How the Electronic Ban will affect Traveling with Autism

Much as been said in the past few days about the new reveal electronic ban that the UK and US have put into effect.
Since its reveal on  March 20th, 2017, many have spoken for and mostly against the new regulations. It even has a trending Twitter hashtag at #electronicban!
For the few people who have still not heard about the ban, here are the highlights and how it will affect traveling with autism.

How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism aisleWhat is the electronic ban?

The US and UK have put in place regulations preventing passengers from using electronic devices on flights from several Middle Eastern and African countries when flying into the UK and US. Though the concept is similar, the countries and airlines on each country’s list are somewhat different.

The UK list

Direct Flights on the following carriers from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia do not allow passengers to carry electronic devices in the cabin:

  • British Airways
  • EasyJet
  • Jet2.com
  • Monarch
  • Thomas Cook
  • Thomson
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Pegasus Airways
  • Atlas-Global Airlines
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Egyptair
  • Royal Jordanian
  • Tunis Air
  • SaudiaHow the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism boarding

The US list 

Direct flights from airlines on the list below from the Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia don’t allow travelers to have electronic devices in the cabin:

  • Egypt Air
  • Emirates Airline
  • Etihad Airways
  • Kuwait Airways
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines

The US list also specifically named ten airports the ban applied to:

  • Queen Alia International Airport (AMM)
  • Cairo International Airport (CAI)
  • Ataturk International Airport (IST)
  • King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (JED)
  • King Khalid International Airport (RUH)
  • Kuwait International Airport (KWI)
  • Mohammed V Airport (CMN)
  • Hamad International Airport (DOH)
  • Dubai International Airport (DXB)
  • Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH)
     homeland tweet How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism

Does this affect any US domestic flights?

No! Flights within the US or originating in the US will not be affected at present.

Why was the electronic ban put in place?

Though no specific threat was quoted, the ban has been put in place due to gathered intelligence of imminent terrorist threats to blow up commercial jets using nonmetal explosives that may be difficult to detect by regular airport scanning.

In the past, there have been several attempts like this, the last one being just last year when a bomb hidden in a laptop detonated aboard a flight out of Somalia.

When is it going into effect?

In the UK, several airline companies are already implementing the new ban. In the US, it is about to start on March 25th. 2017.

electronic ban and autism travel pin

What does the electronic ban mean to travelers?

Under the new regulations, only small smartphones will be allowed in the cabin. Other devices will have to travel in the checked luggage, including:

  • Laptops
  • iPads
  • Kindle readers
  • Gameboys
  • E -readers
  • Cameras
  • Portable DVDs
  • Travel printers
  • Travel scanners

Medical devices will still be allowed after security.
How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism electronics

How long will this ban be in effect?

Hard to tell!

We were on a cruise in Europe back in 2006 when we were notified that we couldn’t carry anything but medicines and passports in our carry on luggage. Apparently, a plot to blow up an aircraft had just been foiled, and the alert levels were raised to the highest level. Soon after that the 100ml liquid restriction came into effect and never went away.

How will the ban affect passengers with autism?

Sadly, that will be a problem not only for families trying to entertain their kids during long haul flights but for those who are nonverbal and use an iPad to communicate. We all still remember the case of Carly Fleischmann back in 2012, who was told to turn off her iPad despite repeated pleas from her and her parents not to take her means of communication away.

Considering this ban came into effect suddenly it is clear that legislatures didn’t think of all possible ramifications and challenges. Hopefully, in time, nonverbal passengers with autism will be allowed to take their iPads onboard with an appropriate doctor’s note.

How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism phone

Helpful tips for traveling with autism

Try to reroute your flight

If you are slotted to fly out of one of the airports on the list you may want to reroute your trip to a different country and fly out of there a few days later. Alternatively look into flying with a more kid friendly airline like Etihad and Emirates that offers nanny service onboard to help entertain the kids.

Book a night flight

If possible try to book a night flight and make sure you tire out the kids with some physical activity before getting to the airport. This way they might sleep a few hours and wouldn’t need entertainment.

