Thinking about a plane trip with kids in tow? As part of your flight plan, try storytelling to plot out what's ahead to reduce anxiety.
A California mother of a 2 1/2-year-old boy who has high-functioning autism created a "social story" for him before a cross-country flight. A social story outlines what a child can expect for an event, along with strategies to handle it. They can be useful for all children, not just those with special needs.
Here is part of the story, published with the mom's permission.
"We are going to take a trip in an airplane.
"Airports sometimes have long lines. While I'm in line it is important to stay with my mom and dad because they keep me safe. If I get tired of the line, I can sit in the stroller.
"Airports are loud because there are a lot of people, loud airplanes, and other machines. If the noises are scary I can ask for squeezes from my mom and dad, or cover my ears.
"When the airplane is in the air I might have a weird feeling in my ears. When this happens I can ask my mom or dad for a little snack and it may help my ears.
"When I am on the airplane it is important for me to be nice to my fellow travelers. This will mean I will always have to have calm hands, calm feet, calm voice and a calm body. I will need to stay in my seat with my seatbelt on.
"Riding in an airplane can be very fun. I can look out the window and see the clouds. Flight attendants will bring me some juice or snacks. I can also read stories, play with toys or watch my Elmo movies.
"When the plane lands it will be bumpy. I can squeeze Daddy's hand if I want to. Then we will need to wait our turn to get off the airplane."
A resource for more information about social stories is the Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding in Zeeland, Mich.
Carol Gray, the center's director, is the author of "The New Social Story Book" (Future Horizons, 2010) and "Comic Strip Conversations" (Future Horizons, 1994). She developed her storytelling and comic-strip tools starting in 1991 to use with children, adolescents and adults who have autism spectrum disorders.
For examples of other social stories, go to the center's website at thegraycenter.org.