by Lonnie Pacelli
This is part two of How an Autistic Child has Changed a Career…For the Better
In 2006 I wrote of Patty’s and my decision to homeschool our son Trevor to help provide a learning environment more conducive with his autism. It’s now twelve years later and time to write about how things worked out.
Trevor started seventh grade with a customized schooling plan. Patty focused on arts and language and I focused on math and science. He also attended a homeschool-assisted school which provided English and math classes and attended a science class at the middle school he would have normally attended. The curriculum plan was designed by Patty and me along with Trevor’s school counselor. It was a hybrid of homeschooling and traditional schooling which we felt gave Trevor the best likelihood of success. Trevor’s counselor was completely awesome in working with us and putting Trevor’s well-being first. The blended teaching worked very well in seventh grade, but we also noticed that Trevor wasn’t getting enough peer socialization. In eighth grade we decided to start the process of mainstreaming him back into the public-school system. Patty continued focus on arts and language and math and science topics were now being provided by Trevor’s middle school. I like to joke that I was fired as a homeschool teacher and that my wife and son did the firing. In reality the mainstreaming was the right answer because it allowed him to get needed socialization through spending more time at school while also giving him some additional 1:1 focus through homeschooling. In ninth grade we felt Trevor was ready to be fully mainstreamed into the public-school system. While we packed up our homeschool materials, our involvement with Trevor’s schooling and socialization growth was still strong.
Ninth through 12th grade brought some high points but also brought a lot of struggle. Trevor was bullied and made fun of by many other students who took advantage of his autism. He had difficulty telling the difference between kids mocking him versus being a friend. Because he was behind his peers in his social interaction skills, he would say and do things that weren’t appropriate. He did have a few close friends who were genuine in their friendship, some of which he is still friends with today. One bright spot through high school was Trevor’s involvement in drama club. He participated in many performances both on stage and behind the scenes. The drama club was his “clique”, and while some in the club took advantage of Trevor’s autism, many accepted and looked out for him.
Trevor graduated from high school in 2011 with plans to go to college. Feeling that the jump from high school to a large university would be too drastic for him, he attended a local junior college for two years while living at home. He had developed a love for movies and photography, so he decided to major in film studies with an emphasis in photography. These two years were foundational for Trevor’s growth in that he continued to progress academically while also allowing him to work on socialization and adaptation skills. In his sophomore year he decided he wanted to transfer to a four-year university majoring in film and media studies. His decision on where to go was an outstanding example of decision making through empirical data analysis and pros/cons articulation. He developed a visibility board with a number of decision criteria including offering of major, closeness of family, and church offerings. He narrowed his choice down to two colleges, Central Washington University and Arizona State University, both of which meant he would be living away from home. He ultimately decided on Arizona State, comfortable through his analysis that this was the best option. It was also during this time that Trevor wrote about his experiences growing up with autism in Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic.
In August 2013 we took Trevor to the ASU Tempe campus, helped him set up his dorm room, and left him to start his junior year of college. While it was a bit unnerving being a thousand miles away from him, we had peace in knowing there were a number of family members in the area including Trevor’s big sister Briana who was now a nurse in nearby Scottsdale. His last two years of school were those of tremendous growth. He had to figure out a lot of things on his own, make new friends, and be responsible for his own studies. Fortunately, he plugged into a church group that was walking distance from ASU. He fit in like a glove and the church group was a high point of his time at ASU. He got to experience living and dealing with roommates, most of which he felt were too immature for him. We got several problem calls when he lost his wallet, had computer problems, or was having difficulty coping with some situations. He graduated from ASU in December 2015 Cum Laude with a degree in Film & Media Studies.
His post-college life was filled with a lot of anxiety. Now he was out of school and it was time to support himself. He didn’t have a job upon graduation, so Patty and I decided to hire him into our company as our Media Director. He was employed by us for 17 months where we got to help him build good work habits. We instituted a monthly review process called “dones” where at the beginning of the month he would lay out what he would have done by the end of the month, which we would then review at the beginning of the next month. It was an outstanding process in that all three of us were aligned as to what he needed to do, and he was held accountable for getting things done. In July 2017 Trevor was hired by Northwest Center where he splits his time between facilities management and marketing. His marketing assignments have been fruitful, including being interviewed by two local TV news stations.