Prepare your kid!

Prepare your child for the fact that they will need to do other activities than play on their electronics when flying. Make sure you emphasize the positive on how exciting it is to fly rather than detail why electronics aren’t allowed which they may find scary!

Head on to the dollar store

Depending on your kids’ interests fill a bag with reading or coloring materials, Legos, board games, costumes or any other items that can occupy them for several hours.

Notify the airline

Call the special needs desk and let them know about the importance of seating and entertainment for your kid. If you are traveling as a family, you may want to book aisle seats in rows across from each other in case the entertainment system fails in an entire row.

Bring autism-friendly items

Pack a set of kid-friendly headphones and a power cord to juice up your smartphone during the flight. Most aircraft have USB ports under the seat.
How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism watching tv

Allow ample time at the airport

Traveling after March 25th from the tagged airports to the UK or US? Pre-pack your devices in the checked luggage in protective bubble wrap and get to the airport as early as possible since chances are there will be queues, confusion and even chaos and some instances. Considering this was just sprung on the travel industry it’s hard to gauge what exactly could transpire.

So what should you do?

At this point, I would advise everyone to leave any devices they don’t need at home to prevent theft or hacking.
You may want to purchase an inexpensive throwaway laptop or tablet to use for traveling that you won’t regret losing. Alternatively look into renting an iPad for your kid in the destination you are going to –some hotels do it free of charge.

How the US Electronic Ban affects Traveling with Autism humor

Additional ways to protect your devices

  • Check with your credit cards and home insurance for electronic item coverage in case of theft or damage. Many times you may be able to recover the cost of your lost/stolen/broken device through their programs.
  • To prevent identity theft, back all your information and data the day before your flight and store it on a cloud or memory stick. In addition, you can store any personal information in password zip files or delete info from your device (I know – quite the hassle, but still better than becoming a hacking victim).
  • Make sure to fully turn off all devices and apply a passcode to prevent hackers from accessing your data.
  • Carve your name or at least initials on each device to make it easily identifiable.
  • Some hackers can trace particular devices via GPS tracking. Therefore, make sure to register all devices under an appropriate app like ‘find my phone.’We’ve found that the Tile system helps us keep track of our electronics.

Will you be flying out of the airports on the electronic ban list with your family? How are you planning to entertain your kids?

 

 

 

 

JetBlue Airline’s Autism-Friendly Service

When it comes to airlines offering top-notch autism-friendly service, JetBlue has been one of our favorites.We recently had our first opportunity to test their accommodations for ourselves and see exactly how autism-friendly the airline truly is.

For many years I’ve been following with interest JetBlue’s efforts to help travelers with autism get accommodations when they fly to their intended destinations. In fact, many of you can attest to the fact that I am one of their biggest fans; I’ve been thrilled that the company makes such a concerted effort to reach out to the special needs community especially those with autism. I have personally attended mock flights which are created to encourage families with autism to fly and I have written several posts about the airline.

Here’s my overview of our own experience flying JetBlue.

Booking

For starters, I booked my flight online and was thrilled to see how the airline has specific forms parents can fill in and explain their kid’s diagnosis and specific accommodations needed. Later that same week, I followed up with a phone call to the airline customer service. It is important to state if you need pre-boarding as well as specifying either bulk or aisle seats. Even though at that point I was informed by the rep that my request would not be possible because all seats were already booked; they arranged for us to be seated close to one another, which was great.

At the Airport

Upon arrival at the airport, the ticket counter was well organized with many self-service machines and staff to help. I spoke to the representative again explaining our needs and she managed to reassign our seats and seat us together in row 6 since the aircraft didn’t have many bulk seating rows available. We were grateful for that.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Ticket Counter

JetBlue doesn’t offer any lounge service at the Fort Lauderdale airport yet, so we ended up just sitting at the gate.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Gate

I need to mention that at this point there was a slight uncharacteristic hiccup. My son’s accommodation was mentioned to staff a fourth time at the gate when we got there 45 minutes before take-off. I was assured that the staff was fully aware of our needs and we would be called to board early. Much to my surprise there was no verbal announcement or call to board for people with disabilities whatsoever. This was really upsetting because we were in plain sight of the gate staff.

