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Column: The tribulations of travel with an autistic child

PUBLISHED: 11:20 17 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:25 17 January 2019

Emma Spagnola's son Mason, six, who has autism. Picture: EMMA SPAGNOLA

Emma Spagnola's son Mason, six, who has autism. Picture: EMMA SPAGNOLA

Archant

As part of her regular column, Cromer-based equal rights and accessibility campaigner EMMA SPAGNOLA describes the experience of taking her six-year-old son Mason, who has autism abroad on holidays.

'Norfolk Loo Lady' Emma Spagnola with her children, Mason and Bastian. Picture: EMMA SPAGNOLA'Norfolk Loo Lady' Emma Spagnola with her children, Mason and Bastian. Picture: EMMA SPAGNOLA

Travelling abroad with children is never easy but add the ‘A’ word onto that and it is incredibly hard.

We booked our recent holiday almost a year before we went, we wanted to ensure we could arrange everything to the last detail to try and make the trip there reasonable for all of us.

I contacted our travel provider Tui to ensure they knew we had two ‘disabled’ children with us, they popped that on our details, great I asked them if there was anyway they could get us to resort without the need for a coach transfer. Mason suffers from travel sickness but only in bus/coaches (The rep my parents had spoken to on an earlier visit said this should be possible) according to lady on the phone ‘No, we can’t do that’. This was frustrating, but we had managed before so fingers crossed.

Next, I contacted Norwich Airport. Their PRM (special assistance) is second to none and have been fantastic each time we have travelled with the boys from and back into there.

Norwich Airport. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYNorwich Airport. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The staff are kind and very helpful, they are aware of the boys needs and I can’t praise them enough.

My one huge issue is the lack of a Changing Places toilet, I have contacted the airport many a time with varying responses, I really hope this is something they are considering soon as a good amount of English and Scottish airports have them now.

Without a Changing Places I ended up having to change both the boys on the disabled toilet floor before we got on the plane, this is heart breaking especially as there is no way I can now change Mason on the plane without laying him across three seats and holding a blanket up to shield him and allow him a little dignity and however much you clean a toilet floor it still isn’t hygienic for a child to lay on.

We kept the news of the holiday until three days before we left as we would have been asked incessantly when we were going, by Mason in particular.

In the three days leading up I was asked over 100 times each day when we were going, it made my brain ache.

On the December 13 we were finally on our way, my next instalment will follow our flight and journey to our hotel and the joy of travel sickness.

-Would you like to write a column for Enjoy Cromer More or the North Norfolk News? Email your ideas to stuart.anderson@archant.co.uk

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