Discovering the exciting world of travel should be easy and enjoyable. However, for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), travel, unfamiliar surroundings, new sounds, smells, and other stimuli can cause severe stress and difficulty. Therefore, most families with ASD children do not travel, even though travel is important for children's development and social adjustment.
The bright illustrated book "Travel without barriers" is designed to help little inquisitive explorers prepare for this new experience for them. It tells children who are sensitive to changes and a new environment the story of Mykhaylyk, a boy who went to the sea for the first time. We created this book because travel should be affordable and comfortable for everyone.
"We believe that travel is what helps us live and not lose the ability to enjoy life even in the most difficult times. Opening the world of travel to children is a special pleasure for us. This sincere childish delight and uncontrollable emotions cannot be compared with anything else," Marianna Hryhorash, Marketing Director of SkyUp Airlines, says. "That is why the idea to create this book was born literally one of the first, as soon as we started cooperating with CF Future for Ukraine and the LEVCHYK SPECTRUM HUB centre created by them, which helps children with ASD to socialize and integrate into public life. This book is a step towards making travel more accessible for these children, a useful experience, and becoming one of the children's favourite pastimes."
The book is a professional guide that can be used to prepare for flying children with autism as well as with typical development. The book simply and accessibly in the format of a social history describes step by step the process of organizing and carrying out the trip. It helps children understand such "difficult adult things" as what to take with you to the sea, how to check in for a flight and go through security at the airport, what the terminal is and what you can do there, how to behave on the plane and so on.
This method of presenting material is a scientifically proven practice and is widely used in various areas of work with behaviour Its author, American psychologist Carol Gray, devoted her professional life to helping children with RSA.
“The great value of this brochure is that it is designed specifically for children with autism, but can be incredibly useful for all children preparing to travel. Visual clues are easy to read and convenient, even for us adults, when we are disoriented in a new environment or country. Simple pictures and clear, concise text will help warn the child about all the stages of the flight that await the child on the trip, and will be able to reduce the level of anxiety from unknown events and stimuli. This instructional brochure will be a guide for you and your child both during the preparation for the flight and during it. After all, a visual storyboard creates a sense of confidence, predictability and orientation in the number and duration of events," Hanna Perekatiy, behavioural analyst, psychologist, founder of the START development and socialization centres, says.
The manual can be downloaded for free from the SkyUp Airlines website. We are also considering the possibility of creating a paper version.
Review: "Pleasantly impressed by methodological literature. A superb social story, how to get your son ready for a plane trip, sort of step-by-step plan of action; a clear learning goal. It is not burdened with pictures (colours) or text. I wish that such literature would become more accessible. Not only for parents of special children, but for everyone else as well. I would be happy to buy such a picture book for our children's library."
This book is part of the larger project "Travel without barriers", which SkyUp and Join UP! implements together with LEVCHYK SPECTRUM HUB with the aim of actualizing the issue of travel accessibility, creating comfortable and safe conditions for travelling with ASD children. Recently, we sent 20 families of IDPs with ASD children who left the war zone to Turkey for a week's holiday. For many children on the spectrum, as the feedback from their parents showed, this experience became an impetus for the development of new skills and even greater socialization in society.
To organize these trips, we also conducted a survey among parents of children with ASD. Among those who travel, 95% note the positive impact of travel on the child. At the same time, they most often choose their own transport for the trip, only half of the respondents had previously travelled with a child by plane. After all, the greatest stress during the trip, according to the parents, is caused by the child's unexpected reaction to the environment, tantrums, and condemnation of others.
In addition to the book, in order to ensure the most comfortable travel conditions, taking into account the identified needs, we conducted special trainings for crews and staff, prepared information leaflets for flight passengers with a story about the project and a call for a tolerant attitude towards project participants, selected hotels taking into account the peculiarities of food and accommodation for ASD children, prepared guides and staff of hotels where our participants rested, organized fast check-in for a flight without queues at the airports.
Parents are convinced that they can travel with children and not worry if the child will feel discomfort, because they are accompanied by trained and caring staff all the way from the airport to the plane and the hotel.
"We arrived home and I can say that everyone, both me and the children, are very excited about this trip! For us, it was the first holiday in our life in such format, and I was very worried about how everything would go, how the children would endure the journey, how they would behave in the hotel, whether the food would be suitable and so on. Everything went just great! Dmytryk said that he wants to go to the sea and summer, and fly in an airplane like birds. We sincerely thank the Levchyk team and partners for this incredible journey!" Dmytro's mother, a visitor to the LEVCHYK SPECTRUM HUB centre, shares.