Autism Social Stories: Preparing for an Airplane Trip

//Autism Social Stories: Preparing for an Airplane Trip

The power of social stories taking flight

We use social stories with great visuals to teach children with autism, anxiety and/or sequencing issues. You might find them helpful too.

One of my kiddos with autism is going on his first airplane trip for spring break. His mother is very excited about the trip and somewhat terrified too. Regardless, she’s not going to deny her child a great experience. She’s going to prepare for the worst and expect the best.

The child does well on a set schedule and routine. He’s prone to melt downs when he gets off schedule or something unpredictable happens. Unfortunately (and fortunately), vacations are a break from the routine, so his loving mother is planning ahead and organizing every aspect of the trip to minimize unpredictability.

The child is a visual learner, so we recommended creating social picture stories to help him prepare for this new experience. And every aspect of the trip is new, including moving sidewalks and security checks in the airport to take off and landing on a plane.

To help her child prepare for his adventure, we put together an autism social story about the travel aspect of the trip.

We recommended that the mother talk about the trip with her son every single day at a set time and use the social stories as a guide. We also recommended that she should print out the social stories on individual pages and talk about the events in chronological order. After a while, we told her to put all the pictures on a table randomly and together work on putting them in chronological order. As the trip nears, the child should be able to explain all the steps and be ready to go. We also suggested role playing some of the steps, like how to go through a metal detector. At Kidmunicate, we are also reinforcing the learning when the child is in therapy with us.

See Picture Social Stories Below or Download the PDF Kidmunicate Social Stories: Preparing for a trip on an airplane  If you want the Powerpoint Presentation to customize it for your particular trip, send us an email.

The Kidmunication Point

Prepare, prepare and prepare, but don’t be scared. Here are 15 tips to prepare a child with autism for an airplane trip.

  1. Start preparing your child early, days or weeks before, with a picture social stories.
  2. Pack everything he or she uses at home to occupy their time
    • iPad, favorite stuffed animal, coloring books, etc.
    • You can’t bring everything, so prepare him or her for that too.
  3. Bring snacks
    • Remember that you need to purchase liquids after security.
  4. Bring noise canceling headphones.
  5. Print tickets at home to avoid lines.
  6. Get to the airport early to keep your stress level down.
  7. Tell a TSA agent about your situation. They may help you get through more quickly and smoothly.
  8. Get to the gate early.
  9. Tell the ticket agent about your situation.
  10. Board with pre-boarding.
  11. Tell the flight attendants on the plane about your situation so that they can help.
  12. Have everything you need to keep your child calm within arms length while your in your seatbelt.
  13. Have your child sit in the window seat or in the middle seat between two family members.
  14. Bring chewing gum to help with ear pressure.
  15. Talk to your child during take off and landing to help them prepare for the sensation.

Need a place to go? Surfside Beach in South Carolina is billing itself as the first autism friendly resort town.

NOTE: Social stories can also be used for children having trouble with sequencing or children with anxiety.

Kidmunicate Autism Social Stories

























By |2018-12-23T10:30:04+00:00 |Blog|8 Comments

About the Author:

Pam Drennen MS CCC-SLP is the VP Director of Clinical Services Speech at Kidmunicate. Pam has a Bachelors and Masters degree in Speech Language Pathology from Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland. Pam provides evaluation and treatment for a variety of speech/language and communication disorders. She has experience working with children with hearing loss, autism, Down Syndrome, a cleft palate, developmental delays, Apraxia of speech, auditory processing disorders, fluency disorders, oral motor/feeding issues as well as children with augmentative/alternative needs. Pam is a member of the American Speech and Language Hearing Association.


  1. Karen February 4, 2017 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    I would add a page about using the bathroom on the plane.

    • Pam Drennen MS CCC-SLP April 3, 2017 at 2:43 pm - Reply

      Hi Karen, Do you have specific advice?

      • Karen April 4, 2017 at 11:25 am - Reply

        I see that you’re trying to keep the sentences short and the language to a minimum (which I love). Maybe start with a statement that the bathroom is very small, then say to slide the latch to lock the door. I’m not sure how much detail is necessary, since an adult will likely be nearby to advise the child about flushing, washing, etc.

      • Angee August 1, 2017 at 2:14 pm - Reply

        I’d advise they use the bathroom at the airport before boarding the plane in the airport as well as a version for using the airplane bathroom. Space in the stall (especially on the airplane), possible wait to get to the toilet, washing hands, loud hand dryers. Just like your other pages – going over details to ensure the child is aware of the steps.

  2. L thomas April 2, 2017 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    And a page about different documents, and carrying stuff yourself!
    Really great. Ta.

  3. Erica January 18, 2018 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    My son with ASD had trouble understanding that he had to stay in seat with seatbelt and could not get up. He had a meltdown. It might be helpful to add a section about seatbelts. Thank you for making this social story.

    • Pam Drennen MS CCC-SLP February 6, 2018 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      Thanks for adding to the community. We will add the seatbelt issue when we update it. All the best to you.

  4. piija November 29, 2018 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    its very use ful for me

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