Airports … yikes!

Greetings from New Orleans! I arrived here Saturday, figured I’d have a couple days of fun before giving a disability awareness presentation at the New Orleans Public Library Tuesday. Five days later, and I’m still here.

The original plan was to head back to Chicago after my presentation on Tuesday, but hey,, you’ve been watching the news, right? It’s “Snowmageddon” up there! Our flight has been rescheduled for Thursday, and I’m bracing myself for crowds of delayed passengers at O’Hare. I know we’ll make it through, though. I’m telling you, once you’ve flown with a child who has a disability, you know you can survive anything an airport throws at you.

Our son Gus is 24 years old now, and He’s only flown with us twice. The first time, he was 2 years old. After the second time, when Gus was 10 years old, we vowed he’d never fly with us again. Maybe things would have felt different if people like pediatrician Wendy Ross had been around back when Gus was little. This is from a WALB-TV news story in Albany, Ga. about a program Ross developed to help make flying less traumatic for children with autism:

Pediatrician Dr. Wendy Ross helped developed the program at Albert Einstein Medical Center after hearing the trouble one of her patients was having on the airplane. Ross said the program empowers families to travel.

“The goal is not to fill the plane with tantrum kids,” Ross said. “We really want the families to be prepared and we want the airport to be a little more sensitive and understanding.”

In the story Ross said a number of airlines are providing airplane and crew for training, which includes going through security, real time check in, boarding and even waiting for luggage. I thought she was wise to point out the economic benefit to airlines that participate in this Airport Autism Access Program, too.

Ross says it’s important economically for these families to be able to travel with ease.

“If you think that one in 100 children is affected with autism, and it doesn’t just affect that child, it affects their typically developing siblings,” Ross said. “These families are not going out, which means the whole family is not going out. So for businesses, that’s a huge loss.”


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