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Frequently Asked Questions

 

We have gathered a list of the top 25 most commonly asked questions about Autism and Flying:

How can I prepare my autistic child for a commercial flight?

Prepare your child by using social stories, visual schedules, and role-playing the flight experience. Familiarize them with the airport layout and what to expect during security checks and boarding.

Can I request pre-boarding for my autistic child?

Yes, most airlines offer pre-boarding for families with special needs, including autism. It allows extra time to settle in and get comfortable before other passengers board.

What accommodations can I request for my child with autism during the flight?

You can request accommodations such as bulkhead seating for extra legroom, window or aisle seats, and assistance with meal preferences or sensory-friendly meal options.

Are noise-canceling headphones allowed on flights?

Yes, noise-canceling headphones are generally allowed on flights and can be helpful in reducing sensory overload from cabin noise.

How can I help my child with sensory sensitivities during the flight?

Bring comfort items like blankets, stuffed animals, or fidget toys. Encourage them to use noise-canceling headphones or earplugs to minimize auditory stimuli.

Are there any sensory-friendly spaces or quiet areas on commercial flights?

Some airlines have designated quiet zones or sensory-friendly spaces on certain aircraft, but availability may vary. It’s best to check with the airline when booking. Another option is to consider private airline club lounges for a nominal fee.

How can I inform the flight attendants about my child's needs discreetly?

You can inform the flight attendants discreetly before the flight or during pre-boarding. Consider using a travel communication card or providing a brief explanation.

Is there a limit on the number of caregivers who can accompany an autistic passenger?

Generally, there is no limit on the number of caregivers who can accompany an autistic passenger, but it’s recommended to check with the airline beforehand.

What should I do if my child has a sensory meltdown during the flight?

Stay calm and patient. Move to a quiet area, if possible, and use familiar calming techniques to help them regulate their emotions. Seek the assistance of our travel concierge if you’re flying with one.

Can I bring my child's favorite snacks on the flight?

Yes, you can bring your child’s favorite snacks on the flight, but be mindful of any restrictions on liquids or fresh produce when going through security.

Are there any airline policies regarding service animals or emotional support animals for autistic travelers?

Airline policies vary, but most airlines allow service animals for passengers with disabilities, including those on the autism spectrum. Emotional support animals may have different regulations.

Can I bring sensory tools like fidget spinners or stress balls on the flight?

Yes, you can bring sensory tools like fidget spinners or stress balls in your carry-on bag, but be aware of any security restrictions on sharp or prohibited items.

How can I handle changes in the flight schedule or delays with my autistic child?

Use visual aids to explain the changes, provide warnings, and engage in calming activities to help your child cope with the uncertainty. Also seek the assistance of your travel concierge if you’re traveling with one.

Can I use electronic devices like tablets or smartphones to entertain my child during the flight?

Yes, most airlines allow the use of personal electronic devices during the flight. Bring your child’s favorite games, videos, or apps to keep them engaged.

Are there any airport lounges or facilities specifically designed for families with autistic children?

Some airports have designated family lounges or quiet rooms that may be helpful for autistic travelers. Check with the airport’s website or information desk for availability. American Express offers its Centurion Lounges with family rooms at airports in Las Vegas (LAS), Dallas (DFW), Miami (MIA), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Denver (DEN), and Charlotte (CLT).   Moreover, you can find specially designed sensory rooms at Pittsburg (PIT), Atlanta (ATL), Phoenix (PHX), Miami (MIA), and Myrtle Beach airports.

How can I help my child understand and follow the safety instructions on the flight?

Use visual aids and social stories to explain the safety instructions in a clear and understandable manner before and during the flight.

Can I request a specific flight crew who are trained in assisting passengers with autism?

Unfortunately, you cannot request specific flight crews, but many flight attendants receive training to assist passengers with disabilities, including autism.

Are there any airlines that offer special services or programs for autistic travelers?

Some airlines partner with autism organizations and offer specialized services or programs for autistic travelers. Check with the individual airline for more information.

Can I bring a car seat or other assistive devices for my autistic child on the flight?

Yes, you can bring a car seat or other assistive devices on the flight. Notify the airline in advance to ensure they can accommodate these items. Also ask your travel concierge for assistance.

Are there any resources or online communities for parents of autistic travelers?

Yes!. In addition to Travel is SWELL.com, there are online communities and forums where parents share their experiences and offer advice for flying with autistic children such as Autism Society.com, International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES.org), and certified Autism Centers.com. to name a few.

How can I help my child cope with the unfamiliar sounds and sensations during takeoff and landing?

Encourage your child to swallow, yawn, or chew gum during takeoff and landing to alleviate ear pressure. Noise-canceling headphones can also help with unfamiliar sounds.

Can I request a specific type of aircraft or seating arrangement for my autistic child?

While you cannot request a specific aircraft, you can inquire about available seating options, such as bulkhead seats or proximity to the restroom.

How far in advance should I inform the airline about my child's autism-related needs?

It’s best to inform the airline about your child’s needs as soon as possible, ideally at the time of booking or at least 48 hours before the flight.

Can I bring medications or medical equipment for my child on the flight?

Yes, you can bring necessary medications and medical equipment on the flight. Make sure to have proper documentation, such as doctor’s prescriptions or medical certificates.

How can I find autism-friendly airlines or get information about their services?

Research airlines’ policies and services for passengers with disabilities, including autism, on their websites or by contacting their customer service departments. Your travel concierge can also gather this information for you.

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