Boarding

When I approached the gate supervisor I was told that they board people with wheelchairs first and that travelers with autism are just put first in the regular passenger line. So, we were finally allowed to board with 250 visibly impatient passengers behind us rushing us and pressuring us to get out of the way.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Overhead Bin

Out of breath and stressed, it took us a few minutes to put our luggage up in the overhead compartment, find our seats and settle our son which led to some dirty looks and grumblings from fellow passengers who had no choice but to wait behind us. Thankfully, as I mentioned above, this was a one-off glitch and JetBlue has definitely more than made up for it as you will see.

We already felt much better when the flight purser, Brett, came over after takeoff and apologized for the service we had encountered at the gate level and did ask whether we needed any help on board.

So, How was the Flight?

The JetBlue aircraft was a Boeing 777 with three seats on each side. The seats were moderately comfortable and made with leather.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Seats

Each seat had a built-in screen where travelers could watch movies and DirecTV or use the WiFi; both purchasable. Most seats also had an outlet that passengers could recharge their electronic devices in underneath the seats. The overhead compartments were average- sized; our 20-inch carry-ons fitted well and the leg room was just as comfortable as other domestic airlines we have flown with.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Television
The printed menu onboard offered the free sodas, water bottles (yes, you get your own bottle!) and snacks that were nut-free chocolate chip cookies and gluten-free potato chips.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Meal

The airline also offers some purchasable food choices that include several healthy choices like chicken and steak sandwiches, salads, cheese platters and several mixed snacks packages-basically something for everyone.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Flight Attendant

Overall—with the exception of our incident at the beginning of the flight—our experience with JetBlue was pleasant and comfortable and the staff gave really good service.

Lessons to be Learned

When I contacted the airline after our return to complain about the pre-boarding snafu, I am delighted to report that they apologized, acknowledged their mistake, and credited our account for the inconvenience. Best of all they reassured me that they‘ve changed their protocol so other families with autism won’t face the same situation.

JetBlue Airline's Autism-Friendly Service Pin

Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes

I remember a decade ago when we first started traveling extensively how squeamish I was about flying to Savannah airport in a CRJ 700 plane. In my defense, I had flown earlier that year in a 25- seater plane from Vancouver to Seattle during a storm, which had traumatized me.

To my surprise, the flight ended up as one of the calmest and most uneventful one we had.
The service was impeccable ( SkyWest usually is), and the seats were more comfortable than most of the larger planes we’ve flown in.
Furthermore, we ended up chatting pleasantly with one another, which almost never happens with my teen sons.

 

 

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes plane

Since then we’ve flown several times on these planes (widely used to fly between smaller airports), and I can say we’ve pretty much gotten used to them.
With that said, we did encounter minor challenges that other families with autism should be aware of before booking their next flight this particular aircraft.

 

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes inside
The size

The CRJ 700  aircraft is small (17 rows) and divided into rows of two so a family of four can either sit in the same row across from each other or book two seats in one row with the other two in the row behind it.
Either way, since the aircraft is so small, you won’t be that far from the rest of your family members.

Tip: If your kid with autism tends to kick the seat in front of them book them a seat in the bulk row or behind you, so they don’t inconvenience fellow travelers.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes seat
Tiny overhead bins

As mentioned before, since this plane is small the overhead bins can’t usually accommodate the 20-inch carry-on suitcases.In the event, your carry-on doesn’t fit you can still give it to handlers at the departure gate (don’t check it in ahead of time) so you can get it back as you exit the aircraft at your destination.

Tip: Consider substituting a backpack (that fits better in the overhead bins) for your carry-on suitcase to pack crucial items like meds and electronics for your special needs kid that you need on a flight.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes overhead bin

Noise!

If your child is noise sensitive book a seat in the front since the CRJ 700 planes are quite noisy in the back.

