PediaPlex Offers Families and Airlines a Guide to Better Accommodate Passengers with Autism and Special Needs

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Leading collaborative care center for children with autism and special needs, PediaPlex offers practical advice to better plan and prepare for flights that involve children on the spectrum.

We’re frequently working with families to help children acclimate with new stressors, and guiding parents on how to best engage and help their children.

A family, with a teenage daughter with autism, was removed from a flight returning from Disney world due to “behavior issues.” Donna Beegle, mother of Juliette, was returning home from a vacation at Disney world with her family. Upon returning home Donna requested hot food that was prepared in flight, to satisfy her daughter's hunger, in order to avoid any challenging behaviors Juliette may exhibit. This request created a hostile situation that the United Airlines staff was not equipped to handle. After approximately 25 min, the staff accommodated Donna and provided Juliette with the hot meal. But this request came with a price. Approximately 30 minutes later, the airplane landed and police escorted the entire Beegle family, citing that the “captain[s] feeling uncomfortable” with the situation. United Airlines provided an alternate carrier for the remainder of the trip.

PediaPlex believes in proactivity and the ability to prevent situations like the Beegle family had to endure. Many of the following strategies are effective in preventing challenging behaviors. Although every child is unique and every situation poses challenges, the following proactive strategies will guide parents in decreasing the likelihood of triggering a challenging behavior:

  •     Prepare by priming with simple requests when transitioning ( i.e; walking to and from areas, or having to sit and wait before    boarding the plane.
  •     Create opportunities for the individual to choose their own snack, or provide clear options for them to choose from.
  •     Individuals that requires specific sensory input/output; may require external tools such as: noise cancelling headphones, weighted blankets, body wraps, textured seat cushions, etc.
  •     Teach and provide tension reduction strategies such as taking a deep breath, counting to 10, and squeezing hands.
  •     Plan out meals and breaks
  •     Pick a flight that has multiple stops to ensure that a break are provided and intermittently scheduled throughout a vacation.
  •     Consult a behaviorist for traveling strategies.

Airlines can also take a proactive approach that can help guide and accommodate their special needs passengers. Airlines should provide:

  •     A tour that can provide opportunities to role play and model what it’s like to travel on and sit in an airplane. These “tours” could prepare families by allowing them to give a “test run” to assess the potential stressor.
  •     An accommodations checklist that concierge can provide. This checklist could inform parents on what the airline can provide and what the parents will need to prepare for, in advance.
  •     A staff training on disability awareness including protocols on behavioral outburst that incorporate severity levels that can confirm whether or not a plane has to land.

PediaPlex was created to extend care, education and awareness to everyone about individuals with disabilities. This lack of awareness and insensitivity displayed by United Airlines toward the Beegle family is unfortunate. Although many incidents may occur when traveling with an individual with special needs, none are as disconcerting as the unaware bystander and organization that make already challenging situation worse. Hopefully, this event may trigger some movement with airlines on proper ways to teach disability awareness.

PediaPlex founder, Sonia Kirkpatrick adds, “We’re frequently working with families to help children acclimate with new stressors, and guiding parents on how to best engage and help their children. We strongly believe enhancing education and awareness about autism will create understanding for an otherwise misunderstood disorder.”

About PediaPlex
By providing screening, diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and support services all in one place, PediaPlex offers families the convenience of professional assistance all in one location. Among the services offered are speech and occupational therapy, numerous testings, academic tutoring and assessments, social skills groups, counseling and play therapy. Located at 2425 East Southlake Boulevard, Suite 100, Southlake, Texas, 76092, PediaPlex is staffed by a multi-disciplinary team of professionals. Its goal is to join forces with families in guiding each child’s development. Its Applied Behavior Analysis treatment is a proven, evidence-based program that helps children with behavior and autism. PediaPlex is in a network with multiple insurance companies to help alleviate the financial stress. Please call to at 817-442-0222 to have your insurance verified. Additional information about PediaPlex is available at http://www.pediaplex.net or by e-mail at info@pediaplex.net.

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Sonia Kirkpatrick
@PediaPlex
since: 03/2011
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PediaPlex
since: 11/2011
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