I’ve written before that I can’t imagine how confusing taking a flight is for children. I would have no idea how to explain TSA to them, and I can’t imagine how confusing the sounds and experiences of a flight are.
When my cousin was little, she grabbed her ears during take-off and yelled, panicked, “My ears broke!” (Adorable and heart-breaking at the same time).
For some people, the sights, sounds, and sensations in-flight are even more distressing. That’s why Families of Autism and Asperger’s Standing Together (F.A.A.S.T.) in partnership with Delta started organizing dry-runs of flights for children on the autism spectrum.
This is the third year they have organized this.
Once a year, the organization partners with Delta Airlines and Salt Lake City International Airport to simulate a realistic flight — including check-in, security screening and boarding — so that the children can get used to the routine and procedures of air travel.
Vaughan said his own son, Kian, has experienced “meltdown after meltdown” while traveling. Flying is anxiety-inducing enough for the average person who has to deal with cramped spaces and possible delays, he said.
“Sights, sounds, smells will add to that anxiety” for a child on the autism spectrum, Vaughan said.
Even seemingly benign sounds like the clicking of the overhead storage bins or the flushing of the toilet could send Davis into a spiral, according to Pauley. Tight spaces and delays are another trigger.
The flight attendants were there to answer every question the children had about what they were experiencing.
The volunteer captain for the run-through has a child who has Aspergers, and according to the article, was very proactive in explaining things and giving tips as they go.
Here are some photos F.A.A.S.T. posted after the event:
Delta has been very proactive in providing support to customers on the autism spectrum.
They’ve even launched a calming room in the Atlanta Airport.
The room, located in a quiet space on F Concourse, contains a mini ball pit, bubbling water sculpture, a tactile activity panel and other items children can interact with to help calm and prepare them for their travel experience.
“Today Delta follows through with a commitment we made a year ago to ensure our customers traveling with children on the autism spectrum can experience the airport in a comfortable environment,” said Jon Edwards, Managing Director – Airport Customer Service, Atlanta, before cutting the ribbon.
Delta is also involved in a lot of charity work. Last year, I pulled a Delta airplane in support of the American Cancer Society.