Today Trevor is 26. He lives on his own in a condo we purchased for him along with two other tenants on the autism spectrum. He pays rent, he manages his own money, he is as self sufficient as any 26-year-old. He’s still got some challenges that he’ll continue to have for the rest of his life. He’ll always need someone else to help coach him through situations. It was a lot of hard work on all our parts, but Patty and I are excited about his future and are grateful that we were in a position to help Trevor.
By Patty Pacelli
When researching colleges for your student who may have learning differences, it is worthwhile to look at universities that have dedicated centers or programs that go above and beyond the standard academics for your student, such as the SALT (Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques) Center at The University of Arizona.
Last weekend, I was an author/vendor at the annual Tucson Festival of Books on the University of Arizona campus. I sold copies of my book, Six-Word Lessons for Autism-Friendly Workplaces. While in Tucson, I arranged a tour and visit with Hilary Cummins and Laurel Grigg Mason at the UA SALT Center. "SALT" stands for Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques, and the program offers fee-based support for students with various learning challenges, including those on the autism spectrum. The beautiful, newly-remodeled and expanded building, the Patricia A. Bartlett building, is in a convenient central location on campus, and contains seating and study spaces of all types. It is filled with attractive individual study stations, private rooms, and tables for groups of all sizes. The SALT Center is equipped with educational technology for various subjects of study, and offers assistance with learning the latest useful apps and programs.
Hilary and Laurel shared with me that tutoring is one of the main benefits of the SALT Center, whether it's one-on-one, small group or large group, or studying for exams. Students enrolled in the SALT Center can drop in or make appointments with tutors, many of whom are peers who have been trained and certified. The inviting spaces make it easy to succeed in the challenging environment of university academics while simultaneously offering camaraderie and social opportunities. Students also meet with their assigned Strategic Learning Specialist weekly. These meetings cover a variety of topics, including organization and time management, academic strategies, and a review of their progress in each course.
On the tour I saw a large wall of dozens of handouts on many topics that would help students with their academic career and life on campus. Topics included 5-Minute Therapy with a list of small things to help stay calm when anxious, Mindfulness Exercises, which included an exercise to notice the five senses, Success Strategies from other SALT Students and Gratitude Exercises. I was impressed with the wealth of services and helpful resources to make sure students with learning differences have a truly positive college experience, leading to better career success upon graduation.
Because of the SALT Center, the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 edition listed The University of Arizona, along with 15 other major universities, as having strong support for students with learning disabilities. Universities with programs such as this are another factor to consider when choosing the right college.
By Trevor Pacelli
I may be mildly Autistic, but you know what? I am not hopeless! I have still used what I am good at to achieve success out of life. But how did I come to know my strengths? It all depended on accepting and seeking out challenges through college.
In fall of 2011, I started school at Bellevue College. My plan was to get my AA, then transfer into a four-year university by fall 2013. This first year consisted of job searching and college research. Yet most importantly during this time, I wrote my first book, Six-Word Lessons on Growing up Autistic in May 2012, which is available on Amazon, Kindle and iBooks. It has sold thousands of copies worldwide and appeared in publications such as CNN, Costco Connection and Huffington Post.
Then came sophomore year. Here, I had narrowed down six schools to apply to. I also held a part-time position at my church where I locked up the facility each night. By spring 2013, I made an official decision to transfer to Arizona State University, a conclusion influenced by the large amount of family in that area.
Then came junior year. I had graduated from Bellevue College with a 3.8 GPA and transferred to ASU in fall 2013. I enjoyed the extended family nearby, but I also lived away from my parents for the first time ever, the hardest thing I had ever done at this point. Yet as time passed I found the emotional support I needed. I made some fantastic friendships in a church group, and found phenomenal success in my book promotion, which included a front-page article in the ASU State Press, the university newspaper.
