Traveling for Spring Break? Tips for Flying with a Special Needs Child

Therapies and Resources for Children with Autism & Families

While air travel during spring break can be a stressful experience for any traveler, the experience can be particularly overwhelming for a special needs child. If your child will soon be taking his or her first flight, you will need to prepare for the challenges of a crowded, noisy airport and an unfamiliar plane ride. This may seem daunting, but there are steps you can take to have a positive experience.

Talk about the trip. Tell your child about the upcoming trip well in advance. Walk through each step in detail, from waiting in the security line to finding your seat on the airplane. Consider playing a game of “airplane” with your child, helping to familiarize them with common questions asked by flight attendants.

Bring comfort items. Think of which items most sooth your child during times of particularly high stress. These could include a favorite book or DVD, a beloved stuffed animal, or noise-cancelling headphones. Having these items on hand will help you offer comfort to your child during the flight.

Remember to pack food. Airlines rarely provide an in-flight meal, even on longer flights. Have a supply of your child’s favorite foods or snacks on hand. This will also add some normalcy to the experience.

Request an early boarding pass. On the day of the flight, consider requesting an early boarding pass, allowing you time to get your child settled in a seat before the majority of passengers enter the plane. If you board the plane early, you will also avoid waiting in a long line to claim your seats.

Ask for help. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) offers a help line for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. You can call the hotline at 1-855-787-2227 to speak with a representative about any questions you have regarding the security screening process at your airport. At many locations, you can request an on-site Passenger Support Specialist to help you and your child through the process.

Call Peak Potential Therapy for more advice on how to create a positive air travel experience for your child. We’re here to help!