Air travel can be a very daunting experience for autistic young people with complex needs.From sensory issues to the anxiety of going to a new, busy place such as an airport.

Recently, young adult Shaun was empowered to go on his first ever flight – travelling from London Heathrow to Manchester for a short holiday.

The staffing team in Robin Cottage had been preparing Shaun for months for the trip.

In the Spring of 2024, Shaun went to Southampton Airport where he was given a pass to go through security so he could see the whole process from arrival to boarding.

Before heading to Manchester, a social story was used for Shaun to understand all of the checkpoints at the airport and what would happen in each area.

Shaun also travelled with two staff members who know him well. Shaun stayed in his own hotel room with a monitor used by staff to ensure his welfare.

All of this added up to a hugely enjoyable trip for Shaun – and he successfully navigated the return flight home too.

Being able to travel by plane can be something taken for granted. But this is a huge step for Shaun – and it is thanks to his staffing team who not only empowered him for this experience but also provides hope for his family that overseas travel together may be possible in the future.

Check out a video montage of Shaun’s holiday:

Below is a diary from Shaun’s holiday, written by staff member Michael from Shaun’s perspective:

Monday 3rd June

My staff collected me from Robin at 03:30 AM on Wednesday and we left for Heathrow airport in the minibus. Once we got there, we took the bus from the car park and checked in. We then took our bags through security and waited at our gate until the plane began to depart at 06:45 AM. This was the first time I had been on a plane and so it was very exciting especially when taking off and landing. During our flight, I had a sandwich and a drink for breakfast. Once we had landed, I took the train to Old Trafford and walked the rest of the way to our hotel which was a Premier Inn. We unpacked our things, had medication and then headed to the hotel restaurant where I had an all-you-can-eat English breakfast buffet.

After this, we decided to take the city tram back to the Trafford shopping centre where I played on the bumper cars, visited a virtual reality roller coaster and then played a few games of bowling. In the evening I went to the pub and enjoyed a cheeseburger with chips and a Coca-Cola. We had time for one more activity and I went to watch the King Kong Vs Godzilla movie which I found very entertaining. After this had finished, I took the tram back to the hotel, had my medication and got ready for bed.

Tuesday 4th June

On the second day, I woke up very excited and after having my medication, I once again went to the hotel restaurant to have another buffet for breakfast where I ate bacon, lots of sausages, mushrooms, beans and toast with marmite. Once I had finished my breakfast, I went into the Manchester city centre and visited the science museum where I watched an interesting presentation about the history of Manchester. I then spent some time wandering around and playing with all the exhibits before having a slice of cake for my snack. I then continued to see the sights in the city centre and visited the cathedral. After this, I went to the arcade to play a game of bowling and some basketball before playing a virtual reality Ghostbusters game which was very fun as it was scary. For dinner, I went to a Chinese buffet where I ate lots of different foods. We then finished the day by taking the tram back to the hotel, having my medication and getting ready for bed.

Wednesday 5th June

On Wednesday, I started the day by having my medication and breakfast at the hotel. The first activity I did was taking a guided open-top bus tour around the greater Manchester area which was amazing as I sat at the very top and was able to see everything. After the tour had finished, I had some ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch and walked towards the Palace Theatre. We sat at the very top of the theatre and watched Aladdin and I really enjoyed listening and singing along to all of the songs and music. Once the show had finished, we walked to the pub and had another cheeseburger for dinner. After this, I headed back to the hotel where I had my medication and got ready for bed.

Thursday 6th June

Thursday was our last day in Manchester and again started with my medication and a final breakfast buffet at the Premier Inn. I packed up all my clothes back into my bag and we checked out of the hotel in morning. We then decided to take the tram back to the city centre and visit the cinema again to watch the Garfield movie in 3D. I really enjoyed this movie and found it very funny especially because it was in 3D. Once the movie had finished, I went to Heaton Park as it was a nice day outside. I saw lots of animals at this park including Donkeys and Bulls. I spent some time walking around before playing in the play park and going down the slide. We stopped off at Nando’s for dinner where I had a chicken burger and a Coca-Cola. After this, I took a long tram to the airport where we once again checked in, went through the security and waited for our plane to depart at 9:45pm. I was very excited during take-off and landing and after we made our way back through Heathrow airport, we took the minibus back to Robin and arrived home just after 1am.

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