The holidays are here and for many, that means travel. Having a child with sensory processing disorder can make an already hectic trip even more challenging. Our family lives on the other side of the country so if we want to see them, we need to brave the airport. Our 2.5 year old, M, has autism and as most parents know, the airport can be a sensory minefield.
We discussed his first flight months in advance with his behavioral therapist and OT and created a plan. In addition to lots of heavy work and a child harness (M runs away), we created a social story. For those of you not familiar, a social story outlines exactly what a child can expect for a particular event, along with the tools for how to handle it. They can be several sentences or several pages, depending on the occasion and the child. We decided to give ours a sensory focus and read it to him multiple times a day for a couple weeks before our trip. Because M enjoys memorizing logos, we also used pictures of as many logos as possible, so that at the airport he would point them out to us. This gave him a distraction from some of the aspects that might otherwise bother him, like noises and crowds.
In addition, we made a dry run to the airport the day before during the evening (so it was less busy) and spoke with a TSA agent about the best way to get through security. He recommended we use the handicap line for faster access (in our airport there is a general line, which includes families, and then a line for first class passengers and passengers who need assistance due to their disability). We also secured pre-boarding so that we would not have to wait in line to get on the plane. We spent the time before takeoff giving M deep pressure and re-reading the portion of the social story that discussed take-off. …continue reading