The average flight from the UK to Australia takes in the region of 27 hours and covers a distance in excess of 10,000 miles. Long-haul travel is a very stressful experience for many people. For children with special needs, however, the experience can be downright traumatising. Thankfully, there are a number of very useful guidelines that can be followed to make the journey more relaxing – and even enjoyable – for the entire family.
Don’t Forget the Entertainment
Although airlines do generally provide a variety of in-flight entertainment options, they may not quite appease a special needs child. While packing your suitcases, ensure that you pack a few favourite games or toys into your carry-on bag. A tablet or laptop loaded with beloved TV shows, movies, songs, apps and games can also help placate a child during a long flight. When you pack an electronic device, remember to pack a comfortable set of headphones that the child is familiar with to avoid any mid-air disturbances, as well as a charging cable or external power bank.
Expect the Unexpected
Regardless of how well-travelled you may be or how prepared you may think you are, anything can happen on a long-haul flight. Try to imagine the least likely things that can occur during the flight, and then prepare for them. It might be useful to connect with other families who have relocated to Australia to find out how they made the journey as easy as possible for their special needs children and the rest of the family. Online networks generally also have a heap of useful information available to assist the families of children with special needs in navigating a variety of challenges, including long-distance travel. CPFN note the challenges faced by the families of children with special needs, and emphasise the value of networking with others in the same boat to find solutions and support.
Comfort is Key
Apart from keeping a child with special needs entertained, it is also important to keep them as comfortable as possible. Every child is unique and may not find comfort in the same things, but no one will know that better than their family. A weighted jacket or blanket can be a great source of comfort, while the child’s regular pillow will not only create a sense of familiarity in a new environment, but boost overall comfort as well. Other comfort-enhancing items to consider include a favourite cup or water bottle, a soft toy to cuddle with, and even a cherished item from home doused with a well-liked fragrance.
Travelling to Australia with a child with special needs may be somewhat of a challenge. By following the aforementioned guidelines, however, it can turn out to be a stress-free, and even enjoyable, adventure.