Mark and I have been feverishly preparing for this weekend’s trip to Ohio. In addition to the general preparations like grabbing snacks and doing laundry, there is the matter of planning for the Menininho. He hasn’t been on a flight this far or gone this long in at least a year, before his sensory and behavioral issues cropped up.
We’ve been working with his therapy team to prep him for a couple of months. I created a book of family members’ names and faces, with the hope that M won’t be overwhelmed at seeing all of them. I’ve written some social stories as well (more on that below).
Sunday, we decided to do a “dry-run” of the airport to see how M would do. We went in the evening when it would be less crowded. Overall it went well. M got to practice walking through the lines, we touched base with a TSA worker about the best way to get through security, and checked out the bathrooms. The Menininho is afraid of public restrooms because (we think) of the noise from toilets flushing. Whenever we go somewhere he insists on seeing the bathrooms and then ends up scared. The airport was no exception and he got stuck on some verbal loops (repeating the same word over and over and over…a coping mechanism like his rocking or spinning) as a result, but no tantrums or trying to run away. We did use the harness though, since running is a usual issue.
Airplane rides can be difficult enough for parents of toddlers without throwing in autism or sensory issues too. Social stories are tools to help make potentially uncomfortable situations a little more predictable and to remind the child that they have coping mechanisms available. Below is the social story I wrote for M. with his behavior therapist Feel free to use/adapt it for your child!
Going on long trips can be adventurous and exciting. Sometimes people take airplanes to go to far away places. Airports sometimes have long lines. While I’m in line it is important to stay with my mom and dad because they keep me safe. To make sure I am safe I will wear my puppy backpack.
When we go to the airplane we may have to have people check our pockets to make sure everyone is safe. This is ok because my mom and dad will be there to hold my hand making sure I am ok. I will need to take my shoes off but I can help put them in the tray to be checked.
Airports are loud because there are a lot of people, loud airplanes, and other machines. If the noises are scary I can ask for squeezes from my mom and dad. It is important to always have a calm voice so the noise doesn’t get to be too much.
When we are on the airplane or in the airport, the bathrooms might be very loud. It’s ok though; the sounds are just from the potties like we have at home. Mommy or Daddy will keep me safe though, and we can sing songs to take my mind off the noise.
When the airplane is in the air I might have a weird feeling in my ears. When this happens I can ask my mom or dad for a little snack and it may help my ears.
When I am on the airplane it is important for me to be nice to my fellow travelers. This will mean I wall always have to have calm hands, calm feet, calm voice, and a calm body. I will need to stay in my seat with my seatbelt on.
Riding on an airplane can be very fun. I can look out the window and see the clouds. Flight attendants will bring me some juice or snacks. I can also read stories, play with toys, or watch my Elmo movies.
When the plane lands it will be bumpy. I can squeeze Daddy’s hand if I want to. Then we will need to wait our turn to get off the airplane. In the airport we will need to walk to get our suitcases. I will hold Mommy’s hand to be safe.
Then we will get in our car and go get something to eat.