December 25, 2008 was my daugters first air travel. We went to HongKong Disneyland for Christmas and she enjoyed it much. We were took Cebu Pacific rountrip and everything went well, we left the airport earlier than scheduled and got to HongKong a couple minutes advanced.
Honestly, I was expecting hell. With the high sensitivity to sights, sounds, and smell a child with autism (CWA) has in mind I was imagining how unbearable the sound of the compressed air inside the plane will be to her while we were suspended 300,000 feet above the ground. She might throw the nastiest tantrums out of her frustration.
Thank God everything went well, she did not have any major fuss or bad episodes that will annoy the other passengers.
Indeed preparing my daughter for her first air travel helped heaps that prevented a major tantrum similar to that incident in a U.S. airline where the airplane literally turned around to kicked-out of their plane a mother and her CWA son. The mother was not able to control her son’s frustration when a stewardess took his soothing bags and obviously the airline staff were not trained how to deal with such situation. It was really sad air travel with a child with autism can really be a hassle.
Here were the preparations I did to secure our safe and peaceful air travel:
1) Months before our trip we practiced air travel with my daughter by taking her for a ride at the MRT station to simulate the sound and the feel of traveling by air. MRT is faster than the usual taxi, bus or cars and the train is airtight and compressed.
2) I took her to a lot of carnival rides that will simulate speed and height like the roller coaster, octopus, Ferris wheel, and also a lot of impact rides bump car and train rides in case there we experience air pockets will inside the airplane.
3) We practiced her patience and waiting time by taking her with me whenever I go either to pay bills or queue at a grocery store so we can simulate the queuing while at the immigration and other airport procedures.
During the flight:
1) CWA’s are very impatient because of their short attention span and their very sensitive senses. It is very important to get their attention and keep them busy and at something or anything that will get their interest.
The magazines in the airplane were something new to her so she was kind of interested with them. I repeatedly browse the magazine with her telling her about the pictures she was looking at.
2) My daughter loves music and that is the only thing that will keep her calm and seated whenever we are traveling. My cellphone was her favorite music player but since cellphones were not allowed while on flight I improvised by singing to her her favorite songs it doesn’t matter if some passengers were looking a bit weird or maybe annoyed at me.
3) Junk food is something she really likes and so when the food cart started to move we got her a couple of snack that will last the entire duration of the trip. So while we were browsing the magazine or singing she was munching on her snack.
It was a success. We had a very peaceful trip. The very family oriented passengers at the Cebu Pacific flight we had during our trip last Christmas to HongKong and back also contributed to our relaxed trip. Most of them had their kids with them and so as all parents know we have to anticipate some inconvenience here and there from our kids.