Ok… I have to admit. I have stressed about taking Jasan on a major airline flight for a LONG time. My only sibling, Todd, moved to Arizona right before Jasan’s first birthday and we have never been there to visit him. Jasan will be 5 this year! So, this airport thing was a big deal.
There are many factors that I was worried about. He was one of those babies that had ear infection after ear infection and two ear tube placement surgeries. Would his ears adjust alright? The length of time that we would have to stay seated once in the air was another concern. Waiting in lines at the airport… security, getting distracted by machines and having a meltdown if he couldn’t examine them…new sounds, lots of people, and on and on and on.
This gift of a trip to Florida for Mother’s Day from my stepdad, Matt (aka “Grampie”) was the perfect occasion to give this all a try. Now that Jasan is a bit older, my level of concern had lessened, but they were all in the back of my mind nonetheless.
We prepared the week ahead of time by reading social stories multiple times a day written specifically about our upcoming trip and the airport routine. This was a tremendous help. A couple of days prior to leaving, we found this video which was fantastic! Jasan watched this over and over. All of these tools combined helped him know what to expect.
Here are a couple of pages from his airport story so you can get an idea of what a social story looks like.
The other component to this was how prepared my Mom and I were with our mindset. We knew we had prepared Jasan very well for this experience by talking it through with Jasan ahead of time. We gave ourselves MORE than enough time to get to the airport and go through security so that we could feel completely relaxed, and our mental pictures and attitudes towards our adventure were POSITIVE. That was KEY. We knew that we would be able to deal with whatever may happen and that we would be a team together.
He needed to be able to take the time to explore and check things out if he wanted to. If we had been planning on rushing through the airport, we would have been destined to fail. He needed to be able to just be himself. His mind would be absorbing tons of new information. I think that to make sure that he would be storing these memories as a positive experience, it was vital to make sure he would be able to soak it all in the way HE wanted to.
Jasan did beyond fantastic! What a fun experience! He handled transitions and all of the newness like a champ! He was fascinated by all of the computers and the metal detectors. The huge O’Hare terminal was pretty awesome in all of it’s vastness. He was such a great helper by pushing our small carry-on suitcase. It had wheels, so he wouldn’t have had it any other way. (I was too busy making sure he wasn’t going to crash into anyone to capture a shot. Lol!) When it was time for a bit of relaxation, the carry-on suitcase then doubled as fun seat to ride on. (And an arm workout for Mama. haha.)
Then… time to board. So exciting! Another important piece to this experience was informing the airline that Jasan was a special needs kid. We boarded first, so this way their wasn’t tons of confusion with the large masses of people getting on with us. We were able to get nice and comfy in our seats while things were still quiet. We had recently purchased a weighted blanket for Jasan; being the sensory seeker kid that he is. In times of possible stress, this could act as a calming tool for his system. Since that little sucker weighs 7 lbs, I had put it into the roller carry-on suitcase and we just grabbed it out after we found out seats. It worked out perfectly. He was all cozy and content with his special blankie, iPad, mini pillow, snacks, Mama & Grammie. Life at that moment was GREAT.
Then of course, because I’m me, we had to do the obligatory selfie or two. (ha!)
I crack up when we do photos together now. He is soooooo my son. My friends know my habit of the open mouth, “Ah!” whenever a photo is shot of me… Check Jasan. Totally adorable. We both “Ah!” together. <3
It was take off time! As the plane started to speed up, he requested my hand right before the plane’s wheels left the ground. Prior to that he had his speedometers going OF COURSE.
I had just enough “stuff” to keep Jasan occupied. Our flight was at 12:30, so time of day was also on our side. He did just fine sitting in his seat and only getting up twice to go to the neat little bathroom. He was quite interested in how everything worked in there. Swallowing water through a straw as we were descending helped his ears normalize with no problems. And the super cool awesome surprise once we landed…
GETTING TO VISIT THE PILOT IN THE FLIGHT DECK!
Can you even imagine how cool this was for him? All of the gauges and switches!!! COOLNESS OVERLOAD. Along with being a photo fanatic, I took a video so Jasan could watch it over and over after the experience. We lucked out by getting a pilot who was TOTALLY into showing Jasan what was up in there. He was FANTASTIC. What a gift… more than he will ever know!
He was talking about this all day.
After grabbing our luggage from the baggage claim, which was also a point of interest for the little dude, we headed on over to the shuttle area and hopped in a van to take us to Redington Beach. After all the excitement, he passed on into snooze land.
I didn’t do the best of capturing it, but he fell asleep with my phone in his hand, GPS talking to us all the way. The shuttle also had a computer and Garmin GPS in clear view, so he was quite content with our ride…
More to come!