19 Tips from an LGS Family: Traveling When Your Child Has Special Needs – Part 2

Check out part 1 of this LGS post here.
After prepping:

Arrive at the airport early – Ask the airline agent at check-in about getting your wheelchair assistance. Use this service whether you have your own chair or not. Explain your procedures to the person pushing the wheelchair so that they know ahead of going through security what will be the most help to your group. We usually tip the wheelchair pusher $5.

Pre-TSA packing – We pack our hand luggage ahead of security to make that experience easier. After going through the check point, we repack our hand luggage for the flight. We place all medications in one location in our hand luggage. We also put all electronics in just one location. Be prepared to remove both the medications and the electronics from your hand luggage to place them in the bins for the security screening. Pack separately the things you don’t need to remove for security.

Security Checks – know ahead of time what you need to remove from your hand luggage. Ask the agents for clarification. Be prepared to explain to them your child’s special needs. Ask the wheelchair pusher to retrieve your bags while you assist the TSA agent with the individual screening of your child. This is comforting to our son. When we are traveling together, my husband manages our bags and I manage Nick when we are going through the security screenings.

After –TSA repack before the flight – I recommend that you repack your hand luggage after the screening so that you have what you need during the flight under your seat.  Extra medicines and clothing that you don’t typically need can be in the luggage in the overhead bins.

Nick on an airplane

Pre-Boarding – Toileting – Plan your toileting schedule based on the flight time. We ask the gate agents when they expect to start the Pre-Boarding process. Plan to go to the restroom just ahead of when the pre-board time is.

Assistance – The flight crew is willing to help. Just ask them. Check in with the gate agent ahead of boarding, alerting them that you are traveling with a disabled person. They can even carry your bags to your seat for you. If you need it, there is an aisle wheelchair available.

Wheelchair – We have a manual transfer chair that we use for traveling. It folds up and weighs less than 24 pounds without the detachable foot rests. Often it can fit in the onboard closet of the aircraft so we know that it is with us on the flight. We will ask the desk agent to ask the flight attendants if we can have our wheelchair in the closet. We remove all detachable parts from the chair before handing the chair over to the flight crew and take these parts to our overhead bin. The on board closet is available on a first come, first served basis.

Flight – Comfort – Knowing the specific needs of your child be sure to plan for the flight time. We bring toys, noise cancelling headphones, I-Pad, and snacks on board.

Toileting – Check with the cabin crew. They can hold a restroom for you so you don’t have to stand in line. Be sure to alert the cabin crew if you need them to hold the door to the toilets for you. I wear a large scarf that can be used as a privacy screening for my husband and Nick because often we can’t close the door completely while assisting someone in the restroom. Some aircraft have curtains nearby that can work also. Some aircraft also have an on board aisle chair.

Nick at the Statue of Liberty

Exiting the aircraft – Remind the cabin crew before landing that you will need a wheelchair pusher at the door of the aircraft. They can confirm this. We suggest that you wait until everyone else has deplaned, then the flight crew can often assist you getting off the plane.

What if There is a Medical Problem? – Know the airline’s policies and proceduresThe pilots have a direct connection to emergency room physicians on the ground. In addition, often there are medical professionals on board that offer assistance as well.

Follow the flight crew instructions, be calm and educate them. Their flight training covers basic medical emergencies. We have found that it typically doesn’t involve seizures. The flight crew will often listen to what you are saying, but you need to understand that the captain has the responsibility for the safety of everyone on board.

Comfort While Traveling – For the hotel – We take our child’s own bedding, sheets, pillow case and a blanket.  It smells and feels more like home.  This assists Nick is feeling comfortable sleeping in an unfamiliar location.  We also have 6 mil thick plastic cut to a single bed size to protect the hotel bed from possible incontinence.

We are road warriors of international air travel. Please contact me if you have other questions: Email: egremmert@comcast.net Website: www.evagremmert.com

About the Author: Eva Doherty Gremmert is a renaissance woman. She is a talented, published author, a successful business woman, a sought-after public speaker and a professional genealogist. Her first work of fiction, “A Cottage in Donegal. Mary Doherty’s Story,” was self-published in 2011 and has sold over 3,000 copies. It is an entertaining and evocative read written from Mary’s perspective. Her current project is a memoir detailing her journey raising her son Nick who was born in 1979 with multiple disabilities, and is scheduled to be published in 2018. Beginning this year, Eva has been publishing a blog on her website with short vignettes of her life experiences and lessons learned from parenting Nick. She owns a tax preparation and business development firm, founded in 1981. She’s assisted many non-profits over the years. Eva has researched and published five books on her family history and hosts two major genealogy research websites.She and her husband, Arden, have been married for 40 years. They spend their time between their homes in Carnation, WA and Carndonagh, Co. Donegal, Ireland. They have raised four amazing children and have ten beautiful grandchildren.


Are you going to the LGS conference in a couple of weeks? Use these tips to help travel!

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