By Conner Cummings
I am happy that this issue is all about traveling. I love to travel especially to Orlando, Florida and Los Angeles, California to visit Disney Parks.
Our Guest Editor, Gretchen McIntire (Leary), came up with an idea: Gretchen wanted an issue that could help autistics travel to wherever they choose to go. She wanted all of us to learn from each other since some of us struggle with flying or any part of the experience. That is what this issue does.
Our Cover Person, Dr. Stephen Shore, is an amazing self-advocate you will all recognize. I am very lucky that Stephen is my friend. He travels all around the world and he will occasionally send my mother and I a message on Facebook with pictures and sentences in different languages so that I can figure out where he is. Mom says we are seeing the world through Stephen’s eyes.
I have traveled out of the country by plane three times. Mexico for a family wedding, Scotland where I was in a wedding (and even wore a kilt), and Paris where we went to Disneyland Paris. I fly twice a year to Orlando from Virginia. We have been to California a few times to visit family and Disney, and we have flown to the Autism Society of America’s national conventions. We have flown to Milwaukee, Denver, and New Orleans. Our most recent trip was last month, and we flew to Birmingham, Alabama for the Special Olympics Theatre on Ice. I am a good traveler, but a few times we have had some problems.
The first time that I flew on a plane, my mom and I went to Orlando. I had unexpected troubles when I was told that we must take your shoes off and put your items in bins because people were shoving and in my space. I got upset as it seemed the noise was louder, and people were grabbing around me pushing their bins in front of ours. I could no longer concentrate.
What was going on? This had never happened before. I sat down on the floor to get away. I could hear my mom’s voice, but no words would come. My mom asked security to have everyone move away. Then my mom helped me up with a security woman and I put my shoes in a bin and went through the security with just my mom.
“Once we got through and I got my shoes on, I thought about how I would be at Disney World soon, so I just wanted to hurry to the gate. My mom said she was glad I was feeling better but that she felt rattled and would work on her own emotions. That never happened again as we learned together that Mom gets in line behind me and she does not let people push around me. Plus, I’ve learned how to take off my shoes much faster and with putting my belongings in the bin. I was excited and ready to go!”
The only other travel difficulties we have had were not because of the airport or even people but, instead, because of the weather. On our way home from Orlando, we had a lightning storm and the entire airport was grounded. Mom and I went in line to get food at Wendy’s. The line was so long it went down the hall. Every restaurant every line was like that. As we were in line, they were announcing food they were running out of. People in line were yelling and I put in my ear plugs and listened to music. Mom said that when it was our turn, we would just order from whatever they have left and be ‘flexible’…one of our magic words! We were able to get what we wanted and then had to find a place to sit and eat.
We also had a weather problem on our trip home from Alabama. Our flight was delayed for over two hours. We were able to get McDonald’s and ate leaning against a wall. The entire airport was not closed – just certain flights, so it was different. When the plane arrived over an hour later, we were supposed to board finally. A person on that plane had a heart attack and emergency personnel went onto the plane so it took another forty-five additional minutes to help the person and get him off the plane. The person lived, so that was most important. When we finally were able to board the plane, we had the pilot tell us they found a technical difficulty and it could be another hour to fix it. They told us we could get off the plane or stay on. We chose to stay on. We flew with our friends Elena, who is a skater in Special Olympics, and her mom Catherine. It helped having friends with us. Of course, we arrived home safely. We were just late and tired.
I have traveled on a train twice to New York. We walked down the aisle, which was very bumpy, and I needed to hold on to seats while walking not to fall. They had a food on the train which was not so good and I had trouble walking back while carrying food with the bumpy train so me and my mom helped each other. I enjoyed the view from the train and that they had plugs for my phone so I could listen to music and play games.
As for bus rides, I have been on one to Richmond which was a very short ride where I just listened to my music and looked out the window. It was like a nicer version of a school bus.
“In this issue, I like that I am meeting new writers and making new friends. Each feature writer is sharing their own experiences and giving you helpful tips that work for them. Each story is very interesting. We have a new person to meet writing for ‘The View From Here’ and will hear back from our 3 previous friends catching us up to date.”
Traveling is fun. Each state and each country have so much to see. If I could not travel, I would miss out on many opportunities. All of us from Zoom hope that if you have not traveled but have wanted to, after reading this issue you may want to try, or if you have traveled but struggled, these tips will make it easier for you.
Conner Cummings is a professional photographer in the Metro DC area and our Zoom Autism Ambassador and Photographer. Conner speaks his written words at local and national conferences, town halls, corporations and churches. As an autistic self-advocate Conner changed a law in the state of Virginia. He is the 2015 Autism Society of America’s ‘Advocate of the Year’. Conner and his mother worked diligently to have Conner’s Law passed which would replace a poorly written child support law that provided a loop hole for adults with special needs and other disabilities over the age of 18. The law passed unanimously in 2015. A week after its passing, at least six families have used Conner’s Law in court and won. The Virginia House and Senate both voted to give Conner a Commendation Award as a sign of admiration for his advocacy. He is the first autistic individual to receive this honor in VA. The mother and son team are continuing their advocacy by working on taking Conner’s Law state-by-state. Conner also enjoys writing for his popular Facebook page Conquer for Conner.
Read more articles on “Traveling the Spectrum Way” in Zoom Autism Magazine, Issue 16:
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