Musings of a Marfan Mom

Airport Dry Run & a Social Story

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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.

The end.

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10 Comments

  1. Awe, have a good trip to Ohio! I am in Columbus now and it is very cold and rainy, I actually had to turn the heat on this morning. Of course last week it was almost 90 degrees…. alas you cannot predict Ohio weather this time of year.
    I love the social story and I think it is a good idea even for children without sensory issues. Airports are big and busy and loud, even I feel bewildered there sometimes so how much more overwhelming must it appear to someone three feet tall? My son HATES public restrooms too, he is fine going in but shows anxiety until after the loud toilet is flushed. Anyway, I hope everything goes smoothly and you have a great trip!

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    marfmom Reply:

    Well, on Sunday the weather will be GORGEOUS in Columbus because I’ve reserved a picnic shelter for a huge party. :-) I might cry if it rains.

    And I agree! I think I’m going to keep these stories to use for Baby J when he’s older, even if he a typically developing kid, because airports can be scary all the way around.

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  2. So excited for you all to come to Ohio! I can’t wait to see you and all of your boys! I miss you!

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  3. Good luck!

    Also, Ella is afraid of public restrooms, because of the automatic hand dryers. She especially hates the Dyson ones, like at Ikea. I have to keep a hankie in my purse for drying our hands!

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  4. Absolutely love the social story! I hope that it helps M have a good experience traveling. If you plan to travel more by plane you could also take some pics to add to the story for future trips. Hope you all enjoy your time in Ohio.

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    marfmom Reply:

    I do have pics added, but most are ones I found va Google search so I can’t post them on the blog, haha. I made sure to find photos with logos in them because M has a thing for labeling logos. Mark taught him to identify the SW logo so as we go through the airport he can distract himself pointing it out every. single. time. he sees it. That will probably drive me batty by the time we get to Ohio, but if it makes him feel better it’s worth it! :-)

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  5. Love the social story.

    One of the items I packed for a long train ride when the kids were small were “window clings” or “Colorforms” (Blues Clues, Pooh, etc) so they could decorate their window.

    Hope you have a great trip.

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    marfmom Reply:

    That’s a great idea! Thank you!

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  6. I know M isn’t there yet but in regards to the toilets, I’ve heard the tip of carrying a stack of post-it notes with you to put over the sensor that controls the automatic flush – much better than trying to hold your hand over it b/c the kids aren’t big enough to block it. It scares the heck out of my kids sometimes!

    [Reply]

    marfmom Reply:

    Great idea!!! Thanks!

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