning walk so that the others could keep sleeping. We wandered around the Ft. Worth Stockyards and I spotted an ice machine. I immediately thought: “photo op!” because of a photo that a very creative friend of mine, Matt Riley (Matt Alan Photography), had taken about a year before:

[Click here for funny baby picture]  (Coming soon…technical difficulties. Keep scrolling for my photo and you’ll get the joke.)

Isn’t it so funny!? If you don’t get it, ask someone who was a teen in the 1990’s. (haha)

I want to mention Matt because he is such an amazing creative genius you should definitely check out his work. Not only is he a very talented photographer (see some of his work here), he is also co-creator of a very cool vintage shop: Switchback Vintage. Check out the site for some amazing finds, perfect for a Father’s Day gift!  I LOVE this Vintage Tobacco Roller! I’m not a smoker, but it looks so cool!

Old Tobacco Roller _Switchback Vintage

Here is my version based on Matt’s original idea:

“Check out the hook while my DJ revolves it…”

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My little baby was one-and-a-half here. Now he’s 2.5 and so much bigger! The photo wouldn’t work with him this year. I’m glad I had the fun opportunity to catch this picture on that day. It was really difficult getting him to stay in front of the ice machine. There aren’t many toddlers who will sit still in an alleyway full of interesting things. SmileWhat a fun memory!

 

*This post is linked to #fridaypostcards at Walking On Travels. Take a look at the other fun travel photo posts there!

Are you following us on social media? I post travel tips, blog posts, pictures and more on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’d love it if you follow and share!

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Flying with Autism

What’s it like to fly with a child who has autism? While there is a wide spectrum of the effects of Autism, my friend, Kim C., a 24 year flight attendant has some experience. Her 13 year old son is on the Autism Spectrum and also has inattentive ADHD and Sensory Processing Issues. In spite of the challenges, they fly very frequently—every chance they get! Please read on for some helpful tips to make your flying experience a breeze!

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We were so lucky to have the author of this post, Kim C., as our flight attendant on John’s very first flight! He was only 10 weeks old and colicky. Click here for tips on flying with a colicky baby. It was so nice to have a friend working the flight!

Tips for Flying With Autism—From a Flight Attendant Mom with Experience

 

I know with my son any outing goes more smoothly IF he has an idea of what to expect. This is especially true if your child has never been to an airport! Airports are busy places filled with lots of sounds and lots of people. The experience can be overwhelming.

I recommend buying or renting or watching on YouTube a few of the several kid’s DVDs that relate to airplanes and flying. If your child is like mine, (s)he will watch them over again and rewind to their favorite scenes! There are also several books, one of our favorites is: The Noisy Airplane Ride by Mike Downs.

Travel Tip: There are several airports that have programs where your child with Autism can take a “practice flight” before they travel. You can find a list of these and more details here. LAX Airport is the most recent airport to implement such a program. Details can be found here. 

 

I’ve broken the whole experience down into STEPS. Our son does better when he has steps to follow:

STEP 1: PARKING

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I highly recommend you have a friend or relative drive you to the airport. By the time you drive, park, and tow your luggage, your child could already be approaching meltdown mode. Another great alternative is an airport park and fly. They usually pick you up right at your car and drop you off there upon your return.

TIP: Talk with your child about airplanes taking off and landing and the loud noises the engines make, as you will encounter these noises before you even get to the airport.

STEP 2: CHECK-IN

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Most major airlines offer self-service check-in machines. You can usually check in online at home before you leave for the airport but if you are checking bags, you will need to stop at the check-in machines. Alternatively, if someone has dropped you off, it’s much easier and quicker to use curbside check-in. That way your bags are checked on the flight right away and you can give your full attention to your child. You can also get your seat assignments if you haven’t already printed them at home.

TIP: Find out which type of airplane you will be flying on. I suggest that you try to get seats away from the engines since they can be very loud and disturbing to a child with sensory issues.

STEP 3: SECURITY

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I highly recommend getting a TSA pre-check or Global Entry card before you travel (the process might take a few months). Either one will allow you to to to a special pre-check line. You can find details of how to apply HERE.

There is usually little to no wait at these special lanes. I have found that waiting in a long security line agitates my son and this sets the tone for the rest of the travel day. These cards are well worth the money and are valid for several years. The Global Entry card also allows you to clear U.S. customs and immigration much faster if you plan to travel outside the United States.

TIP: Show your child this fun video made by the TSA to help prepare him/her for the screening process:

There is also more helpful information on this TSA Kids webpage.

Editor’s note: Recommendation directly from the TSA.gov Parents page:  “Please inform the Transportation Security Officer if the child has a disability, medical condition or medical devices, and if you think the child may become upset during the screening process. We welcome your suggestions on how to best accomplish the screening process to minimize any confusion for the child.”

STEP 4: BOARDING

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Many airlines have stopped allowing families with children to pre-board. You might try explaining to the gate agent that your child has Autism and might need a few extra minutes to get situated.

STEP 5: FLIGHT

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Be sure to pack snacks, small toys, and books for the flight. Airlines now allow electronics to be used during all phases of flight. They must be in airplane mode for takeoff and landing. Check to see if WiFi will be available on your flight. It’s easier to sign up for a pass while at home than sign up in flight. Although streaming videos is not available, YouTube will usually work!