Looking for a summer internship, I sent applications everywhere, including a photographer position at a camp in Asheville, North Carolina, which eventually accepted me. Here, I faced a culture shock that I could not get used to, and I knew I never wanted to go back there. But I still gained further independence and saw entirely new things that expanded my insight on the world and myself.
Now, back to ASU. It was my senior year, and for the first time I shared a living space with other roommates, which offered challenges that forced me to take a stand for once. I also started my movie review blog,TrevorsViewonHollywood.com, which I still run it to this day, and it has since become the best outlet for me to express my passion in film.
Although spring 2015 should technically have been my graduation, credits-wise I needed one more semester to go. So for that summer I had two time commitments: a ministry writing internship at my church and a customer service position at Domino’s pizza. Although Domino’s did not particularly fit my social capacity, it did help me to learn one thing: I enjoy making food.
My church internship quickly became the best thing I ever did in college, as it affixed me into a meaningful community where I felt accepted, all while pursuing work that fit my needs. Then I graduated December 2015, which meant I had to find full-time work.
Here was where my parents came to save the day: using their business (Consetta Group), they hired me to work for them utilizing my developed passions. Now, I write film reviews, generate movie suggestions, promote Pacelli Publishing’s book series, and photograph events and portraits (TrevorPacelliPhotography.com).
The thing that I most learned from my four-and-a-half years of college was not what I read in my fifty-dollar textbooks. College taught me that if you go out past your comfort zone and try something big, no matter how it turns out, it will turn you into a better you. So in the words of Shakira, “Try everything!”
By Trevor Pacelli
It’s a challenge for anybody: finding an interest in a topic with no prior experience to. I mean, if you are not planning on ever becoming an engineer or accountant in the future, then where could you find any interest in math? While it can be a problem for many people, it is even more of a challenge for those with Autism. Because I am Autistic, my mind is much more geared toward very specific areas of interest, making it harder for me to leave those areas and open my mind to anything else. The same is true for a lot of students on the Autism spectrum who are required to take classes that are far out of their league of interest. As a result, their grades may suffer and they may be received poorly by their teachers. But I have found an easy solution to helping myself find interest in a subject that is juxtaposed from my subject of interest.
I found that I can relate to something I am normally not interested in by expanding on something I am interested in. An example is my current obsession for movies. I have watched an awful lot of movies the past couple of years that spanned a plethora of subject matters; one in particular was Schindler’s List. My love for movies already led me to watching this Holocaust drama simply for being a Spielberg movie the winner of several Oscars. That movie led me to register for a course here at ASU on German Media made during and after the Nazi Holocaust. If I were to take this class back in high school, I would have gone into it with lots of negative emotions and questioning why I even needed to be there. But now that I’ve seen the movie Schindler’s List, I have some way of relating to a difficult subject matter that most people would avoid, all because I was able to connect with it through something I was already passionate about.
In the class I learned that not only did the Jews in the concentration camps die in unfathomable numbers, but the Nazis also did things to their decaying bodies that were simply inhumane. They knitted their hair into clothing, burned their bones into fertilizer, and made their flesh into soap. And the documentary I watched that delivered this information was backed up with very graphic images of the starved Jewish bodies lying in enormous heaps pushed into a pit by a bulldozer. This was where my other love--photography--came in, I managed to distinguish the images being portrayed based on my personal knowledge of photo composition.
There were several other subjects that I have been able to look deeper into based on my obsession with movies: Astronomy from Star Wars, the Titanic’s sinking from Titanic, Horticulture from Little Shop of Horrors (also a musical I did in high school), Oceanography from SpongeBob Squarepants (not a movie, but still an obsession), and the history of animation from Disney.
