US Airways (American Airlines) and Southwest Airlines along with the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport put on a special Wings for Autism event to open the doors to the world for families dealing with autism.
The holidays are coming and so vacation planning is on the top of everyone’s minds. For most families with children vacations are a little hectic and stressful but travel takes on a whole new meaning when there is an autistic child involved. For parents of autistic children, air travel means navigating an entire production of frightening experiences, such as loud announcements, airport security procedures, moving sidewalks, boarding the jet way, cramped seats and of course strangers everywhere.
Experts say that preparation and practice is the key to a successful flight and Wings for Autism is the perfect program to help parents and autistic children feel a little more comfortable. On October 10th at Sky Harbor International Airport, in cooperation with the Autism Research Center (ARC) Wings for Autism program, US Airways (American Airlines) and Southwest Airlines held the largest event to date. More than 90 families were able to simulate a day at the airport. Many of these families have had to forego family travel in the past due to the difficulties of traveling with an autistic child and greatly appreciate the opportunity of a practice run.
To find out more about the Autism Research Center ARC and its foundations and upcoming events please visit www.arcarizona.org.
Through the help of the airlines, the airport, and even the TSA, these families and children experienced a complete simulation of air travel. They went through security lines, ticketing, boarding the jets, pre-takeoff instructions and even taxiing around the airport. It was very special to me to be on the plane and seeing all the little smiling faces and the delight and hope that was expressed by their family members.
What really impressed me was the sheer volume of volunteers from both US Airways and Southwest Airlines who came to participate on their own free time. There were officials from ARC and officials from both airlines to discuss the event. John Daley, a Managing Director at American Airlines touched me as he shared his own story as the father of an autistic son.
This program helps families dealing with autism to achieve a sense of normality which is important. Autism is on the rise, according to a recent publication by the CDC, the current statistics are that 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed with autism. Programs such as Wings for Autism are critical in helping families and companies such as US Airways and Southwest Airlines are going out of their way to help.