By Amelia Rowley, Psy.D.

With April vacation right around the corner, many families are looking forward to tropical or snowy getaways. One worry we frequently hear from parents of our Aspire kids relates to navigating the challenges of air travel. Although flying with kids can be stressful, there are things you can do to set your child up for success- even while he or she is thousands of miles up in the air! First, prepare for your flight or trip ahead of time.

If this is your child’s first flight, consider contacting Wings for Autism, a Massport program designed to ease the stress of flying for families with a child on the autism spectrum. Wings for Autism provides half-day events to allow children and their families to familiarize themselves with the airport and traveling routine. Another helpful option may be creating a social story for your child to learn about the experience of flying. To keep them involved, try typing out a story and allowing your child to illustrate the experience. Be sure to include each step involved with air travel including security check, boarding, the flight, and de-planing. If social stories aren’t as effective for your child, try creating a list of “frequently asked questions” or visual for your flight so he or she can feel more in control (e.g., take-off time, length of flight, plan for landing). YouTube also has several helpful videos that show children what to expect from a trip to the airport or a flight.

As you’re nearing your departure date, encourage your child to pack his or her own carry-on bag with all of their favorite games and activities and snacks. Downloading new games or videos onto a tablet or phone can be especially exciting for kids. Try to prepare your child for the inevitable - several hours without internet access! If Wifi is available on your flight, be sure to inform your child whether or not your family will be purchasing it. Lastly, if this will be your child’s first flight, don’t forget to ask your flight attendant for his or her first pair of wings!

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