If you are the parent of an Autistic child, or have Autism yourself, then this is something that I challenge you to do: take a look at whatever it is that you or the child passionately obsess over. It could be vehicles, cities, celebrities, farm animals, biology, or a certain TV show. But how do you know when it’s an obsession? If you asked my parents, they could tell you that I was absolutely obsessed over the show Blue’s Clues while in Kindergarten because it was the one thing that I based everything in my life around. I even had a Blue’s Clues themed birthday party complete with a handy-dandy notebook for all the party guests, a cake made to look like Blue’s paw print, and my own personal “Steve” shirt.
I am aware that an obsession like that is a bit more specific than movies, and harder to relate with other subjects, but I say it’s up to the challenge. One example for approaching this could be to talk to your child about an episode from the show that connects to a subject at school you want him to understand. For instance, if an episode had the characters teach how to solve simple math problems, then you could use that scenario to build up your child’s interest in the subject. Even if it’s not a TV show your child’s obsessed over, analyze how another obsession like science could relate to what he needs to learn about.
You would be very surprised as to how well your child catches on to an intangible subject when he can relate it with something he lives and breathes daily. I myself am surprised as to what I have been able to learn because of my past obsessions. But remember, the same thing could be said to anybody in any scenario: anything that you can relate to can in some way connect with what you cannot relate to. It’s all a matter of how deep you’re willing to delve.
By Trevor Pacelli
As of yesterday, I moved into my new apartment at Arizona State University, which will be my first time living with other roommates I did not know before. So far I am very anxious to see how it’s all going to benefit my social communication skills. The good thing is that I already have experience living by myself in a dorm, so I am already comfortable being away from my parents.
Now as most of you probably know, I spent the summer in North Carolina working as a photographer for a summer camp. That itself was a challenging experience for me, because there were so many things that came my way without any expectations. Some obstacles such as interacting with the other staff, overcoming culture shock, and taking pictures in the pouring rain evoked growth within me that I was not prepared for. There is so much more I could dive into about these ten weeks that I spent on the East coast, but that would require multiple blog posts. I’ll just leave it by saying that the most important thing I learned was what type of community I’m most suitable for: the city instead of a small town, the heat instead of the humidity, and the West coast instead of the East coast. I also acquired many skills in photography including how to critique the messages that certain photos communicate, and how to organize and narrow down the best pictures among the 500+ I had taken each day. It was a great experience for me, but I would not want to do camp photography for a living.
Now after that tremendous step that I’ve taken, I’m now about to step onto another one, living with other roommates. I have never lived with anyone else before other than my parents and sister, so learning to get along with new people will deliver its own set of obstacles for me to overcome. And on top of that, I also have five classes to go through, and I will begin my search for a career after I graduate. College has been hard for me, and I have felt really stressed out a lot of the time, but I always pulled through in the past, and I will continue to this year. I will definitely be keeping you posted more about my progress this coming year. Stay tuned!
By Trevor Pacelli
Everybody is required to learn about history as they go through elementary school, middle school, and high school. They learn about the history of various countries around the world and why it is relevant to us today. They also learn about America's history and all of the important events and people that formed our country. Many of many of the people I grew up with seemed to grasp and understand the subjects we were learning, including the political issues concerning the government today. But as for me, I never paid any attention to history subjects, and today I can hardly recall anything I learned. I do remember my U.S. history classes talking about the Mayflower, the Westward movement, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, America's presidents, World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and many other subjects; but the details are as foggy to me now as they were at the time I was taught them.
I understand why it is important to know about our country's history: so that we realize how we got here and what to do with the future of our country. But when I was younger, I did not grasp it nor care to learn. I think back to the other kids in my class, and they all picked up on the subject and knew why it was relevant, while I just sat there completely lost. Why was this so?
Having autism meant that I was always in my own individual world, absorbed in my own thoughts and uninterested in reality. This was especially so when I was much younger, when the thing that I was most concerned about was watching SpongeBob Squarepants at 8:00 that night. Even as a teenager I had no desire to know who John Hancock was or what the Civil Rights Movement was all about. This is a very common thing for anyone growing up on the spectrum: having little to no response to terms of reality.
