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Airplane Ride

It should really come as no surprise Little Man is not a huge fan of flying. It’s not actually the flying itself he doesn’t like, it’s the rest of the process. Although after a rough flight home from Chicago a couple years ago, combined with a lack of food followed by too many french fries, ended with him puking on the plane, and a resultant fear the same will happen every time he flies. Sigh….It’s mostly the rest of the process.

I always talk him through the process in the days leading up to airplane travel, from parking the car to getting a rental car at the other end. It is a process, right? I’m not a huge fan myself, and have some general anxiety until we’re checked in, through security, and have boarded the plane. Multiply that by about a thousand and you have his experience.

The flight out was a typical experience with him. Park the car, gather the luggage, catch the shuttle, unload at the terminal, check in, check bags, get in the security line. I see his eyes start to get frantic as we weave our way through the line. Then we reach the initial document check. The TSA employee asks his name and age. I have to prompt him to respond, and then repeat it loudly enough for her to  hear. It’s a time I wish we had that sign indicating his disability. I can see his stress rising. Blessedly, because of his age, he doesn’t have to take his shoes off, but it’s still somewhat overwhelming for him, particularly knowing there’s a sense of urgency to not hold up the line. He watches as his beloved Jaws and Freddy go through the scanner, anxiously waiting on the other side for them to come out safely.  We reach the gate, and I give him the motion sickness medicine. He asks to pre-board. We’ve done this before, and have found it makes it easier for him – he doesn’t have to deal with the line (he hates lines), nor does have to deal with the hurry-up atmosphere that seems to accompany getting in your seat once on board. So we pre-boarded.

He had the window seat. His airplane bag was loaded with his phone, his DS, snacks, headphones, and his plushies. I fully expected him to fall asleep at some point. We’d woken up at 3am, and he’d had the motion sickness meds which makes even me sleepy. We had a six-hour direct flight. I thought, if he did’t fall asleep, he would at least have enough to keep him entertained. Um, not so much.

That was the LONGEST six hour flight ever. I could feel his anxiety ramping up. His breathing was out of control. He was fidgety. He drew near to tears twice. We hit the mid-way point of the flight, and I thought there was no way we were going to survive. Spouse was across the aisle and a row behind. Big Man and the Princess were right behind us. Somehow, I still felt Little Man and I were an island unto ourselves. Have I mentioned his anxiety causes my anxiety? I had hoped for some sleep myself on the long flight. That didn’t happen. I didn’t have a chance to watch the movie I’d put on my laptop. I hardly had a moment to read the book I’d brought along. I spent six hours trying to keep him calm, fed, entertained, breathing normally.

When we had about 90 minutes left in the flight, the attendants came around with a last offer of beverages, including a complimentary rum punch for the adults. YES, PLEASE!!! Spouse looked at me like, “Uh, really?” I looked at him, silently saying, “You haven’t been sitting here for the last five hours!”

We finally landed. Little Man and I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. We couldn’t wait to be off the plane. But we weren’t done yet. We still had to catch another shuttle and get the rental car. As expected, he began to lose it while we were waiting in the rental car line. Then we discovered the Princess had left her phone in the seat pocket on the plane. Three quick phone calls later, we were pulling back up to baggage claim at the airport (thank goodness for a small airport on a relatively small island). Another delay to cause him more stress. We finally reached the condo. He found a corner of the couch once we’d unloaded, and did what he needed to do in order to decompress. We’d survived, but it had been a close thing.

Would that I could make airplane travel easier for him. We’ve taken them on so many trips, you’d think it would be easier. But his sensory issues and his anxiety just make it stressful each and every time. That’s just one reason why I was shocked when he said he wanted to go right back the day after we got home from our trip.

6 thoughts on “Airplane Ride

  1. I am ok until the plane has taxied up to the runway. Why does the engine get loud like we’re going to start, then dies down? It’s the take-off which causes my anxiety to ratchet up over my normal limits. And I usually fly somewhere at least twice a year.

  2. Such a great job describing what you (both) go through when flying. It even gave me a little anxiety! I learn so much about autism from you, thank you!

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