Tip: stuck with seats in the back? Buy a pair of noise canceling headphones for your child to help tune out the noise.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes window
Temperature Control

Based on our flights I can say there is enough the temperature variance between the front and the back of the aircraft –while the front is cold, sometimes too cold, the back gets stuffy and hot!.

Tip: If your child with autism is temperature sensitive it is easier to book seats in the front and bring a blanket or jacket rather than struggle to stay cool in the back.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes aisle

No entertainment

Surprisingly enough, these planes come without personal screens, so you need to bring at least one preferably two electronic devices to occupy your kid.

Tip: Packing an extra battery in your handbag or carry-on is a good idea since the aircraft doesn’t have any outlets to recharge.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes restroom
Bathroom

Most of the planes we’ve flown on so far featured one single tiny bathroom for all passengers so there might be a queue to use it after takeoff and meals.

Tip: Teach your kid to think ahead and use the airport restroom before boarding to avoid the lines.

Have you flown on a CRJ 700 aircraft with your special needs child what was your experience?

What was your experience?

 

Airport Security Tips For Families With Autism

Due to the ever-changing airport regulations, many travelers find it difficult to know what to expect from the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and airport security checkpoints on any given day. Even more confusing is the fact that the checks vary from airport to airport, some done with body scanners while others still use the older metal detectors so parents should check the airport’s website for the most accurate information.
With that said, here are some basic general tips that never change and can help traveling families navigate most US airports and have a stress free experience.

Airport security tips for families and children with autism lines

Plan Ahead

Stage a mock airport security checkpoint at home in one of your rooms, including how you stand quietly in line, putting your hands up 180 degrees and emptying your pockets in plastic containers.

Print a social story with appropriate airport pictures from the internet or write your own and read it several times with your kid.

Check the guidelines

  • Read the posted instructions or look at the TSA or airport’s website before you travel.
    This is the most important thing you can do, and the signs are easy to find. When going overseas, if you don’t see any regulations posted about liquids and what can and cannot be taken on the flight, ask an agent.
  • Call or check online to find out if your airport offers individual lines for families or travelers with disabilities.
  • Call your airline and see the airline can provide assistance if you are traveling alone with children or with children having special needs.
  • Give yourself a minimum of 30 minutes to get through any security check on a regular day and 60 minutes during the holiday season.

Don’t wear

  • Have your family members wear comfortable clothes and abstain from wearing lots of layers, baggy clothes, hats/caps, bandanas, jewelry or hairpieces.
    These will make it more challenging and time-consuming to get through security because they will have to take it all off, or potentially get pulled aside for additional screening.

 

Do wear

  • Comfortable, slip-on shoes are easier to remove and put back on, but if your child does wear laces, try to find ones that are easier to lace, or get special shoe laces.
  • If your child has sensory issues and won’t walk in bare feet, have them wear socks or carry shoe covers. Current regulations do not require children 12 years old and under to remove their shoes (http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/traveling-children).

Packing

  • Remember the 3-1-1 rule: 3.4 oz. of liquids in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag, 1 per passenger.
    Put your liquids and medicines at the top of your carry-on so you can easily take them in and out. Bring a couple of extra Ziploc bags just in case your luggage tear or don’t close well!
  • Pack a roll of duct tape in case your suitcase breaks or any of your containers spill, and it will need to be taped shut.
  • Put all of your electronic devices in one bag and designate a responsible family member to be in charge of it.
  • Pack clothes, and small items like belts in 2.5 gallons see-through bags to keep everything clean easy to find.
  • Get an ID/pass holder to wear around your neck for easy access to ID cards, passports, boarding passes, and any doctor notes explaining your child’s diagnosis. This will also keep your important documents safe and close to you.
    You might also want to get a wallet with a zipper to keep your money in and mini-locks for these wallets for extra safety.
  • Label your luggage and your electronics with your name and contact number or email  (never your address!) in case you forget them or they get lost.

Before the airport security checkpoint

  • Take jackets and belts off the minute you leave the airline ticket counter before you even get to the ID/passport control officer.
  • If you wore jewelry, take it off after you leave the airline ticket counter and put it in your locked wallet or bag.
  • You may want to photograph the bins that contain your electronics and jewelry, so you can remember what you need to watch for on the other side, or for proof if it gets lost/stolen.

