I have always wanted to take my family to the UK to visit the Doctor Who Experience (pretty nerdy huh?). Realistically, I figured it would never happen, primarily due to my not being sure exactly how my son would be able to handle the long flight. When he gets nervous he stims, and while my family and I may be used to it, I am not sure that other passengers would appreciate his random “barking” or other things that he may do to comfort himself. Not only that, Drew has such terrible anxiety about leaving the house, that it is nearly impossible to even get him to walk near the front door.
I know that as his mom, it is my duty to help him overcome his fear. I want my adventurous little boy to do more than explore the world from the computer, I want him to actually get out and see it. And besides being able to travel by car, bus or train, there is also the dreaded airplane. We were lucky enough to be able to participate in wonderful airport rehearsal program called Wings for Autism.
“Wings for Autism® is designed to alleviate some of the stress that families who have a child with autism experience when traveling by air. “
The event lasted about 3.5 hours and simulated the entire airport experience. As soon as we walked through the doors we were greeted by Delta Ambassadors who were pilots and flight attendants. This was perfect because Drew was so nervous about the entire thing. He made sure to point out to each and every person he talked to, that he was not flying anywhere! Of course, due to my craziness and not checking behind my own self with registration ( darn autofill), I accidentally registered under my maiden name. So that meant checking in and getting through TSA was an absolute nightmare for us! But my wonderful husband reassured me that it actually goes a lot more smoothly than that (he was more upset about me registering under my maiden name).
Once we finally made it through TSA, we enjoyed pizza and cookies with our group. At this point Andrew had been handling the process and everything well–including our 20 minute hold up with TSA. Isla on the other hand..not so much. However, he still made sure to remind everyone that he was not, flying anywhere! When it came time to board he was just a tad bit hesitant but was excited to go on the plane. Once we got onto the plane, he was able to go inside the cockpit
with the co-pilot and “fly” the plane. The joy that was in his voice, brought me to tears! That is an experience that I could never thank them enough for.
After he was able to “fly”, we made our way to our seats and began to go through all of the steps as they do with a normal flight. What I loved the most was his “independence” during this event. He wanted to do everything on is own, which is unusual for him. Once the flight attendants went through the instructions, we began to taxi the runway. He was so excited! Although we only go to a speed of 50 mph, it still made him feel as if he was going sonic speed. And he absolutely loved it!
So often families of children with autism are so busy protecting their children from triggers (whether it is the noise or crowds, or overstimulation), that we often may not get to travel due to worry about the kids. While other people may look at it as just traveling, for autistic families it can be a major event.
There are so many wonderful things I could say about this program, but I don’t ever think I can ever thank Delta, The Columbia Metropolitan Airport, The Early Autism Project, or The Arc of the Midlands and South Carolina, for the wonderful experience they provided for my little
boy. Captain Todd was sweet the entire time, and you want to know what really made Andrew feel special? The fact that the captain and flight attendants remembered his name! He told me when we got home, “they knew who I was a mommy, all day long, with all of the people; they still knew I who I was!”.
Once again thank you so much to all of the wonderful sponsors for this event! Check out more photos below!
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