This past October, thousands of people with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities had some extra help when it came to flying. For many on the autism spectrum, or who have other intellectual and developmental disabilities, using airline transportation can prove extremely challenging.
For these individuals, the whole process of flying can seem downright impossible. Jon Meyers, executive director of the The Arc of Arizona, says, “The sensory ‘overload’ of an airport environment, the rapid changes in physical and mental activity, and the unfamiliarity of enclosed spaces can all highly discomforting for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).”
The Wings for Autism event in Phoenix, sponsored by The Arc, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Sky Harbor Airport and others, is designed to alleviate some of the extra suffering that people with these disabilities experience while traveling.
The participants and their families were issued boarding passes at check-in, and admitted through security. Then, they headed toward the runway, waited in line to board the plane and finally, made their way to their seats. The pilots and flight crew then taxied the runway and gave the participants an actual ride, stopping just short of actually taking off!
The goal of the event is to empower families who may have previously been unable to fly due to the extra challenges that living with ASD and other disabilities bring. For one family, their daughter’s fear and anxiety of flying has kept them off airplanes for over seven years.