At the airport security checkpoint

  • Tell the agent politely of your child’s diagnosis immediately, and show the agent your TSA blue card (downloadable from the TSA website.).
  • Ask to accompany your child if a pat-down is required.
  • No matter what happens, stay calm and polite since your child will mirror your stress.

Once you make it through the security process, designate one parent to watch over kids while the other keep track of belongings, so that no one and nothing can get lost

What tips have you found helpful to get through airport security with autistic travelers?

 

 

10 Tips To Avoid Missed Flight Connections

A missed flight connection can be a traveler’s worst nightmare.
It often results in unplanned additional travel expenses for food and lodging as well as unnecessary stress for all members of the travel party.
Though some of the times, the mishap can be weather related or because of unforeseen airline delays, many other times the situation is due to poor travel planning and can be entirely avoided.

For the newbies among you as well as those who don’t mind a short refresher post; here are some tips to help you make sure you won’t miss your connecting flights again.

10 Tips To Never Miss a Flight Connection Again airport

Don’t book a tight connection

The basic rule of thumb is never to book a connection that is less than 2 hours if you are taking a domestic flight or less than 3 hours if you are flying internationally, especially if you are traveling with small kids or persons with disability.
If you can’t find the layover you are looking for on the online booking site, call the airline to talk to a live agent.

On international flights coming back into the United States, the first airport you land in is where you have to go through immigration, retrieve your luggage, and check back in, so make sure you (and your family) have plenty of time to do all of that; in a non-rushed manner.

Book the first flight of the day

Statistics show that the first flights of the day, early in the morning, experience fewer delays than others.

So, even if you are not a ‘morning person’ you should strive to book one of the earlier flights for the first leg of your trip.

Sit in front 

The closer you sit by the front door, the faster you will be able to get off the aircraft and get to your next gate.
The airlines have mastered the pre-boarding process, but when it comes to deplaning; everyone gets pushy and wants to get off quickly. Everyone has a reason to rush out so don’t expect much sympathy – just make sure you get out as soon as the plane lands and the door opens!

Keep your family together

It is critical for everyone in your group to leave the plane with their belongings as soon as possible after landing to get to the next gate.
If you sit in separate places on the aircraft, especially a large one, it could take more than ten minutes to get everyone together. This extra delay could make you arrive late to your next gate and miss your next flight.

Travel with carry-on bags

Ask for pre-boarding, and make sure you put your suitcase in the overhead bin directly above or in front of you.

If put your luggage in the bins behind you are risking further delays as you will be spending time trying to fight the stream of people moving forward to exit the plane.

10 Tips To Never Miss a Flight Connection Again luggage

Download an airport map

If the airport you are connecting into is large and you have limited time to go to distant gates or terminals, make sure you download a map on your cell phone or print out a map ahead of time, so you minimize your chances of wasting time getting lost.

Buy travel insurance

I  can’t stress this one enough.
In today’s chaotic travel world things can change at the drop of a hat, and you might be stuck in an airport without the ability to continue for hours, especially if you have an itinerary with multiple flights.
Most travel insurance plans start covering your food and lodging costs if the delay is longer than six hours, so make sure you buy some travel insurance

Have the airline application on your phone

You should download the airline’s app to your electronic devices so you can contact them fast to rebook your flight if necessary.
Also, bookmark the airline’s Facebook page and Twitter handle since many times companies answer faster on social media than if you try to call or email customer service.

Ask for help 

If you are experiencing a delay after you board the aircraft, ask the flight purser’s advice about what to do and whether she/he can arrange an airport shuttle or special escort to transport you and accompanying family members as fast as possible to the next gate.

Above all else, stay calm

Whatever you do, keep it together and smile since no one feels comfortable or safe near an agitated or out of control stranger. Staying calm and not panicking will help your family relax and will make people more likely to help you.

Have you ever missed a flight connection?
What tips would you add?

