Isn’t that supposed to be “practice makes perfect”? That may be the original expression but practicing for a vacation is a big enough undertaking that it should be split into component parts and “good enough” will be well worth while achieving. We’ll try to cover all of them in two posts.
This post covers practicing going through the airport and boarding the plane. Many parents report that this is the most difficult part of the entire vacation. That is no surprise. Airports can be very stressful for neurotypical adults on a good day.
There are lots of strange and unusual stimuli at an airport for a child that can find any one of them really tough. Think high ceilings, lots of noise, long lines of people and then add any others that are relevant to your child.
While programs vary a little from place to place, these events usually feature some common components. They are free. You can repeat the program as often as needed. They work along these lines:
Register to participate.
Bring the whole family on event day.
Check in and receive your gate passes.
Go through security – exactly as you will when actually taking a flight
Wait at the gate until it is your turn to board.
Find your seats and get comfortably settled.
Listen to all of the announcements.
Disembark the plane.
Where are they? Let’s list them for you.
Boston, MA. The program here is called Wings for Autism. It was the very first program. It is organized by the Charles River Center of Needham, MA. CRC is a chapter of The Arc of the USA. They generally offer this on the first Saturday of April and the first Saturday of November each year. Check with them in order to register: https://www.charlesrivercenter.org/what-we-do/wings-for-autism/
Cincinnati, OH. The program here is called Start Our Adventure Right (SOAR). It is organized by the Kelly O’Leary Center for Autism at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
Minneapolis, MN. The program here is called Navigating Autism. It is organized by the Autism Society of Minnesota. This program if offered monthly. Check with them to register: https://www.ausm.org/events/ausm-events/navigating-msp-airport.html.
Multiple Airports. The Arc of USA run programs at a number of airports. Their program is called Wings for Autism in most places and Wings for All in the others. Check with them to register for an event near you: https://www.thearc.org/wingsforautism .
Multiple Airports. Autism Speaks run their Blue Horizons program at a number of airports. Check with them at: https://www.autismspeaks.org/traveling-autism .
COMING SOON! Las Vegas, NV, Burbank, CA, Edmonton, AB. Autism Double-Checked is currently working with airlines who are based in these locations. They are working on becoming fully certified as autism-ready and will offer programs at these airports. We will announce this to you as they become available.
Your local airport. What can you do if there are no programs being offered near to your home? You may not be able to replicate a whole program but, at the very least, you can visit your local airport and familiarize yourselves with those parts of the airport before security. While every airport is different, it is still likely that the ceilings on the side before security will be higher than those on the far side while the noise level and crowds will be much the same.
One extra consideration. At the time of posting this, the government shutdown was unresolved and there are multiple reports of TSA being under considerable strain. Before setting off to any of these programs, make a final check to see if the program is still being offered on the published date.