Autism and Holiday Travel: Planning Ahead

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The holidays are always stressful, particularly during travel.  Add to that a child with Autism, and your travel plans become more complicated.  In the past we have traveled by air with our son, and for a two hour flight it was just manageable.  But that has all changed now with the new TSA screening and enhanced pat-downs. 

I've always been concerned with air travel for families with children on the Autism Spectrum.  Past airlines have removed parents and their children with Autism, or even autistic adults from flights whether or not they are having a melt down.  And while some airlines have reached out to the Autistic community by providing mock flights to help their children get comfortable with the idea of flying (thank you Southwest Airlines), a parent is never sure when they will get an understanding crew or have the trip turn into a nightmare.

But add to that the new invasive TSA regulations that seem to require strip searching children, flying is now nearly impossible for the autistic family.  So that means, for any traveling you may be planning for the coming season, you will need to plan early and find other means of transportation. 

Car travel is probably the most common alternative form of transportation, and is perhaps the easiest to deal with in terms of a child with Autism.  Most often the child is already used to riding in a car, and there are a number of activities and devices that can help make the travel more manageable. 

But traveling by car isn't the only option, depending on where you live.  There are also trains through much of the East coast, some of the West Coast, and through select cities moving East to West across the nation.  Trains tend to be a nice alternative to flying because children can move about freely without needing to be strapped down and restrained.  For those who are not able to drive or take a train, long distance busses can be a great way to travel.

But before I put you off completely to flying, check your options, and call ahead to your departure and arrival airports and see if they have policies in place to make your travel with an autistic child more comfortable.  Often times just taking the initiative can diffuse a lot of trouble, and letting everyone know that your child has autism and therefore needs some options that do not over stimulate the child can help. 

If any of you are traveling with a child on the Spectrum, let us know what your experience is, whether on the train, plane, or automobile.