Five Lessons Learned from Bad Flight Experiences

Like in life, there are both good and bad experiences in travel.
The savvy traveler needs not only to enjoy the good times but to learn valuable lessons from the bad ones.
In our case, traveling with an autistic son can make one stressful incident cast a gloomy tone on the rest of the day—sometimes even longer. So, we try our best to learn from them and apply our lessons as fast as possible to prevent future recurrence.
Here are some of our worst experiences and what we learned for our future travels.

 

Five Lessons Learned from Bad Flight Experiences plane

 

 

Missed Connection:

Back in 2006, we flew with United Airlines from Los Angeles to Amsterdam with a stop in Chicago. Since the airline arranged the flight with the connection included, I assumed that everything would work out perfectly. I was wrong. Like many other air travel companies, United provides minimal time between flight connections, so even a small delay can wreck the entire schedule.

Our flight from Los Angeles International Airport was delayed for thirty minutes due to technical reasons; this catalyst was pivotal to our future boarding woes. When we deplaned in Chicago, we immediately talked to a company representative, who assured us the next flight (a terminal over) would wait for us. However, after running insanely through the Chicago O’Hare escalators to reach the next terminal, we were told that even though the plane had not left, we could not board since “the doors had been already shut.” My special needs child had a major meltdown! The incident took us another twelve hours and a second stop in London until we finally reached our destination.

Lesson learned: always check your connections carefully, and do not accept connecting flights with less than two hours between them—especially when flying on international flights.

Sprayed on:

As we were flying back in 2006 from Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airport to Los Angeles, the flight crew began to spray aerosols in the airplane cabin (close to passengers). When I inquired as to why—many of us had just woken up from a night’s sleep—we were informed that the spraying was to comply with US regulations against mosquito-borne illnesses (the plane had previously landed in the Indian Ocean area). I was not happy; my son is asthmatic and suffers from multiple allergies. Unfortunately, it was too late to do anything about it.

Lesson learned: we always carry face masks in our hand luggage in case it ever reoccurs.

 

Lost ID:

Two summers ago, we were traveling from Los Angeles to Savannah, Georgia via Chicago, and I did not notice my wallet (with all our IDs) had dropped to the airplane dark floor during our first leg of the journey. I only realized the drivers’ licenses, and IDs were missing when we were trying to rent a car at the Savannah airport. By then, however, all we could do was notify the airline—in this case, United—and hope for the best.

Needless to mention, we had to alter our visiting plans drastically; instead of hopping in a car and touring Hilton Head for the week, we had to use expensive cabs to go from place to place. To add to our problems, without our IDs flying home was quite difficult! United, eventually, did come through for us, finding the wallets and promptly returning them (we had already come back by then).

Lesson learned (or two): Always get yourself a second form of government-issued identification (and pack both in two separate places in case one is lost), and get colorful containers and wallets to notice quickly on the airplane floor if dropped.

 

Place ID tags on carry-ons:

While most of us properly place ID labels on our checked baggage, not many put tags on their carry-ons—a huge mistake. On the rare occasions when I was forced to check my carry-on luggage (due to excessive weight or lack of overhead bin space) while it usually turns up on the carousel, I recall times—like a BMI flight from London Heathrow to Amsterdam—where it did not and was lost for good.

Lesson learned: tag your carry-on with your name and email address (or cell phone number), and photograph its contents while packing at home. Whatever you do, never agree to send your carry-on bag containing your child’s medication.

 

Pack a small travel scale:

In today’s world of low budget, low-profit airline companies, packing a bit lighter than the fifty-pound limit (in the US) can help save you on the excess baggage charges. While we are frequent and loyal customers to United (even having Premier status) and most airport agents are willing to let some small excess weight slide, we encountered two years ago a hardliner in Florida who was adamant about the fifty-pound limit.

Even though only one suitcase was 52 pounds and the rest were 46-48, he forced us to either reshuffle the bags (which we begrudgingly did) or pay the extra fee. The moral of the story is always to check the allocated weight published and make sure your luggage is not over the limit. Or you’ll spend your airport time either paying up or rearranging your bags on the floor.