This is still true to me today. I virtually never follow the news, and even when I do I am not responsive to it. I feel like I have to force myself to read a news article in order to feel educated about what's happening in the world, yet many of the articles on breaking news are written in a style that I am unable to relate to because of the subject matter. The only things that happen in the media that I can actually fully grasp are things related to movies. This is something that I plan to change about myself.
I wish that I paid attention in school when I was growing up, and I wish that I actually cared about what I was being taught. But gladly, I have improved on that now with the college courses I'm taking. As far as knowing about U.S. history, I still wish I could return to what I was instructed in the past so I could know my country better. In studying film this past year, I learned that every movie reflects the time that it was made; which means that studying film means knowing what was happening in America from the 1920s up until now. I have heard about several events in America's history during this time that I have a little knowledge about, such as World War II, the coming of television, the Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandal, and the 911 terrorist attacks. But I wish to learn more and become more of an integrated member of society, and not always secluded in my own world. So I have already made plans to change that: I will be taking a course in the fall about German media in the 1940s.
By Trevor Pacelli
I now begin my spring semester here at Arizona State University, after getting back from my winter break visit with my parents in Seattle. What's interesting was that while I was there, the experience of being back in my home state wasn't quite the same.
I was familiar with everything there, and I felt like I had my old life back, with the same home, the same church, the same people, the same street areas, and the same weather. I in a sense felt like I was a student at Bellevue College again, because I was back in that environment. But even though I was in a familiar place, I still felt a bit out of place. Why was this so?
It wasn't my life anymore. I already established a life for myself in Tempe, Arizona, where I have my own home, eating plan, community, and independence. I spent 4 and a half months living differently than when I was in Bellevue, and I grew accustomed to the sunnier climate. My feelings for this started the instant my plane arrived in Seattle, when I saw the dense clouds that blocked the view of the sun. I have seen very few cloudy days in the past several months, so seeing these clouds told me that this experience was not going to be how I imagined it.
And so it was: I started hating the overcast, cloudy weather of Seattle and above all wanted to go back to Tempe. By the time New Years had passed, I told my parents that I was ready to leave. Then after nine more days in the cold air of Bellevue, I was finally at the airport to return to Phoenix. I was so glad and relieved to be in the sun again, and when I say that, I mean it. As much as I love being around my parents, I would much rather be out on my own (which is good, because my parents said they want the same thing!) and doing what I want for myself.
As for this coming semester, I have already set plans to increase book sales including applying to speak at libraries and Autism clinics to educate others about people who are on the spectrum. In addition, I will be attending courses on ASL, New Media, Screenwriting, Race and Gender, and the lives of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. All in all, I'm excited to see where I end up by the end of this semester.
By Trevor Pacelli
I have just finished my first semester here at Arizona State University, and while I have faced difficulties, challenges and feelings of loneliness, lots of great things have happened to me. Most of the things I faced were internal, others came on me unexpectedly. For instance, I've found a wonderful church to get plugged into and even went up to Prescott for a weekend with the college ministry. I got published in The State Press newspaper, I spoke at an event about my book and experiences with autism, and I got to spend time with several of my family members. The whole reason I picked this school in the first place is because it was so close to a lot of my family members (including my sister) and I wanted to get better connected with them. So far, it is going very well, if not exactly as I planned.
Forrest Gump has said, "Life is like a box of chocolates: You never know what you're gonna get," and for me that could never be truer. When I started here in August, I had no idea what kind of church I was going to find or what things I was going to get involved in or what I was going to learn from my classes. But take a look at what Forrest Gump went through in the 1994 feature film. Forrest admits not being a smart man, and having braces on his legs as a child. He had a rough time growing up. Having autism, I've had difficulties too, where my communication skills prevented me from forming good friendships, and I too got bullied. But Forrest Gump didn't let his braces or intelligence get in the way of what he could do, he just kept running. Eventually, he became things that he probably never thought he could become: a college football star, a Vietnam war hero, a ping pong champion, and a billionaire who owned a shrimp company. And in addition to that, he helped inspire many stars in the material that made them famous, such as John Lennon. The best part out of all of this? He never intended to do any of it--it all just came naturally to him.
