I am not only an AvGeek and frequent flyer … I am also the father of an autistic child. Autism takes many different forms and makes traveling as a family very challenging. I wrestle with the very notion of taking my youngest son on a flight, because I can not predict what the experience will be like for him, for me or those sealed in a flying metal tube with us. His two older siblings have flown to California, Las Vegas, Virginia, but the youngest has yet to experience the joys of airline travel.
As April is National Autism Awareness Month, JetBlue’s team at Boston Logan Airport has a wonderful program for familiarizing autistic children and their families with airline travel. The airline has established the now annual Wings for Autism program, along with the Charles River Center, Boston Logan Airport and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), to give autistic children and their families the opportunity to experience the airport environment, the TSA screening process and meet the people who make flights happen.
Even the simplest travel with many autistic children can be a stressful anxiety filled outing … and that is just for the parents. Out burst, melt downs, failure to follow instructions, getting undressed and a host of other scenarios play out, but the Wings for Autism program is a situation where they can play out in a safe environment, surrounded by airline and airport staff trained to address these situations and hopefully give children a positive experience where they view the airport and airplane as an environment they want to be in and are comfortable in, reducing the negative situations parents of autistic children face every day.
I’d love to tell you what the Wings for Autism program does for each child but each child with autism is different, with different needs and different experiences … but the fact that that program exists to assist families struggling with the challenging question of “do I book a flight?” is fantastic.
I plan to bring my son to Logan Airport this Saturday to let him learn the airport experience if things go as planned. If you are in the region and have a child with autism consider bringing them as well.
JetBlue’s Wings for Autism program is at Boston Logan Airport this Saturday, April 6th, from 9:00am to 1:00pm. You can get more information and register for the program with the Charles River Center HERE. If you need more info, drop JetBlue a Tweet at @JetBlue