Lesson learned: carry a small travel scale and distribute your luggage evenly so you don’t have some suitcases over and some under the limit. Additionally, pack everything in Ziploc plastic bags, so even if you have to reshuffle, everything can stay clean.

 

Ever had a bad experience with an airline?
How has that change the way you travel?

 

Five Fellow Fliers You’ll Regret Meeting

Five Fellow Fliers You'll Regret Meeting on Your Next Trip SEATS

 

 

The scenario is painfully simple-you are on a plane, buckled with nowhere to go and your child with autism acting up in the seat next to you.
While you are actively trying to focus on his needs, you are interrupted by other passengers voicing their opinions.

What should you do?

I’ve always wished I could sit and engage in that meaningful conversation with some of them to have them better understand my perspective.
However, I soon realized that would take precious time which I do not have when I am facing a crisis. As a result, I just remain calm, composed and act civilly to them all the while continuing to provide comfort to my child.
Over the years, after meeting quite a few ‘characters’, I’ve even come up with a system to categorize them into five groups which I fondly call: ‘The Undesirable Five.’

The one who criticizes

‘Holier than thou’ characters come in a broad range of age, race and cultural backgrounds. What they possess in common are comments like “If I were you, I would never…” and “In my days, kids could not…” some more blatant than others about criticizing my inadequate parenting skills and son’s behaviors. Those, I just ignore since it is evident to me, they have already made up their mind about the situation and attempting to change it would be a futile effort and colossal waste of time on my part.

The one with unsolicited advice

The French have a saying: La même Jeannette autrement coiffée (loosely translates as it’s the same-old Janet but with a different hair style) that applies quite well to members of this category.
People in this category are usually older and love to dispense unsolicited advice with a dab of veiled criticism.
Their message starts with “What I used to do with…” and quickly progresses to “What I would do in a similar situation…”
The irony is most of them are pretty clueless on how to deal effectively with any child let alone one on the spectrum. Depending on the situation, I might initiate a conversation later and explain autism symptoms and meltdowns in a more detailed way.

The one who threatens

This particular category peeves me the most as I feel they are selfishly ignoring everything that is going on with my child and attempting to anger me further and cause a scene.
Their common threats often contain adjectives none, particularly flattering. Even their sentence structure is predictable-starting with “Get your (Explicit) kid to stop…’ and ending with’ or else … ‘.Based on previous experiences, I’ve learned to encourage them to summon crew help. It is a hit and miss preposition-some do while others don’t.
In several cases, I’ve witnessed some complained so profusely to the flight attendant they got moved away and even bumped up to a superior seating class -much to our relief and their own.

The  one who intervenes

A potentially worse category than the one mentioned above is composed of people who chose to address your distressed kid directly-completely bypassing your own efforts.
Imagine a situation where your screaming child is faced with a stranger rudely telling him to keep quiet and ‘get over it.’
Though these people might mean well, their intervention inadvertently ends up leading to unnecessary escalations.I usually use the three-step approach when getting these people to stop intervening. First, I ask politely, progress to a firmer tone and as a last resort, I call the flight attendant to help me out.

The  one who stares

These people feign disinterest but usually gawk at the situation developing. The good part about it is that they remain silent throughout the process of calming your child down. In my view, they are the best candidates to learn about autism since they are somewhat interested in the topic but are less judgmental than the others.

I believe by witnessing an autistic meltdown, they can gain better insight into how to cope with people on the spectrum. What I would like them to infer about all individuals with autism, including my son, is they are people with real feelings in need of support and understanding, not some nuisances you complain about or fear.

 

Have you flown with kids on the spectrum lately?
We’d love to hear from you about your experience?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meltdown In The Sky: A Personal Story of Flying with Autism

Meltdown In The Sky: A Personal Story of Flying with Autism jeff

“An old Romanian joke speaks of a dad sitting on a bench in the park with a unrelentingly screaming baby in his arms whispering, “Ferdinand be calm, Ferdinand be calm.”
A well-meaning bystander who witnesses the situation approaches the dad and asks, “Shouldn’t you be trying something different since it’s obvious that whispering is not calming the child?”.
“Oh, no,’” smiles the distraught father, “You don’t understand…I was whispering to myself’.”