There were times in my life where things came to me that I didn't plan to do, such as when I was working at SAMBICA Bible camp. My sister asked me if I wanted to work for the camp in the first place, and my original plan at the camp was to just volunteer for maintenance for three weeks. But then my supervisor was so impressed by my work that he asked me if I wanted to start working in the kitchen until the end of camp, where I would be paid. Of course, I took the offer, and my supervisor in the kitchen was also very impressed by my work. Then the time came around where I had to look for another job. I was applying all over to different business, none of which hired me. Then my Mom suggested I apply for our church's maintenance crew. I got the job, and a couple of months into it, my supervisor asked me if I wanted to start handling security, where I would be locking up the building after work hours--a big responsibility. I didn't think any of this was going to happen to me in the beginning, but it did. And I will admit, all of those events have really helped me to become familiar with the work force and to present myself as a dependable, manageable worker.
Then there's my past semester here at ASU. I already knew coming here that I was going to spend time with the family, but what I didn't know was that I was actually going to appear on the cover of The State Press newspaper, or that I was going to speak publicly in front of fifty students and faculty, or that I was actually going to see the Lion King musical at only $43.00, or that I decided not to go into directing after all and instead pursue screenwriting. Then there are the courses I've taken. I've learned about how a movie is made, from the producer obtaining the screenplay to the distribution of the finished work, and I've learned about the periods of Hollywood film history. I've had some great professors and some not-so-great professors, but I've still gained an overall better understanding of how the Hollywood industry works and what the business is really like.
So if you or someone you know has autism or Asperger's, and you're worried about the kind of future you're going to be living, just remember Forrest Gump. He was the most unlikely person in the world to become rich and famous while saving lives in the army, and yet he did all that and much more. He inspired people and gave them hope just by being who he was and living by his instinct. So many people today try to appear successful or copy the lifestyle of someone who is, and they attempt to set up their lives so they'll become rich and famous, but due to poor planning, they end up living in a cardboard box on the street eating food out of a trash can. But if people were to just be themselves, accept what life offers them, and understand that they are not in complete control of their lives, then they too can live a life like Forrest Gump. That is what I've been doing. I don't have any idea what I'm going to be doing six months from now or even ten years from now, but I know that if I do what life calls me to do, then it's for my own benefit. So now, I will be applying for any internship I can lay my hands on, and whoever accepts me first I'll take it. It's true that I never know what I'm gonna get, but if it's related to chocolate, it's going to be good.
By Patty Pacelli
Trevor is flying home from college this weekend, and it will be his first time flying by himself. As his mom, I'm not too worried about him, because he has flown at least once a year during his life, but never alone. I wanted to write some tips about flying alone to help others who might be flying by themselves this season, with or without autism.
Preparation: If you are packing and preparing on your own, first decide whether to carry on your bag, or whether to check a bag. Anything you carry on cannot have liquids packed in it, and must fit in the overhead bins. Wheeled luggage is the best choice because you might have to walk a long way, and don't want to worry about a duffel getting too heavy or awkward. Any liquids and gels carried on must be in a quart size Ziploc bag and be 3 ounces or less each. Pack these in a backpack, tote bag or purse so they are easily accessible for Security. You are only allowed to carry on one small suitcase (for the overhead bins) and one other backpack or tote to put under the seat in front of you. Put your name, e-mail address and phone number on all your bags.
If your airline allows, you can check in on your computer, 24 hours in advance, and print your boarding pass. This is a good idea and will save you a step at the airport.
Checking In: Whether someone is dropping you off, or you are taking a taxi or public transportation, enter the airport near your airline. There should be signs above the curb/sidewalk area with the airline names, i.e., Southwest, USAir, etc. Once inside, take a moment to look at your surroundings. There will be a lot of sights and sounds, so don't feel pressured or in a hurry. By the way, try to get to the airport extra early--2 hours or more before your flight time--so you don't have to hurry.
