At a busy airport, practice run helps autistic kids fly

All the noise, lights, and close quarters sometimes spell trouble. A Philadelphia program offers practice runs, from curb to cabin, to help autistic kids fly more comfortably.
Written by Janet Fang, Contributor

Airports are loud, hectic places. (I’m flying in/out of at least 5 this holiday season myself.) And all the noise, bright lights, and close quarters might be intolerable for people with autism.

So, a program at Philadelphia International Airport is bringing families, airport employees, and airlines together to help autistic kids fly more comfortably. WHYY reports.

A practice run! At the 12th busiest airport in the world.

"We do everything from curb to cabin and back," says developmental pediatrician Wendy Ross, who started the practice program after a patient had an especially bad experience flying.

The families start by waiting at the check-in counter, where they get their boarding passes.

Then, going through security, no children have to take their shoes off, but all the adults do.

Going down the jet way is sometimes a problem. One participant gets nervous if he can’t see what’s in front of him. In such cases, watching the family struggle was a valuable lesson, one flight says. "Most of all to have patience, and to be aware of the situation."

When the families settle into their seats, they’re greeted by a United Airlines flight crew. The plane doesn't actually go anywhere, so families get off after a snack.

Then they gather their belongings, and each kid receives a pin with wings from the airport.

"Literally, we are helping kids fly,” Ross says, “but as a metaphor, travel is so much more than how we get from one place to another, it is how we experience opportunity."

From WHYY via NPR.

Image by dziner via Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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