Taking a flight for the first time can be a stressful experience, but for people with a learning disability that stress can be multiplied. What follows are some suggestions on how to minimize the anxiety and the potential for surprises. Each passenger will have different requirements

  • Operators will differ in the service they provide
  • Thorough planning can be very important
  • Build up to travel in an aircraft
  • Request an escort at your airport
  • Pick a short flight — an hour or so.
  • Tell your child what to expect, including delays and long waits, in the airport and on the airplane.

For your own safety some airlines insist that you travel with a travelling partner if you need help lifting yourself and communicating with crew relating to safety matters. You can request an escort to assist you though the airport if required. Some people may have difficulty in crowds or waiting in long lines. Call the airline ahead to alert them that you might need to board early or require additional assistance onboard. Pack a carry-on bag with anything that might be soothing during a rough patch. Be sure to include documentation of your child’s diagnosis that you can share with security and airline personnel.

Challenging behaviours

Some people have challenging behaviours and may want to free themselves from the aircraft seat.  It is not possible to use products that stop the aircraft’s safety belt from being tampered with.  This is because of aviation regulations which require the aircraft safety belt to have a single point of release. The Crelling Model 27SB has it’s own chest tamper proof buckle which does not interfere with aircraft safety belt.  We recommend trying this out first, and always consult with your airline before you fly.

Preparation

Thorough preparation and planning can be very important for people with a learning disability. Some people will want to thoroughly prepare for every leg of their journey. It can be helpful to know about the layout of the airports you are travelling through (see Airport Terminal Maps and Mapquest) and to experience the confines of an aircraft fuselage or other form of transport ahead of the flight.

Your airline may provide their own guidance, for example, British Airways provides a helpful guide. Philadelphia International Airport provides a story that can be read to children to help them prepare for their flight.  

Visit the airport ahead of time to familiarize yourself or your child. Some American airports provide a mock boarding experience Washington Dulles International and Boston.  If none is available, call your local airport to see if they will allow you to show your child the ticketing counters, security lines and waiting areas in advance. Autism Speaks, an advocacy organization, provides additional online resources and travel tips.