Traveling with children brings it's own set of challenges and being on the autism spectrum adds a whole new layer. Having to stay in a car seat or plane seat for extended times, access to favorite foods and sleeping in new environments can all be issues. One flight that we took was going to last 5 hours and Ben did incredibly well during the flight but when the pilot came on after we were seated and told us we were 17th in line for take off he had a major meltdown and those 45 minutes were way worse than the whole 5 hour flight. He just knew we needed to be moving.
Because Ben loves to travel he really wanted to go on a trip by himself. There was an opportunity to go to a college visit weekend at Toccoa Falls College where Dan was currently attending. We knew Ben would not be attending college so this it was a great way to visit Dan, experience dorm life and have transportation to and from the airport to the college.
Ben was super stoked and felt comfortable with flying and the Philadelphia airport having been on family vacations but was a little concerned about the other end at the Atlanta airport.
He reached out to TSA who run a program called TSA cares and registered for assistance as someone with a disability. He had to meet the TFC staff at the baggage claim area and Ben was unsure about how to navigate from the plane to the baggage area. He was assured that there would be someone from TSA cares to meet him from the plane and make this a seamless event. He was shocked to see the assigned person pushing a wheelchair to meet Ben. Ben insisted that he was capable of walking but just required guidance on the location of the set destination but the worker told him the policy was that the client had to be pushed in a wheelchair. So, Ben rode in style to the baggage claim area!
Ben made instant friends with all of the airport employees in both states and the local news even did a story on his solo travel adventures.
Some things that have made Ben a great traveler started when he was very young and in very small ways. We prepped him for how long a trip would be and he loved watching the GPS system track our progress and estimate our arrival time. He would give a big cheer if the arrival time went down by even a minute and a loud groan if the time increased by any increment.
We would purchase and wrap dollar store items and challenge him to stay quiet for 30 minutes to earn a prize and he loved the game so much, he would ask
"Can I be quiet now?"
He would ask questions like
"Is it a little bit away or far away"
to help judge how long a drive might be that day and he learned the difference between a National Park and an Amusement Park!
One resource that Ben loves to carry is his National Park Pass that allows him (and those in the car with him) free entry into the national parks in America. He loved that it was his signature on the pass and that he had to present it through the window on all of our adventures.
You can find more information on the National Parks website
Love you more,