Autism Watch: 2007

Traveling With Autism In My Suitcase

Posted on: May 6, 2008

Next month, dh and I are taking all four kids on a cross-country vacation. This means we have to fly. We’d considered taking the RV, but that would take so long to drive, we’d have little time upon arrival to do anything. And with the price of gas, flying is cheaper. (How very sad is that.) I’ve already made my lists of things to buy, to do, to research..and something about autism is on every one of them. Are we crazy for trying this trip?

A close friend of mine is getting married, and we are honored to be invited. With flights costing what they do, and with arrangements as difficult to make as they are, we’ve decided to combine the wedding with visiting my husband’s sisters, their families, and his mom. No need to cue the dum-dum-dum music, these are the cool in-laws. They are actually brave enough, in fact, to offer to let us stay with them the entire two weeks, though we’re staying in VA a few nights for the wedding and to visit Colonial Williamsburg and other historical places, along with D.C. Setting up the trip has been a lot of tedium, but it’s coming together pretty nicely. And it’s even paid for, what more can I ask for?

On my first list, I had to research flying restrictions. I have to be sure my daughter’s Diastat injections are not a hassle at boarding, and it turns out, with the proper documentation, they’re not. Check. Below that was getting all the medications renewed. Check. Talk to the airlines about my son’s dislike for lines and meltdown tendencies when bumped and rushed. Check. Thankfully, the airline was absolutely wonderful (so far) about accommodations — front of the line boarding so there’s no bumping and shoving, and notification to the flight attendant about my son’s issues. (I’m sure when it comes time to board and we’re taken in early, it’ll get us some nasty looks and mutters, but I’d rather that than ds having a meltdown and having to deal with worst nasty looks and outright comments while 30,000 feet over Nevada.)

Another list was Things to Pack to Occupy Kids. Mainly, it’s to occupy ds, though my 13 yod will appreciate the thought. Gameboy, DS, chargers, game case, DVD player, movies, CD player with CDs, crayons, coloring/puzzle books, paper…all in one backpack, also including his medications that I can’t risk going in checked baggage in case something’s lost.

And yet another list was clothing — will ds wear jeans shorts, or do I actually have to go buy him 7 pairs of ‘softs,’ which are basically pants or shorts made out of sweat or exercise material, with little seams and no pockets to rub. Will he be okay without his favorite blanket, and will he understand only one stuffed animal can actually fit? (And will the airline insist on counting that stuffed animal as a carry-on, aside from his backpack?)

So many things to consider when traveling with autism. It’s not only in your head, your thoughts, your mind, but it’s in your suitcase. It’s its own entity of massive proportion. Don’t get me wrong — any/all vacations take advanced preparation, time and money, but does everyone have to worry about their child throwing a tantrum around incompassionate people who may request your child is quiet, or worse yet, an airplane that wants to kick your child off? Am I worrying for nothing? I certainly hope so, but more and more it seems I’m reading articles about special education teachers/aides filing assault charges when a child kicks them or throws something, principals expelling special needs children for behaviors the child can’t control, or the general public just refusing to be around a child that says anything more than “achoo,” even though the most loudest people out there are talking on their cellphones about their sex life, or lack thereof.

Despite it all, I’m really looking forward to this trip. Two weeks of no work, time with just the kids and dh, and visiting with close family, something we don’t have out here. Unconditional closeness, with no judgments or trying to tell us how to raise our kids or what we’re doing wrong, or discluding us due to our son or our parenting differences. Sounds heavenly. Can I leave tomorrow??

7 Responses to "Traveling With Autism In My Suitcase"

oh i hear ya…it IS a big deal to travel with a child who has autism. you sound like you have really thought this out and as for worry…you will always worry.

i have a son who has autism and…i just started a site here on wordpress. nice to meet you.

[…] FON – Martin Varsavsky | English wrote an interesting post today on Traveling With Autism In My SuitcaseHere’s a quick excerptThankfully, the airline was absolutely wonderful (so far) about accommodations — front of the line boarding so there’s no bumping and shoving… […]

It’s always a monumental effort to travel. I hope everything goes well for you! Keep us posted. 🙂

My 22-year-old son, who has autism, is a seasoned traveler and loves to fly. He has even flown by himself across the country to visit his grandparents several times. The airline personnel have been quite accommodating (David is verbal). This year, however, I am going with him.

