Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

The Airport

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I think I established in yesterday’s  post that our flight has the potential to go pretty badly.  Pudding has actually flown quite a lot, though not at all since her diagnosis.  She used to love it, and I developed a few tricks for occupying toddlers on a plane.  In fact, when we flew from Europe back to the US, people actually congratulated us on how well Pudding (aged 2 1/2) had behaved on the 10 hour flight.  We know it could just as easily have gone the other way though!

We’re not the first spectrummy family to take a long flight, nor will we be the last.  So rather than continuing to dwell in panic and fear, I’ve decided to take a more proactive approach.

I thought it would be great if we could all share our knowledge about traveling to make it easier.  I’m going to create a little series of posts where I ask you to share your tips.  We can all benefit from one another’s advice.  If you are a blogger, just add your link.  Otherwise, write a comment.  You don’t have to have children on the spectrum to chip in.  Our kids are all pretty different, something that appeals to one can be repellent to another, but you just might have the trick to help a family get through this challenge.  And if your tip helps our family, I will lavish you with gratitude.

Travel is a really huge area to talk about, so why don’t we start with just the airport?  The lovely DQ sent me this link which is a guide to Manchester Airport (UK) for children with ASD.  It is really useful, I would LOVE it if every airport produced something similar, but this would be pretty useful as a guide anyway.  We live less than 30 minutes away from the airport, so we plan on taking a drive out there one weekend to watch the planes, and take photos for a social story.  We also have a Fisher-Price airport playset to role play.  Cubby was only 4 months old on his last flight, so he really doesn’t have the concept down yet.  Playing helps him to prepare for what will happen.

After our last flight, we purchased a trunki ride-on rolling suitcase for Pudding at the airport.  We haven’t flown since, so I can’t vouch for how well it works, but it might alleviate boredom, and is cute enough for kids to want to pull themselves.  My plan is to put her weighted blanket in there, so she could get some good proprioceptive input as she walked around the airport.

Alright, there you have a couple of tips from me about airports, but I’d love to hear some more.  Does anyone have any sage advice for dealing with airport security?  How do you make waiting in queues more bearable?  What helps prevent sensory overload in airports?  Anything you can suggest to help pass the time at the airport?

I’d love your help.  So would Pudding and a lot of kids like her.

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

March 8, 2011 at 7:19 am

17 Responses

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  1. This is a post that has a lot of information that might help you. It was written by a fab autie mum who lives in Ireland and regularly brings her kids to Australia, so she has plenty of experience:


    Blue Sky

    March 8, 2011 at 9:18 am

  2. We travel cross country all the time, and I’ve traveled with my 3 year old and under 1 year old by myself a few times… although not spectrummy, my tips are to WAY overpack with snacks, make sure my 3 year old has his prized stuffed animal to carry in his arms (his responsibility and keeps his hands occupied), and to look for the closest, emptiest terminal to our own terminal to spend time running around. To keep my own sanity through the inevitable meltdowns, I remember what a tiny fraction of actual life the trip time will occupy, in the grand scheme of things, and how I will never see these people again ( :


    March 8, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    • Keeping hands occupied is always a great tactic. I really love the reminder that we’ll never see these people again. I think I need that as a mantra! Thanks for your tips. 🙂

      Spectrummy Mummy

      March 8, 2011 at 2:29 pm

  3. Good luck! Our kids loved their trunkis. We just had to make sure they didn’t pull each other too fast and tip on corners. They were nice because the kids could ride them around to stay busy in airports and on the way to the hotel room or even in the hotel room. Also, when we first got to our home and had no toys, they could ride them all over the house. I hope you all have a good trip! (I bet a bunch of ipad lite apps for kids might be nice to have too. My kids love those on our ipod touch.)


    March 8, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    • Yes, the dreaded wait until UAB arrives. We need all the toys we can carry!

      I’m going to do a separate post on the iPad. I can’t imagine doing this flight without it.

      Spectrummy Mummy

      March 8, 2011 at 4:41 pm

  4. I have traveled alone with my twin boys (one is ASD & one ADD) once a year, every year since they were nearly three. The flight is short – NYC to Vt. about 1 hour in the air, and even though I always call ahead to check, it seems there is ALWAYS a last minute delay & we’re stuck at the gate for at least an extra hour.

    The second year, when they were 4, I hit on this gem for entertainment, the “Jelly Bean Game”: I buy 3 different bags of different types of mixed Jelly Belly jelly beans and pour them all into a big clear ziplock bag. Then I make the boys take turns picking one they can see in the bag that they want, and describe it exctly like “light green with yellow spots.” Then they have to go fishing for THAT exact type bean & then they can eat that one and only that one (and they have to tell us what flavor they think it is before they eat it & let us know if they were right). If it goes too fast, they have to fish with their eyes closed. They used to do this for HOURS, as they loved jelly beans.

    Now, of course they are big kids and have their DS games. But I miss them as little guys sometimes.

    Good luck! I’m sure you will find ways to make it all work.

