Wednesday, June 8, 2011

First Flight Recap

On July 20, 2010, I posted David's and my plan of attack to assure him an anxiety-reduced first flight. Some aspects of the plan we stuck with; others we abandoned. Here is what we did:

1. We visited the Sacramento Airport (SMF) and watched planes land and take off.

2. This was followed by reading about, and discussing, the physics and mechanics of air travel.

3. David practiced flight simulation online.

4. David then rode in a flight simulator at the Aerospace Museum of California, which replicates the experience of bad turbulence. (I rode in it too. It was fun!)

5. We phoned our nearby general aviation airport and arranged for a pilot to simply taxi David around in his Cessna, without actually taking off. The pilot was wonderful; he dispelled David's anxiety by calmly explaining the significance of sounds and flashing lights as they arose.

6. We purchased Sony Sound Isolating Headphones from Best Buy. These worked fine.

7. We made David's first flight just a little commuter trip from SFO to SMF, totaling a mere twenty minutes in the air, not including taxi.

8. We paid extra for the quick check-in through security.

9. When we made our reservations by phone, we INFORMED THE AIRLINE about David's autism, for which they were grateful.

We then did the same when we arrived at security. At the word "autism", TSA provided us our own security agent to accompany David and me through security, double checking that we had not absentmindedly left keys in our pockets, or water in our carry on baggage. How much of this was standard for autistic flyers, and how much was because I'd paid the extra fee, I don't know.

Finally, when we checked in at the airline itself (United Express), we double-checked that the flight crew had been informed of a disabled person's presence. All staff were friendly, and had David and I board before the "neuro-typical" passengers, so as to reduce the emotional stress that bumping elbows, etc, can create.

10. We got to the airport in plenty of time to use the restroom right before boarding, and to enjoy watching the tarmac dramas.

This plan worked for us. "Take what you want, and leave the rest". ~Peace and all good~

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