Air Travel for Children with Autism

Few of us would describe flying with kids as particularly enjoyable or stress-free. Yet for parents of kids with autism, air travel means navigating a string of intimidating experiences, from airport security procedures, moving sidewalks, and boarding tunnels to cramped seats, unfamiliar noises, and a multitude of strangers.
Experts say that preparation and practice is the key to a successful flight. Here are seven tips for making your child feel as comfortable as possible.
Start with a baby step. Make your child's first flight a short one, if possible, with no more than an hour or so in the air.
Prepare your child. In the weeks leading up to your trip, begin a dialogue with your child about what will happen on your trip. Go over the travel process in detail: how you'll get to the airport, wait in line, go through security, find your departure gate, get on the plane, buckle seatbelts, and spend time onboard. It can be helpful to read children's books that describe the sensations of air travel, such as The Noisy Airplane Ride by Mike Downs.

Take a practice run. Call your airport and ask if there is an autism access program in place. Many will let families take a practice run through airport security. Washington Dulles, Boston Logan, Philadelphia International, and Atlanta are among a growing number of airports that offer parents and autistic kids deeper familiarization experiences such as mock boarding.

Raise your hand. Let your airline know as far in advance as possible that you'll be flying with a child with autism. Request bulkhead seats, which feel less confining and eliminate the possibility of seat-kicking.

Three days before your trip, call the Transportation Security Administration's hot line, TSA Cares (855/787-2227; open Mon-Fri, 9am-9pm EST), which can act as an intermediary with airport customer care and help you navigate security checkpoints.

Consider meals and snacks. If you're taking a long flight, ask your airline if food will be served. If so, consider requesting a special meal, such as the gluten-free option. Alternatively you can bring food from home or purchase items at the airport after you pass through security.

About The Shandy Clinic

The Shandy Clinic is a private outpatient therapy clinic serving patients in Colorado Springs, CO with three locations. As a private therapy practice the Shandy Clinic prides itself in personalized, individual therapy in a friendly, family environment. In addition to traditional therapy approaches, the clinic also empowers our staff to think outside the box to find solutions to help our patients make progress.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapists work with your child to improve fine motor skills, sensory integration, and activities of daily living. Five main areas we work with include sensory processing, cognition and perception, self care, social skills, and motor skills.

Physical Therapy

Physical Therapists assist in early detection of health problems and use a wide variety of modalities to treat disorders in the pediatric population. These therapists are specialized in diagnosis, treatment and management of infants, children, and adolescents with a variety of congenital, developmental, neuromuscular, skeletal, or acquired disorders/diseases. Treatment focus on improving motor skills, balance and coordination, strength and endurance, and cognitive and sensory.

Children with developmental delays, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and torticollis may also be treated by pediatric physical therapists.

Speech Therapy

Speech & Language Pathologists (SLPs) work with children and adults who have difficulty with communication. Speech refers to the way that a child verbally communicates and includes three areas which are articulation, voice, and fluency.

Children with language disorders can show a variety of symptoms from mild to severe that could include difficulty with: listening and following directions, using age appropriate vocabulary, communicating socially with peers and adults, eye contact and other nonverbal communication, and following the rules that tell how to put words together to make sentence grammar.

Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment which enhances the body's natural healing process by inhalation of concentrated oxygen in a total body chamber, where atmospheric pressure is increased and controlled. It is used for a wide variety of treatments as a part of an overall medical care plan.

The Shandy Clinic uses a soft-side mild hyperbaric chamber with a maximum pressure of 1.3 ATA (see pictures below). The Shandy Clinic is utilizing the chamber in a revolutionary way. Therapy sessions (OT, PT, and/or speech therapy) are being completed with the therapist while in the chamber, thereby maximizing the benefits of the oxygenated brain.

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Shandy Clinic


Office Times:
8:00 AM to 6:00 PM Mon - Fri

8540 Scarborough Drive, Suite 300
Colorado Springs, CO 80920
p: 719.597.0822
f: 719.599.4606


Office Times:
8:00 AM to 6:00 PM Tue - Fri

3625 Citadel Drive South
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
p: 719.597.0822
f: 719.599.4606


Office Times:
8:00 AM to 6:00 PM Mon - Thur

830 Tenderfoot Hill Road, Suite 100
Colorado Springs, CO 80906
p: 719.597.0822
f: 719.599.4606