Sunday, May 17, 2009

More on Traveling with Matthew

Time Magazine has a good article on traveling with an autistic child. We know several autistic children who aren't able to fly due to the stress. There is no doubt we are very fortunate. Matthew is a pretty good traveler. Though I do worry greatly about getting stuck on an airplane for hours.

In any case, we are gearing up with plans to leave early Wednesday morning. One of the recommendations in the magazine is to visit the airport and practice going through the screening area. I'm not sure that Phoenix Sky Harbor officials would be quite up for us to do this. But we do always make sure to leave plenty early. We don't want to start off frazzled. I think Matthew's connection with police and security in the airport (you know...the good guys...)helps. That the screener is dressed in a uniform probably helps him too.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, Matthew loves to have his "certain stuff" with him. This week he's been hanging on to his "non-bobble" bobble heads Kirk and Spock. I expect they will want to travel with us. Luckily they are small and will fit in the carry-on bag with books, pencils, and paper. We save things like the movies as long as possible. Nothing worse than running out of battery power two hours in to a five hour flight. Of course, he was absolutely in 7th heaven when we flew to Europe and each seat had its own tv screen with his choice of shows. (I won't talk about the numerous discussions we had about turning off the tv and getting some sleep...)

We also pack plenty of food. Even before the airlines began charging for everything we found that having a special diet made airplane meals a real challenge. On this trip I've already scoped out the Whole Foods store for when we arrive in Raleigh so we can pick up food for both during our visit and the return trip. We have traveled where I've had to pack enough for entire trip. (I'm thinking we must look like the Beverly Hillbillies on those occasions.)

Some have asked me about travel and routine for Matthew; wondering how he handles it. Again, we are fortunate...or maybe it's that we have traveled enough to have a "traveling routine." We have been able to live on "our" schedule. It's like the routines that you have during the work week and the weekend. Some people might think we miss out on certain activities but in reality we usually manage to do most everything on our list.

One of the tips I did pick up in the magazine article was that many theme parks offer a "front of the line" pass to those with special needs, including autism. I can tell you I'll be looking for that next time we choose to visit a theme park. A true challenge to us is standing in line and staying patient. Have you ever been stuck in a line that seems to be never ending? You look down one side and then down the other and inside you are gritting your teeth saying, "GRRRR..." (I've been there.) Well, that's Matthew, except that he actually will act out. When we're in lines I stand there whispering in his ear, "Wait. Just a few minutes. No pushing. Hands to yourself." You get the idea. I don't know that it helps him...but it helps me.

A lot of the tips in the article were pretty common sense. Everyone should have ID in case of separation. I would add, that everyone should know where you are going...and everyone should hold hands. Sometimes the sea of humanity as passengers exit a plane is just down right frightening. I always feel better if I have a hand to hold.

So, tomorrow we will get out the suitcases. And, as I wrote earlier, Matthew will pack and repack his. Then the night before we leave I will pack it and zip it up. It's important to have more than his underwear, videos, and tv guides. Although, as I always tell Bob, they have stores everywhere. Think about us on Wednesday but I am sure we'll do well and have a good time.

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