Airports are huge, noisy, brightly lit areas of CHAOS!
They can send anyone over the edge, especially a child on the spectrum.
As with all new environments, it is important your child feels safe. Bring activities they enjoy to keep them occupied, familiar foods and anything that keeps them calm and helps them to feel secure. This is for both during your time at the airport and on the flight itself.
It’s also important they are dressed comfortably and it's really helpful if you dress your child in brightly coloured clothes. It makes them much easier to spot in crowds, should they wander off!
Set them up with activities whilst you’re waiting in lines as well as waiting for the flight to take off.
In preparing your child for the airport, the use of social stories is fabulous and helps your child to understand and anticipate what is coming. Ideally, and if it's an option, try a trip or two to the airport itself, so they are more familiar with the environment.
Your best strategy, however, is to ask for help. If you have someone to be a second pair of hands and help keep your child entertained, then that’s what you want to aim for.
However, that is not always an option, so don’t be scared to ask the airline staff for help. Explain your child has special needs, and that they don’t do well with lining up. Being open and upfront will ensure your needs are respected, and it will also help the airline staff to help you.
If you can afford it, avoid the low-cost airlines as they often don’t have the resources to help. That is, they may be slightly understaffed and frazzled and not able to give you the assistance you require.
Finally, be aware of the strong smells and loud noises of the airport, as well as the visuals; strong, bright lights, and loads of people!
Travelling on an airplane should essentially be fun - however as with anything, the more familiar they are with an environment the better.