Elaine Hall who is an author, advocate, and mother of a teen with autism posted an article about traveling (more specifically, flying) with children who have autism on the Huffington Post today. Elaine begins the article by sharing one family's unfortunate travel experience in which they were asked to de-board a flight because their daughter who has autism could not fasten her seatbelt as a result of her heightened anxiety brought on by the experience of flying. The airline's position, which seems to be somewhat exaggerated, was that the child was attempting to open the door of the plane while it was taxing for departure. The airline did cite the safety of their passengers as a primary concern. She also shares a not so positive experience she had while traveling with her husband and son, who also has autism.
It's unfortunate that society (in this case, the flight attendants) does not have a better understanding of autism. Greater awareness of autism and how the disability might present itself during such situations might prevent situations from escalating to the point of having a family de-board the airplane. I know it might be a little much to ask airlines and other companies that provide such public services to train their employees on autism, but I feel society as a whole needs to try and be a little more understanding of the challenges these children and their families face on daily basis. I commend those companies and organizations that are take a more proactive approach in providing training on autism for their employees. I know in some areas first responders are trained in how to better handle individuals with disabilities like autism.
Now, on a more positive note, Elaine closes out the article by sharing strategies that she has found to be effective in making traveling a more positive experience for her son and family. The strategies she mentions include many best practices for social skills instruction. By going through such preparatory activities with children who have autism before such social situations, they will have a better understanding of what is going on and therefore experience greater success.