    Varda (SquashedMom)

    March 8, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    • I love that game! Great time-killer for waiting rooms etc. Now my only question is, are jelly beans GFCF? 🙂

      Spectrummy Mummy

      March 8, 2011 at 6:38 pm

  5. I only have the one kid, so I have no advice for what to do with 2, but I can tell you what I just did with the Roc when we flew from Philly to TX, switched planes and then on to AZ. First, I bought an autism t-shirt for myself. I never actually did, but I had planned on pointing to it if things went awry and I was getting “looks.” The Roc has flown before so he knows the order of things once we get to the airport, but I still bring his little binder with the little PECs pictures of what happens at the airport (wake up early, go to Philly airport, wait in line, check in, wait in line, go through security, go the the restroom, wait at the gate, board the plane, find our seats, take off, land, switch planes, wait, etc.) It helps for him to visually see what’s going to happen and he likes to take them off as we do them. Those pictures are small (1 in x 1 in) and the binder is small so he can keep it in his backpack. He carries his own backpack through the airport with his binder and favorite stuffed animals, I carry the rest. Sound canceling headphones to block all the noise and for the scary automatic flushing toilets. Post-it notes to put over the motion detector on the toilet. If security line is crazy long, ask to go through the line for people with disabilities and explain your situation. Once we are through, we find our gate and then go find an empty gate to hang out in. If the whole area is crowded I usually find a window and park him in front of it, reminding him to sit with his back to all the people – people make him anxious. I usually bring lots and lots of snacks, a few treats, markers and paper, DVD player and movies. I usually get something new, this year it was new DVDs that he didn’t know about until we were at the airport. In years past it was new little toys that I wrapped with wrapping paper. Hope that helps a little!


    March 8, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    • Some great tips here! Post-it notes, that is just genius. Pudding is over it now, but when we first came back to the US, she was terrified by automatic flushes. Wish I’d known that back then.
      Were the security people okay with using the disabilities line? I assume they would have to be, just never had that experience yet. Cubby would likely be worse with the screening anyway, he does not like strangers at all!
      I might have to look at noise-canceling headphones too.
      And yes, I need a whole suitcase full of snacks. I’m still hoping that by some miracle both kids will outgrow their allergies between now and then!
      Thanks so much, this is great.

      Spectrummy Mummy

      March 8, 2011 at 9:30 pm

  6. Sorry, no help at all here. But I wish you good luck, and I’ll be keeping an eye on these comments for tips for me!


    March 8, 2011 at 10:40 pm

  7. Hello. 🙂 Jelly Belly jelly beans are GF/CF (I think most jelly beans are, it’s just the dyes that can be a pain). I’ve only flown with my little guy (with autism) once. I recommend a window seat if at all possible. You may have to squeeze past the other passenger, but your little one won’t be kicking them if they try to lay on your lap and sleep a bit. Like everyone else said, empty terminals are great for letting them run around a bit. Also, if there are handicapped bathrooms (basically a single bathroom, with a lockable door), they aren’t nearly as noisy and can provide a quiet place (for whatever your reason). Oh, and one more thing, changes of clothes, I always end up getting messier than the kids because they wipe their stuff on me.
    I’m not sure if that was any help, but much luck to you and your family on this BIG trip!!!!


    March 9, 2011 at 2:50 am

  8. I have a few things to suggest, mainly, make sure whatever special/comfort item/s Pudding and Cubby choose will be OK for them to part with for the scanning/x-raying. Perky was distressed at handing over his trains, one was rather large and got taken for a physical inspection, in case it held a blade! We got it back but he did not like waiting. There is A LOT of waiting and queuing, as you know, so planning for that is important – keeping them busy/occupied is the best approach. Bulk head seats mean they are not likely to be kicking someone in front of them, and they will feel less crowded there, too. I did some googling (my name is DQ, and I am a Google-holic) and this link came up for GFCF jelly beans http://www.surfsweets.com/ I hope that helps! (I also looked for me, I like jelly beans and need them GF, too) 🙂 I hope other airports produce these kinds of guides, but the Manchester one shows a lot of what to expect, which will help a fair bit, I expect. Good luck with all the preparation and planning, moving continents is damn hard work. (but you already know that)
    And, thanks for saying I am lovely! 🙂


    March 9, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    • Well, of course you are lovely. I only speak the truth.

      I’m a google-holic too, but you beat me too it on the jelly beans- thank you!

      The security part is definitely the worst. It is very vigilant here, and the new machines that puff air are likely to freak my kids out. I’d sooner that than be hijacked though. 🙂

      Spectrummy Mummy

      March 10, 2011 at 6:36 pm

  9. The noise cancelling headsets were great. We have Bose. The bonus is they can be plugged into a lot of electronics–DVD player, I-pod, I-touch, etc. so they can use them and play or watch at the same time and not bother other passengers. It really helped him block out the steady drone of airplane noise too. We brought an extra change of clothes as I found nerves make for a clumsy little boy and a fussy tummy. I also had a secret stash of some of his favorite things.
    Hope that helps!


    March 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm

  10. My kids aren’t spectrummy so I don’t know if these will be useful (and oh yeah, this is a year later!) but in long lines I have my kids count the people ahead of us, then count only people with hats, or women in skirts, or babies etc. For the flight, the glue stick is the perfect toy. One thing we like to do is go through the in-flight magazine looking for a specific theme then the kids get to rip out those pictures and glue them to … whatever. On the last flight we used the airsick bag, which is sturdy enough that we could later rip off all the pictures and start again with a different theme.


    April 25, 2012 at 12:59 pm

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