The marvel of traveling with an autistic family member is the fact that life as you know it can change so fast you don’t even realize what hit you.
Of course, after all, hell has broken loose and then calmed down, you get to think back, analyze what went wrong, and hope  you’ve at least discovered some significant clue to help you with the next meltdown (and yes,  there always seems to be the next time.)

The day started as uneventful as you could imagine, having completed my airport checklist in its entirety: an elaborate breakfast, adequate time for airport security, a ritual purchase of a comics magazine and souvenirs, a small airport snack, and pre-boarding, all followed.

I considered this particular flight segment from Tel Aviv to Zurich on Swiss a no-brainer, compared to transatlantic and transpacific trips that we had previously experienced.Silly me, I assumed that between the magazine and the onboard movies offered, everything would run smoothly.

I was dead wrong.

What happened next felt like a surreal horror movie.
Jeff’s movie player broke down, so he started complaining and naturally he switched seats with his brother.But, what do you know? That DVD player malfunctioned too —and apparently so did all four in our row, And now were faced with Jeff unable watch his favorite Shrek movie. He started whining, complaining and screaming in a matter of seconds.

Multiple flight attendants came and went with no apparent ability to fix anything, and then we got a visit from the flight purser herself (with a sour face.)

By then Jeff was noticeably agitated, screaming that he wanted to watch his movie—or else.

Instinctively, I  reached to retrieve Jeff’s calming medication from my purse to offer it to him; however, he was way too wound up by then to listen, and he refused to take it. While holding the pill in my right hand and hugging Jeff with my left, I  calmly reminded the purser of Jeff’s diagnosis and asked her whether she could find him another seat.

She proved to be autism ignorant and proceeded first to order me to “explain” to Jeff that she couldn’t do anything else for him, then lecture me about my poor parenting skills.
Apparently, in her mind, autistic people always stopped to listen to reason, especially during a meltdown.
What could I do but whisper quietly to myself to stay calm?
While my son was busy screaming obscenities, I turned to look around for a second only to notice how everyone was staring at us.
I cracked half a smile and apologized to everyone about the growing commotion while continuing to hug and console my son.

A  kind lady across the aisle proceeded to offer Jeff her laptop—which he refused— while another young woman right behind us started crying too, obviously upset by the whole scene. I  thought I’d offer Jeff the half-melted pill a second time, but he rejected me a second time!

Funny how one’s brain works during a the crisis, as all I could think at that moment was that the crew will decide to avert the flight, and I started wondering whether we were flying over Greece or Turkey.
My mind was racing.
What would Turkish mental hospitals and or prisons look like?
Were the Greek ones better?
Would the airline make you pay the extra expenses for landing the plane?
Would our travel insurance even cover that?
Could one even return to the States if he was put on that ‘no fly’ list?Then, the realization!
Oh no, we would be featured on the five o’clock news, in a terrible way!
I could just see the headline, “American family disrupts flight!”

By now, it was well over an hour of the crisis as  I glanced at the rest of my family.

In the meantime, while all this drama was buy unfolding, my other son was sunk deep into his seat covering his face with his hood, ashamed.
Jeffrey was still crying hysterically until a voice I recognized as my husband snapped me back to reality, saying: “I  think I have a panic attack.”
And just like that, the tide decided to take a turn for the better!

Within a New York minute, I  somehow managed to convince Jeff to swallow the remnants of what used to be his emergency calming pill. Then, I proceeded to hand my husband a much needed Valerian with my other hand and pressed the flight attendant button with my elbow once again.
When she finally arrived, I asked for a glass of cold water for him and a vodka on the rocks for me. As she handed me the drink, I proceeded to spill it all over myself because of my shaky hand.
Clearly this wasn’t a good day.

And then I remembered the joke with “Ferdinand be calm…” and managed to smile.

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