I’m going to see my parents and grandmother of course, but also because I’m afraid to let David travel alone anymore. It’s become commonplace for flights to be changed or canceled or late, causing connections to be missed. David can’t handle that. And I worry too much until I know he’s in Grandpa’s capable hands.

I have found that sometimes it’s easier to board the plane last when most people are seated and out of the aisles. Then there’s less wait during the time your electronics must be turned off. For David, getting in the air is what he wants, so once we’ve boarded, he’s saying, “Let’s go, let’s go.”

You have to arrange things for your son’s strengths, and as long as it doesn’t break airline or FAA rules, most airline people will be helpful, especially if you’re nice about it.

As for the other passengers, it’s a few hours of their lives and you’ll never see them again. Do your best, apologize if things get loud and then forget it and have a good vacation.

Great advice all. My son, Christopher has PDD-NOS. He is very impulsive at times, which can make flying a challange. We continue to fly with him several times a year. We frequent the same or less crowded airports (when practical) and combine with a longer cartrip if needed, always stuff favorite white blankie/duckie in his backpack or our carry-on (it has not been counted as a carry-on, it just frees up hands), and we sit in the very front with no tray and where he won’t be able to kick anyone’s chair. My husband sits behind me with our other son. This way he gets his Sprite and snack first, his asthma is not aggravated by perfume and other smells he thinks are funny(and will freely verbalize), and most noises he makes are contained to non-passenger quarters. anyone sitting next to us(on athree seater) I will quietly tell them that he has Autism and could be quite loud or unsettled on the flight. Most people choosing to sit with us (I can’t remember anyone being rude, some trying to persuade him to settle down, which is amusing) are very kind and sweet to Chris and treat him like a real person, not a disabled person! We have come to this with 6+ years of practice with twins; both asthmatic, the other has ADHD and we use no medication(so he’s usually the one that gets jumply on flights!) and over the years have had very good experiences. You have done the research and preparation, now enjoy your trip. It is our first cross-country trip, too; so I will be praying for the best for all of us!

We are taking a trip to California to visit with our 4 yr old autistic son and his 14 yr old sister who has type 1 diabetes and epilepsy. We have tried to make sure everything is going to be ok, but in this day and age, there are alot of people who just don’t understand (some of them don’t care to understand and show their true ignorance). I found this site that makes cards that explain your child’s autism and we are in the process of making our own with business cards. Basically all they say is that my child is autistic and apologizes for anything that may happen and gives the autism website. I don’t know if it helps, but I’m hoping so. Good luck on your trip and enjoy yourselves!

We flew from Texas to Florida ONCE and I hope to never have to fly again. My son Chris is autistic and non-verbal. He was 5 at the time and spent the entire flight screaming and crying. He would grab the emergency card, hold it up and point to the word “exit” and then to himself. It broke my heart trying to explain to him that we were way up in the air and there was just no way we could get up and leave. He was inconsolable. I think that’s the first time I actually realized how horrible people can be. One woman stuck her fingers in her ears, turned to me and scowled…for the entire flight!! When we finally landed my knees were weak and I had to find a seat in the airport to sit and cry…I was so frazzled. It was the first leg of our journey and I had to tell Chris that we had to board yet another plane. Fortunately we had a bit of a layover and he had a dose of Clonidine due. The clonidine had time to kick in and he boarded the plane willingly. Once on the plane my oldest son (God bless him!) put his headphones on Chris and plugged them into the laptop and played some music. It worked like a charm.
Ever since then we plan our vacations by how far we are willing to drive. Chris is wonderful on roadtrips. We purchased a van with plenty of room for my family of 6 and we have enjoyed a few family road trips. This summer we are headed for California and Disneyland…can’t wait!
I’m sure some time in the future I’ll be willing to attempt flying with Chris again…but for now we are happy just the way we are.
Can someone give me the website that makes cards to hand out to people about my son’s autism….I’m so sick of the dirty looks and snide comments that I could scream!

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