TIP: Pack headphones that fit over your child’s ears. They will help drown out the engines noises. This is especially helpful if your child has sensory issues.

CSKAutismSafetyCard

I think it’s important for you to study and share the safety briefing card with your child. Let him/her know that if there is an emergency you will all slide down a giant slide to quickly get off the airplane. Please let him/her know that the flight attendants and pilots are there to help them. Let him/her hold the briefing card and look at the pictures. My son is often very afraid when he doesn’t know what to expect. Tell your child that the pilots and the flight attendants will make announcements over the speaker often. Sometimes they can sound very loud.

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From the editor: I hope these tips help as you prepare for flying with your child! If you found it useful, share with a friend! Please comment below to show your appreciation for Kim C. for sharing her advice. Do you have other tips from your own experience? Share with us in the comments below!

Categories: Autism, Travel Tips | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

New Program for Autism Families at LAX

I was at LAX airport yesterday and was so excited to discover they are launching a new program for families with autism! On Sunday, April 18, 2015 they launched their Flight Experience Program, where families with autism can have a trial-run of travel of the flight experience so they can be better prepared for the real thing! Participating airlines also have a voluntary self-identification program where a person with autism and their families wear a specially-designed sticker to make others aware they have autism or are traveling with someone with autism. The hope is that this will make others more helpful and understanding should a meltdown or outburst occur. I believe this makes the 16th U.S. airport to offer trial flights for those with autism. Here is a list of other participating airports.

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The following is the press release of the new program:

Los Angeles World Airports Launches “Flight Experience Program” For Families with Autism

 

(Los Angeles, California—April 18, 2015) Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), participating airlines and partner agencies today launched its Flight Experience Program, offering a practice airport experience at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) from check-in to boarding for families with autism to help prepare for future travel, and help reduce anxieties and fears associated with flying. American Airlines hosted today’s program.

“There are many families that do not fly simply because they fear not knowing how their loved one with autism will act or how others will react to possible behavioral situations that may arise,” said Larry Rolon, LAWA’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) coordinator. The program gives families with autism an opportunity to experience the airport environment, including the inside of an airplane, increase the comfort level, and reduce anxiety through familiarization with the travel process.”

Students from the LeRoy Haynes School, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children with special needs, participated in this first run of the program. They started by registering for the flight experience by visiting www.lawa.org and clicking on the ADA symbol. Upon arrival at LAX, the participants checked in as if they were actually taking a flight, received their boarding passes, and proceeded through Transportation Security Administration  (TSA) screening, and on to their gates. When the flight was called, families boarded the aircraft, took their seats, and followed the usual airline procedures, giving participants an educational and realistic travel experience.

LAWA has been working with its partners including airlines, airport tenants, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), wheelchair service providers, and the LeRoy Haynes School to address the needs of families with autism when traveling by air and to create public awareness about autism and possible behavioral issues that may arise at the airport or in-flight.

Recently, LAWA  also initiated an autism self-identification program that allows persons with autism to share that they have an intellectual disability by wearing a specially-designed sticker created by a team of 13 students from LeRoy Haynes School.

It is hoped that the sticker will help minimize misunderstandings. When a police officer or airline employee responds to a situation and sees the autism sticker, it alerts them that the individual has autism. They may, in turn, handle the situation in a different manner by offering assistance in a quiet area or other options.

Rolon added that the self-identification program is the result of input from families with autism who express a fear of flying with family members with autism.

“Family members worry that loved ones with autism may become confused in an airport environment, creating an outburst that could result in a negative response, when actually, the person may only be trying to communicate or is reacting to stress caused by being in an unfamiliar environment,” he said.

Both the “Flight Experience Program” and the self-identification program are free and voluntary. The programs are sponsored by LAWA and its airline partners. Families wishing to self-identify can ask for stickers at the ticket counters of participating airlines.

 

About Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

LAX is the fifth busiest airport in the world and second in the United States. LAX served nearly 70.7 million passengers in 2014. LAX offers 692 daily nonstop flights to *% cities in the U.S. and 928 weekly nonstop flights to 67 cities in 34 countries on 59 commercial air carriers. LAX ranks 14th in the world and fifth in the U.S. in air cargo tonnage processed, with over two million tons of air cargo valued at over $91.6 billion. An economic study 2011 reported that operations at LAX generated 294,400 jobs in Los Angeles County with labor income of $13.6 billion economic output of more that $39.7 billion. This activity added $2.5 billion to local and state revenues. LAX is part of a system of three Southern California airports—along with LA/Ontario International and Van Nuys general aviation—that are owned and operated by Los Angeles World Airports, a proprietary department of the City of Los Angeles that receives no funding from the City’s general fund.

For more information about LAX, please visit www.lawa.aero/lax or follow on Twitter @flyLAXAirport, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LAInternationalAirport, and on YouTube at www.YouTube.com/laxairport1. Information about LAX’s ongoing multi-billion-dollar LAX Modernization Program, as well as tips and shortcuts to help navigate LAX during construction, are available at www.LAXisHappening.com.

As a covered entity under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the City of Los Angeles does not discriminate on the basis of disability and, upon request, will provide reasonable accommodation to ensure equal access to its programs, services, and activities. Alternative formats in large print, braille, audio, and other forms (if possible) will be provided upon request.

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