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Flying with a teen with autism

Richmond, Virginia
Level Contributor
13 posts
1 review
Flying with a teen with autism

Hi, I'm going to need to book a flight from Dulles to Heathrow for my family of four, including my 13yo daughter with autism. I haven't flown in years, and this child never has, so the world of accommodations for disabilities on airlines is new to me.

Should I book directly with the airline, or is it all right to use a website like Expedia?

I've read through the websites for British Airways and other airlines. Clearly they try to help. But there's more information about physical disabilities than developmental ones. Is it reasonable for me to ask that we board as soon as possible, sit in a block of four seats together with two next to windows, and exit the plane as soon as possible? My daughter's issues are mostly in areas of emotional regulation, including controlling frustration, and I'm trying to think of ways to minimize stress.

The British Airways site just says to communicate needs at least 48 hours before flying. Is it preferable to do so at the time of booking, when I can speak to someone in person, or is doing this on the website as they suggest adequate?

I'll be very grateful for any advice on the best ways to manage all this.

14 replies to this topic
London, England
Level Contributor
9,774 posts
75 reviews
1. Re: Flying with a teen with autism

It is always best to book flights direct with the airline. I always book SA at the same time as I book my ticket.

Some UK airports put in place in 2017 a special system for aiding autistic passengers. If you do a search on here or Google, I am sure you will find the details.

Richmond, Virginia
Level Contributor
13 posts
1 review
2. Re: Flying with a teen with autism

Thank you, I'll look for that.

If anyone has other thoughts, I'll be grateful,

Salisbury, United...
Level Contributor
10,399 posts
149 reviews
3. Re: Flying with a teen with autism

<<sit in a block of four seats together with two next to windows>> I know of no airline that has a row of 4 seats next to the window. Many airline allow you to prebook seats for a price. You will need to speak to the airline to see if the can seat you for.

<<exit the plane as soon as possible?>> that will not happen as the aircraft I’d deboarded from the front and there will be no way you would be able to jump ahead of everyone who will be in the aisle, getting baggage down from o/head lockers. Boarding first may be able to be arranged with the airline.

Once you have made your booking you should contact the airline ASAP. Most airline have a special needs number.

Sorry I can’t give you the link as I’m on my iPad. Aer Lingus have a really good guide to travelling with those who have autism. I think you can download a visual guide and it talks through the whole flying process. On the Aer Lingus site look for. Travel information>>travelling with children>> travelling with children who have Autism.

Hope that may help you even though you’re not flying with Aer Lingus. Enjoy.

Richmond, Virginia
Level Contributor
13 posts
1 review
4. Re: Flying with a teen with autism

I'm sorry, I wasn't very clear. I meant two seats in one row, the two closest to the window, and then the same two seats immediately behind the first, so we're sitting in a block:

Window)[1st seat][2nd seat](another person)

Window)[1st seat][2nd seat](another person).

That may be clear as mud, still. ;-)

So getting off, say, after the first class passengers, but before other economy passengers isn't something they do? Is it true that being close to the door helps one get off faster? I've seen recommendations that I should ask for my daughter to be in a bulkhead row, so no one can lean back on her and she can't kick anyone's seat. Are they likely to be near the door where we exit?

I appreciate the information on Aer Lingus. I agree their materials are very good.

Salisbury, United...
Level Contributor
10,399 posts
149 reviews
5. Re: Flying with a teen with autism

Regards the seating you’ll need to contact the airline only they can tell you. Bulkhead is a possibility but sometimes they are reserved for families with infants. Ask.

Obviously the nearer the front the quicker you get off. Those asking for special assistance are asked to wait until last. I have never heard an airline ask every to stay sitting until a particular passenger disembarks. It doesn’t work like that. So you will have to take your turn.

In economy you’ll sit

towards the back. You’ll exit at the front.

Good luck.

Edited: 4:14 pm, January 06, 2018
Washington DC...
Level Contributor
15,671 posts
312 reviews
6. Re: Flying with a teen with autism

I am sorry to second guess your seating choice but your block has strangers sitting in the aisle seat...? That is a long flight and we try to get an aisle seat so both (in your case all three) can get out to use the lav without asking the stranger to get up each time. Could a row of three with the fourth person in an aisle across work? Or with the forth in front or behind the autistic person? The fourth will still be stuck wrt the lav but the other 3 won't.

Bulkhead rows are our favorite. You can sort of squeeze past a seated stranger on the aisle but still..

Edited: 8:06 pm, January 08, 2018
Richmond, Virginia
Level Contributor
13 posts
1 review
7. Re: Flying with a teen with autism

Thanks so much for all the advice. You've given me good things to consider. It's been so long since I've flown, and I really appreciate the help.

Ireland
Level Contributor
12,652 posts
127 reviews
8. Re: Flying with a teen with autism

Would some social stories around the trip help her?Does she need noise cancelling head phones for the airport?

Are the "Off We Go" books too baby-ish for her?

www.offwego.ie/index.php…

Edited: 1:09 pm, January 21, 2018
Richmond, Virginia
Level Contributor
13 posts
1 review
9. Re: Flying with a teen with autism

Thanks for responding, HarveyIreland.

She's pretty high functioning overall, so the social stories and OffWeGo books would unfortunately be seen as babyish. I will try to get the same sort of information to her ahead of time, though: you're on target with the need to prepare.

We did just get her noise-canceling headphones, mostly as preparation for the trip.

Mainly she has problems with lack of frustration tolerance and emotional regulation. That's why I'm trying to figure out how to smooth things out and make them as easy as possible. Generally she copes pretty well, but I know the trip will generate stress. This will be the first time we've flown since she was born, so I'm completely out of practice and need to learn a lot.

I appreciate the ideas!

Hampshire, UK
Level Contributor
9,673 posts
87 reviews
10. Re: Flying with a teen with autism

here's another thing about going through airports with autism if it helps

https:/…autismguidetogatwick.pdf

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