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Airlines provide autism support: Advice for flying

Lana Bandoim's picture

An airport can be an overwhelming location for a child with autism, and some families struggle to find an accommodating airline that will meet their needs. However, airports are beginning to join forces with nonprofits to offer special programs for autistic children. They allow families to practice taking their kids to an airport in dry runs.


Children who have autism often struggle with airports because of the loud noises, crowded terminals and unfamiliar experiences. This places limitations on a family’s ability to travel or take a vacation. However, a nonprofit organization is working with airports and airlines to give them the opportunity to fly again.

Autism Inclusion Resources (AIR) recently worked with O'Hare International Airport and United Airlines to let families with autistic children experience the airport in a safe environment. AIR is a nonprofit that offers a special travel program designed to introduce autistic children to airports and airlines through dry runs.

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A recent dry run at O'Hare International Airport by a family with an autistic child focused on going through security and boarding the plane. The program also offers the chance to experience waiting in line and taking a short flight. It is designed to make the airport experience easier for families who have to deal with autism every day.

Families who travel often with their children have found several tips that help them minimize meltdowns or tantrums while enhancing the trip. First, preparation is an important part of the process, so the dry runs offered by Autism Inclusion Resources are useful. Second, you may want to ask if priority boarding is an option at the airport or if there are resources for families with autistic children. In addition, checking on the food ahead of time can help you prepare for problems. You may also want to consider ear plugs or headphones for children sensitive to sound.

Read more about autism:
Medicaid coverage of autism services ordered by CMS
Police handcuff autistic boy and force him to stay on top of squad car trunk

Image: Fmwinkler/Wikimedia Commons