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Flying with children on the autism spectrum

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We love to travel as a family and often take the flight from Australia to Bali, Indonesia. Our son at the age of 3 years old was diagnosed with Autism and recently also had an ADHD diagnosis. We understand how stressful it can be to parent a child on the spectrum and flying with them can seem very daunting!

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Flying to Bali

Preparation is key when it comes to flying with kids on the spectrum. Every child is different and what will trigger some children will be fine for others. Below you can find our tips on making the experience of flying with children on the spectrum easier.

  • Start off by setting up a social story book for the airport and flying. Many airports have hidden disability information so check your local airports website first.
  • Visit the airport before you fly. This can help to ease anxiety about parking cars, getting buses to the terminal and showing the children what an airport looks like.
  • Read books on flying and videos that show the process. If the child is somewhat familiar with what flying looks like this will help.
  • For the first flight choose somewhere that is close. Pick a short flight rather than a long international flight.
  • Request assistance from your airline. Let the airline know of issues that may arise and ask to be boarded first so you can calmly settle into your seats.
  • Be early to the airport before your flight. Allowing enough time is important so there is less stress.
  • Travel with letters from your doctor especially for any medications the child may take.
  • Allow movement before the flight. Find a kids playground or quieter area where the children can have freedom to move before you ask them to sit still for a period of time.
  • Travel with the essentials like noise cancelling headphones, iPads, sunglasses, favorite snacks and toys.
  • Once you are on the plane breathe! Navigating an airport with children on the spectrum can be hard. Calmly explain to them what will happen next with take off and the safety information that must be followed. Encourage swallowing or sucking on a lolly pop to help with ear pressure which can be an unusual feeling for children.
  • Have pre-wrapped presents for the child to open. This helps to create a positive experience and they will then have something new to play with.
  • Going to the toilet can be difficult on flights due to the loud noise the toilet makes on flushing. Putting noise cancelling headphones on can help.
  • Once the plane has landed lots of praise for the child for what an amazing job they have done is a great way to keep it a positive experience.

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One of the pages from the social story I developed for a holiday to Bali

Flying with children on the spectrum can be a fantastic way to help with their development and we love how much traveling has helped our son. We share lots of tips on our blog Rolling Along With Kids about travel to Bali with children on the spectrum. You can see how much our son loves the different experiences but also the challenges we face.

I hope this helps to encourage you to travel with children on the spectrum and how enriching it can be for the whole family. Travel helps to develop beautiful memories with our children.

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