With flight being a sole means of travel in order to reach certain destinations, it has become a focus of concern for parents of children with autism to prepare them for the experience. Both the airport and the experience of flying can be overwhelming to any individual, but for a child with autism, it can be terrifying. With so many parents wanting their children to experience the joy of a vacation, several programs are being developed to help prepare them for the entire concept of flight – including the noise, movements, and interactions with the crew.
One new initiative in particular, Flying with Autism, provides parents with the opportunity of having their children experience a short flight so that they can process everything they are experiencing, and therefore they can later evaluate how the child reacts. As a result, they can potentially come up with strategies on how to overcome any particular issues they may have run into during the trial.
Flying with Autism was first launched in London, aiming to make the experience of flying a little easier for families touched by ASD. With thousands of families affected and the numbers only growing, it is becoming increasingly more important for programs like these to be developed – offering opportunities in areas that may have once been viewed as limitations for individuals on the spectrum.
Flying with Autism, led by specialist aviation training company FOF events, was established to help children with ASD familiarize themselves with flying, but also for parents to make the necessary preparations to ensure that the flight will be as comfortable as possible for their child. The program runs in two parts: at first, the families familiarize themselves at the airport and on the aircraft. Second, they partake in the “Experience Flight”, a 30-minute flight that allows children to get a grasp of air travel and for parents to assess how they handled it. This enables them to see if their children may be ready or not for a more extensive trip.
The program offers much advice and coping techniques to assist parents with the stressful parts of flying, as well as dealing with airport security and all of the interactions they may have along the way. Kelly Railton of The National Autistic Society (which financially supports the program) states, “We are very excited that Flying with Autism has nominated our charity to benefit from donations from their courses. A recent survey by the NAS showed transportation is a huge issue for people on the autism spectrum and their families, and can prevent them from taking part in everyday activities, particularly leisure opportunities such as holidaying abroad. We hope that Flying with Autism’s courses, along with our own current work in creating more accessible transport environments (such as airports and trains), will help [those] the autism spectrum.”
Initiatives similar to this one are popping up throughout the U.S., as well. For a list of airports offering programs for families touched by ASD: http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2014/09/18/15-airports-that-offer-rehearsal-programs-for-individuals-with-autism/