The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is taking part in a new program designed to help those with autism prepare for air travel.
Between the crowds, security screenings and boarding procedures, traveling places stress upon any individual or family, but for people with autism, pre-travel program ‘Navigating Autism' can help alleviate some stress and allow the procedure to become more comfortable and familiar.
"Navigating Autism is designed to familiarize participants with every step of the air travel process, from the time they park their vehicle at the airport to the time they buckle their seatbelt on a plane," Shelly Lopez, manager of the program for the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), said. "Children with autism who are familiar with the sights, sounds and spaces at the airport and associate them with positive experiences are more likely to respond well to actual plane trips."
‘Navigating Autism' was developed by the MAC in partnership with the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM). Airlines at MSP, TSA officials and Airport Foundations MSP representatives are set to aid in the implementation of the program.
The program begins before the trip with a step-by-step story that explains what travelers see and do at the airport. Families can then register for a guided walk through the airport that mimics the travel itinerary in which participants undergo a security screening, locate the airline gate, board a plane and locate seats.
"The more people understand autism, the better equipped they are to accommodate the special needs travelers with autism might have," Lopez said. "Our goal, ultimately, is to make air travel a viable option for more people with autism and their families."
Guided walks are provided monthly, and registration is offered on a first-come, first-served basis.