Advice for taking your child with autism flying

Carers Taz and Tayyab look after a young girl with learning difficulties and autism. Here are a few tips of theirs and their recent experiences travelling by plane  to take her abroad on holiday!

We've taken our foster child on an aeroplane a few times now and she's been fantastic. 

We prepared her by first going to the airport so could see the planes which she loved, we even bought her a toy plane. We then sat with her in a cafe at the airport so she could see the people walking around with suitcases, which she found funny (we thought she might feel anxious because the airport was very busy and eating makes her feel calm). British Airways were brilliant: they let us use a fake plane which had a cockpit and a few seats for passengers to get "A" used to the environment. I was told it's not usually for kids but people who have aviophobia; the fear of flying, but they were very happy to let us use it - it was an awesome experience. The air hostess did the safety demonstration and we heard the flight attendant announcements while "A" watched a few ads on the mini TV. We were then asked to come back for two more sessions which we thought would help "A". On the second trip the staff showed us what it would be like if there was bad turbulence on a plane and "A" had to keep her seat belt on she was also told not to worry - the conditions might be annoying and uncomfortable, but the plane is not going to crash, "A" found this very funny and kept giggling. 

We also experienced the feeling of landing and taking off. The staff said if "A" is chewing, her ears won't pop or if she wears headphones it should help, but chewing is the best or sucking on a lolly (dummy if needed). On the third trip "A" had a plane meal on the tray just like if she was flying which she really enjoyed; she ate it all! We also took photos and made a PEC book of what will happen from checking in, to going through security - this helped with ‘Now and Next’. The airlines told us you can get an extra 25kg bag luggage allowance for medical reasons e.g. nappies, medicines or even a travel safe space bed. Birmingham airport also told us if you have a disabled badge you can park for 2 hours free of charge. So "A" could wait in the car whilst the bags are getting checked in and she doesn’t need to wait in line and can come once it's all done. Birmingham airport also have a sensory area by Gate 58 and if it's busy, you can ask the staff and they will let you use an empty terminal so your child doesn't get to anxious and can run around in peace. We were also told if the staff know your child has autism and can't handle too much noise, then staff will get you on the plane before other passengers and you can choose to get off the plane first or stay on until everyone gets off; whichever is best for you.

Once on the plane we had toys, puzzles and everything we could think of for "A" but she was more interested in the bag that the airline gave her (aeroplane balloon, a colouring book with pens and a mini puzzle)! 

So, remember when traveling that if the airline knows about your child's needs, it can really help with ensuring a smooth trip! If needed, call the airport in advance to arrange disabled access - it will allow you to get around the airport in peace and you might not even have to to wait in line!