As we begin the month of July I’m sure that many of you are planning your annual summer vacations. As I think back to our vacations, I recall how I initially approached flying with Ryan with trepidation. Would he remain calm passing through security? How would he deal with the crowds in the airport? How would he react to sitting on an airplane for a few hours? I knew that up until he got on the plane he would perseverate on flying, his way of dealing with the unknown. We did social stories and traveled to our local airport and watched the planes coming in and out. We also talked about how much he would enjoy his first airplane trip… and he did. Fortunately for both of us, his first flight was a success and I could look to future trips without a sense of foreboding.
However, for many families, airline travel is not a positive experience. That’s the reason Wings for Autism was created in 2011 by the Charles River Center in Massachusetts and Massachusetts Port Authority. Wings for Autism provides families with the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtaining boarding passes, going through security and boarding a plane. Also, the program gives airport personnel an opportunity to observe and interact with children with disabilities and their families. Today, Wings for Autism has expanded to a number of cities including Seattle, Anchorage and Tulsa. Another program that I found is AIR – Helping Families Soar.
What can you do to bring such a program to your community? I am
- Contacting the Airport Authority to make them aware of these programs and determine steps to initiate the program locally
- Contacting the airlines that fly out of Erie, PA
- Contacting Wings for Autism and AIR – Helping Families Soar
I will give you an update on my progress. Wouldn’t it be great if every community with an airline had such a program for children with special needs? Let’s make that our goal!