If you have printed your boarding pass ahead of time, and not checking a bag, check the overhead monitors that list all the flights. Look for the city you are flying to and it will list the gate and departure time. This is where you will find out if your flight is delayed or on time.
If you have not checked in at home, look for the check-in counters for your airline, which should be nearby if you entered at your airline's overhead sign. There will be kiosks and/or airline agents behind counters, and a waiting line, depending on how busy the airport is. Get in line and start getting your credit card or "locator number" ready. At the kiosk, you will swipe your credit card or type in your number and follow the instructions on the monitor to check yourself in. Again, take your time and read everything carefully. There are airline employees behind the counter to help if you have questions. This is where you will get your boarding pass, which will have your seat number, boarding group and gate number, and you will need it to get onto the plane.
If you are checking a bag, you will do that in the same location, or possibly a nearby separate location. When your bag is checked, the agent will give you a small claim ticket. Save this in case there is any problem identifying or getting your bag when you get to your destination.
Security: On your way to your gate, you will go through a Security Checkpoint. There might be different types of lines, such as ones for experienced travelers, travelers with children, or other categories. Choose the one you feel comfortable with. There is no requirement to choose a specific line. While waiting in line, get your boarding pass and driver's license or i.d., ready to show. The first step will be to show both of these to a security agent at a podium. As soon as you have shown them, you can put them safely away in your wallet and carry-ons so they don't get lost. At this point, stop, take a breath, and remember you don't have to hurry.
Remember, it's always ok to let others go ahead of you if they are in a hurry. Your flight is still probably over an hour away, so you have plenty of time. Next, take off your belt, and shoes, empty your pockets of any change, cell phone or metals, and put them into a plastic bin that will go on the belt. Take your Ziploc bag of liquids out and put it in the bin. If you have a laptop computer, take it out of its case and put it in a bin. Use as many bins as you need to hold everything. Put your rolling bag or duffel, backpack or tote bag directly on the belt and make sure it is pushed onto the moving part that goes through the screening section.
Once everything is on the belt, wait at the entrance to the body screening area for someone to motion you to walk through. You will either walk through it or stop and put your arms over your head to be screened. After you have walked through, an agent may ask you to stop and they might ask you a question, have you wait somewhere, or check something else on your body. Try to pay attention to the security agents so you will notice if they ask you anything.
After you have walked through Security, gather your belongings out of your bins and get your bags off of the belt. Be extra careful that you don't leave anything. There is usually an area with chairs where you can put on your belt and shoes and get everything ready to take with you to the gate. Now you can walk to your gate and wait for your flight to leave. Check the time and if you'd like, check again for overhead monitors to see if your flight is still on time. Depending on how much time you have, you can go directly to your gate, or stop at the restroom, have a snack, or look in some of the shops. Your boarding pass will give a "boarding time" so make sure you are at your gate a little before that.
Boarding: While you're at the gate, keep listening for instructions about when your group should board. There is a counter with your city and departure time and an agent in case you have questions. When you board, you will give the agent your boarding pass as you get on the plane. He will either scan it and give it back to you (if you have an assigned seat) or keep it and you will sit wherever you'd like (Southwest Airlines). As you are finding your seat, look for overhead space if you need it. You can use any space, as close to your seat as possible.
Once you are seated, listen to any instructions from the flight crew and enjoy your flight! When you land, be careful about leaving anything behind. Get your bag from the overhead compartment and exit the plane. When you land, look for signs that say "Baggage Claim." That is where you will get your bags if you checked them, and will meet anyone who came to pick you up from the airport.
Remember, there might be things that are unexpected, like delayed flights, longer flights, being stuck sitting on the plane at the gate, spills, sitting next to difficult people, and more. There are always people who can and will help you or answer questions, and if you prepare and plan ahead, you won't put yourself in a position to be stressed or in a hurry. Have a nice flight!
Inspiration for Life with Autism
This blog has a variety of articles about people living life with autism, and topics and ideas that can help in the journey. Guest bloggers are welcome. Inspired by Trevor, a young adult film critic, photographer and college graduate on the autism spectrum.