Intellectual Disability When Travelling – by Dolores

Don’t be delusional!! Just because your child has an intellectual disability does not mean you leave it at the airport. Sometimes, even a change in environment is enough to send some children and parents to the edge.

The first thing to remember that I have found helpful is

“THIS IS NOT THE CHILDS FAULT”

Nor is it yours, however, as you are the child’s parent/guardian and an adult it’s up to you to adapt to help your child. Very small changes can make a huge difference to your holiday.

Remember, what works for your child and explain it again to siblings before holidays and promise to buy them something special if they help you out on this matter. You want to make the holiday special for everyone so just a little care and reminder to all family members goes a long way.

My last family holiday was brilliant and it went so smoothly. This is because I know David so well. David hates to be rushed and told to “Hurry Up” so for him, I can never say this no matter how much of a panic I’m in. He can also sense this in a normal day, and this can upset him. This is where I have to change, take things slower and not rush him and leave lots of extra time especially getting up in the morning, as David does not have a good concept of time. Instead of saying the bus will be here soon or the bus is 5-minutes away, I say, the Bus is in Garryvoe (specific place) and is now heading to our house, this helps David’s understanding of where it is and helps him comprehend better. This is also applied on holiday.

Always explain to the staff when booking in that your child has an intellectual disability, this helps the staff to look after you better both on the flight and pre-post flight. I would suggest you do this everytime even if your child “seems in a good mood that day”. This helps the staff to help you.

When checking in, ask your child which seat he/she would like to sit on, window or next to Mum or Dad? Bring the favourite book, toy, sweets and try not to produce this unless you need a distraction. Going to the bathroom can also be horrendous on a flight especially for a wheelchair user, and as some of the seats closest to the bathrooms are restricted try and book a seat as near as possible. I always explain to the staff if David needs to use the bathroom as they sometimes stand outside and ask people kindly to make room for him. It’s not that I can’t manage myself, but when an Air Stewart is helping you, the action speaks louder than words. Always ask to be first on a plane and last when leaving the plane. You can make sure you are all sitting before the rush on entering the plane and then when leaving make sure everyone has left as this gives you again plenty of room.

Enjoy your flight.

Dolores.