I will be flying from California to Kentucky in June (one way trip) and I was just curious some peoples experience with flying with an autistic child. My daughter is 7 and she is not only HFA but this will be her first time flying as well.
Our son actually likes flying so for us it is not a big problem. We treat it almost as a roller coaster we do a countdown and put our hands up. My advice is let tsa know your child should not be separated from you. For the most part tsa has been very understanding. Also many people don't know that children under 12 are not required to remove their shoes through security. Headphones and snacks for the plane always a must.
Check with the airport to see if they have an autism program. It's fairly new but Philadelphia International has one as well as Boston and some other large cities. You make an appointment with them and they basically take you and your child through all of the steps of checking in, going through security, walking to the gates, and even take them on an empty plane. This helps your child prepare in advance for the day they actually fly. I have not attempted to fly with my son yet but our airport does have this program and I plan to use it in the future. Hope this helps. Sounds like it may be just what your daughter needs. Good luck! Please let us know how it turns out!
I did not only 1 but 3 trips to Southeast Asia with my 2 sons on the spectrum!!! First trip we flew from DFW to South Korea direct flight 14hrs!!, we transit there 10hrs, then from there to Bangkok for 7hr with 5hrs transit, then to Kathmandu for 5 hrs....the flights itself were ok, no tantrums, very good behavior from both, my youngest(3 years old at the time slept most of the flight from DFW to South Korea), the biggest problem was the waiting time at terminal :(, For our second trip(may 2011) we went from Houston, Tx to Doha, Qatar in a 12hr flight with 12 hrs waiting time, luckily the airline provide us a nice hotel room so we spent night comfortably, from there to Kathmandu in a 7+hr flight, finally our 3rd trip(march 2012), we flew from DFW to Houston, Houston-Doha, Doha-Kathmandu, that was the hardest trip because I was traveling with my then 4 month old baby and it was a true nightmare...but not my boys...I think they really, really like to fly ;)
It may seem hard, but is not impossible, we have to do it to visit family which otherwise will never get the chance to see my kids(2 girls 12 and 1(NT) and 2 boys 7 and 10( ASD)
I have flown with my older two children on the autism spectrum twice. If it can be avoided, I would not recommend it. We drive now instead of flying, whenever possible. Not only is this cheaper, but saves us from some of the hassles that come with flying. If flying cannot be avoided, I would recommend you take some precautions. Practice social stories with your child explain to them the security procedures and why these are important. Explain to them that they will have to take their shoes off etc. That once they get in the plane they will have to sit down, wear their seatbelt etc. These are things my children have enough trouble with in a car, let along on a plane where others may not tolerate their behavior as well as I do. Have your children pack a carry on bag that they are in charge of. Have them bring a preferred snack and toy and something to do, maybe a coloring book or a book, if you choose to bring a iPad or a video game be aware others may not like the noise. Maybe buy some headphones, and practice them using them with the device beforehand. Also you may want to pack another carry on bag for your child that will include things like a weighted or pressure vest, some noise canceling headphones and some gum. Keep in mind your child will have to take off these items through security. However this will alert others that your child has a difference and may help to calm your child throughout this unusual experience. Also I have been prone to be the victim of a surprise search, due to the amount of stuff I bring on the plane as much of a hassle as this is, it does happen! Good luck!
Ear plugs....the Hear-o's ones made for under water work great for me. They block out all the dinging and high pitches. either that or a new set of really cool head phones and an ipod with some soothing music while walking through helps me out a lot. I always tell the airline that I have High functioning autism and need assistance getting to my flight and they are more than happy to accomodate. As well, I have an Autism Service Dog. She helps me when I am feeling extremely overwhelmed. She flies with me all over the country. If that options sounds like something that would work for your child's life, then talk to your child's doctor about a letter for a service dog. I am currently in the process of trying to put together a not for profit that trains rescue dogs as service animals for individuals who can not afford the $3000 pure breed dogs. There is no need to breed and $3000 is just ridiculous. My dog was a rescue and because I am a dog trainer I worked with her extensively on all of my triggers and all of my needs. If you decide to go this rout and would like some info on how to go about training a dog for your child I would be more than happy to help you, because my dog changed my life. This is her facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheNammDog