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flying with special needs child

Tips for successfully flying with a child with special needs

August 25, 2022

Flying with children can be overwhelming and stressful for any parent but throw in a child with special needs and those feelings can be tenfold. In this blog, we hope to provide you with some tips to make the journey smoother from start to finish.

Use social stories and visual cues 

If your child responds well to social stories and visual cues, then now is a good time to use them. A social story can begin at the start of your journey right through to the end and help your child to understand what is about to happen, what to expect and why. Using visual cues will help to reduce any anxiety that your child might be experiencing and help them to understand exactly what to expect.


Contact the airport about ‘special assistance’

Many airports now provide special assistance for passengers with disabilities and hidden conditions such as autism. The aim of this is to make your time throughout the airport visit as easy and stress-free as possible. Special assistance might mean that you can access a quiet space for your child, wait less time in queues and use mobility equipment. Check with the airport in advance how much notice you need to give to request this assistance. 

You should also ensure that you speak to your airline if your child has any medical requirements or equipment.



Check if the airport has a Changing Places toilet

If your child wears continence products, requires hoisting or needs extra space for equipment, then chances are you need a Changing Places toilet for them to go to the toilet safely and with dignity. A lot of airports now have these facilities, however, some may only have one either airside or landside. Check if the airport has a facility using the Changing Places toilet map and if they don’t, ask them where you can safely change your child.


Let your child help to pack their bag

Letting your child help to pack their bag will help them feel part of the experience and might help to reassure them. It can be a fun thing to do and help to create some excitement around going away.


Pack essentials

Make sure you pack all essentials, particularly those that help your child manage their daily sensory needs, such as ear defenders, fidget toys and iPads. These will help them throughout the journey and provide reassurance and comfort. 

It’s a fun idea to create a fun travel bag to take on board the flight with you with small things that your child likes, such as snacks, colouring activities and travel games.

In advance of packing, create a list to ensure that you don’t forget anything. 


Bring a sensory bag

This should contain anything that will make your child's journey more comfortable such as adaptive pyjamas , noise-canceling headphones, a busy book, fidget items and sensory items to keep hands busy especially during pre-boarding, take-off, and landing.

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