Yesterday Brian the Lion & I got a chance to be a part of a super cool program for families with kids on the spectrum.
We were going to take a mock flight to help our children and other children get comfortable with the chaos that one can experience at an airport.
We packed a bag, made sure we had on clean socks (important since they make you take off your shoes at security!) and off we went.
We met the team from Autism Speaks & the Albert Einsten Medical Center at a hotel near the airport. Filled out some papers and boarded a bus (as Brian pointed out it was just like the Disney Express but without Mickey Mouse) to head for the airport.
Brian is a Newark Airport veteran having gone to Disney World 4 times a year since he was a year old. (yup, we are one of those crazy families!)
I was a little concerned beacuse we were traveling with a huge group that included TSA agents and police officers and it took just about forever to get from point A to point B. Since our family travels so much, we have the whole airport process streamlined to be as efficient and quick as possible, including never checking bags and printing our tickets online.
We had a small meltdown after he and I were one of the first to check in and get our boarding passe and then had to wait about 15 mins for the rest of the cast and crew to check in and join us. He only wanted to go through security and didn't want to wait for everyone.
He made sure we were some of the first through the security checkpoint, helping me put his stuff in the X-Ray machine bins and moving me along when he felt I was going too slow.
As we put shoes back on and waited for everyone else to catch up, we had another mini meltdown. This time about McDonalds.
We always bribe Brian was a treat or a snack to make the flight as smooth as can be and he knows that going to the airport means he gets Chicken Nuggets and Fries. An almost never treat. When we didn't leave security right away he howled and lay prone on the bench demanding his nuggets and fries.
I was not going to make the detour to get him McDonalds, seperate ourselves from the group and come back with food you can smell a mile away that I'm not sure if the other kids participating were allowed to have or not. (I've had the "She has ice cream and I don't" tantrum and I don't wish it on any other parents)
I promised him he would get it but not at that moment, wishing that our caravan would hitch up the horses and get the show on the road again to distract him.
Finally we did get moving and made it to our gate. (have you ever had police and TSA guarding your family while cameras click and TV cameras roll? It's freakin WEIRD!) We waited (complete with grumblings about the lack of Nuggets and how we ALWAYS have nuggets before we fly.)
We finally boarded the plane and though we were supposed to take our assigned seats they had me in row 22 and Brian in row 11. Yeah, not so much folks. So I let Brian choose our seats.
Here is where I held my breath. Would he put on his seatbelt? I messed with our routine of treat or snack before the flight and he was already mad at me for it.
While Brian has gotten MUCH better at flying, he used to be a total terror and has on more than one occasion kept a plane on the ground much longer than it was supposed to be thanks to his anti seat belt stance.
Brian hates to be restrained in any fashion. Seat belts are his enemy and the airplane lap belt enraged him every single time. He always wanted to take it off and snuggle on my lap.
Since birth he's had the nickname "Brian the Lion" because of his legendary tantrums and the ones he would throw on the plane were horrific. I would board the plane fully expecting to have this flight be the one where I made the news as the mom who got kicked off the flight because of her kid.
I’m not kidding even a little tiny bit. I literally never put anything in the overhead because I had to be ready to deplane if they decided Brian was a “threat”.
Kicking, biting me, and pulling my hair, screaming at the top of his lungs, punching, throwing toys. Think of the worst tantrum you have ever seen a kid throw and now make it twice as long, three times as intense and add in the no way to reason with them factor and you have the average plane ride with Brian.
The last few trips though, he's been a total angel. No tantrums, no anger, no trouble at all. A model passenger.
Where would the coin fall for me today? Please, please, please I begged internally. Be good. Put that seatbelt on for me!
He slowly reached for the two parts and snapped them together as if he had never ever had an issue with flying.
HUGE sigh of relief from mommy...
The captain came on and made all the routine announcements and they closed the cabin door and we "took off" The stewardi came around with drinks and a bag full of snacks.
M&M's (snarfed down before I coudl blink) bottle of water, a banana (that went right into my bag as Brian doesn't do fruit) a vanilla pudding (also made it's way to my bag) and a package of gluten free chocoalte chip cookies (which made Brian very happy)
He sat there, seatbelt on, watching the movie "BOLT" (and as a total aside, airlines are you reading this? Those in flight TV's are a GODSEND and need to be on every single plane!) then it was time to get off the plane and go and get our bags.
Our circus made it's way down to the lower level where we would get our bags. Brian didn't even give me a chance to pick mine up. He grabbed it and hoisted it up and off the carousel and tried to carry it for me but didn't get too far.
We once again had to wait around for everyone and Brian was frustrated that we weren't going to be walking out the door we ALWAYS walk out to get to a cab.
Over all though, it was a really special experience and we got to meet and spend time with some very lovely people.
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