An Airplane Trip With Your Special Needs Child?

Posted On: May 14, 2012

An Airplane Trip With Your Special Needs Child?

By Shalleen Nelson

I did it, and so can you!  I am a proud mom to 5-year-old Sebastian, a longtime Gillette patient, who was born with Down syndrome and neurological issues. I’m also mother to Francesco, Sebastian’s typically-developing twin brother.

Sebastian loves to discover new places! Fortunately for our family, travel has become a smooth process with practice and preparation. Have a question for me? Please leave it in the “Comments” section below!  I’ll continue to share advice on vacationing, from camping trips to hotel stays, in the months to come.  I’ll begin by sharing my “Top Tips” on fun, and safe, airplane travel.

Before Boarding

  • Check-in online and print your boarding passes from home.
  • Request to change your seating arrangements if necessary. You can do this before security at the check-in counter, or by speaking with an agent at the gate.
  • Alert the gate agent of your special needs, and ask to be boarded first.
  • Take direct flights (no layovers!) if possible, and aim for 3 hours maximum air time.

At Security

  • There is always a handicap security line – just ask!
  • Did you know children can leave their shoes on when going through security?
  • Children in wheelchairs can often remain in their chair, so be sure to ask.
  • You may bring more than the allotted carry-on fluid if it’s clearly labeled as a liquid medication for your child. Consider a physician’s note, in case of questions.

In the Air

  • Keep drinks and snacks handy to help with cabin pressure changes during take-off and landing. Swallowing and chewing will help ease eardrum pain.
  • Bring several options for entertainment – books, music, or a portable DVD with headphones – to keep your child busy.

Above all, remember to RELAX, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that you’re in no rush. You’ll be at your destination before you know it!