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Wings for Autism® Aims to Ease Airport Stress for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Wings for Autism® Aims to Ease Airport Stress for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

BALTIMORE, MD (1/9/18) — Airline travel is challenging enough for anyone, but imagine having to deal with check-in, security, and boarding if you are autistic or have an intellectual or developmental disability.

To give children and adults with these disabilities a chance to practice all of the aspects of airline travel – from parking and shuttling to the airport terminal to checking-in, going through security, boarding the aircraft, and interacting with airport personnel along the way – The Arc Baltimore will hold Wings for Autism® on Saturday, January 13, 3-5:30 p.m., at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.

About 50 families from across Maryland will participate in Wings for Autism®, which is co-sponsored by BWI Airport, United Airlines, Fraport, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the Maryland Department of Transportation.

“Air travel can be challenging, so imagine how difficult dealing with security, the overwhelming noises, and the harsh lights can be for individuals with autism or other intellectual or developmental disabilities,” says The Arc Baltimore Executive Director Kathleen M. Durkin. “Wings for Autism® aims to alleviate some of the stress these individuals may experience, while educating airport and airline professionals about how best to serve individuals with autism or other intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

On January 13, Wings for Autism® participants will arrive independently at BWI Thurgood Marshall International Airport by 3 p.m., make their way to the International Art Gallery (Concourse D/E Security; pre-security), and then go to the United Airlines passenger ticket counter (near Concourse D) for check-in before going through TSA security.

 All participants will be at the gate by 4:15 p.m. and will actually board a plane by 4:30 p.m. Once on board, flight attendants will provide the usual pre-flight instructions and simulate some aspects of the flight experience. Participants will depart the aircraft and proceed to pick up their luggage by 5 p.m.

Wings for Autism®, one of The Arc’s newest national initiatives, was founded by the Charles River Center, a local chapter of The Arc in Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Port Authority.

“We’re honored to host Wings for Autism® at BWI Marshall,” says Ricky Smith, Executive Director of BWI Marshall Airport. “The program provides a level of experience and comfort for these families and children with autism and other disabilities. It literally opens a window to the world for them.”

 About The Arc

The Arc advocates for and serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, cerebral palsy, and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of nearly 700 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with I/DD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.

About The Arc Baltimore

Dedicated to providing advocacy and high quality, life-changing supports since 1949 in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, The Arc Baltimore supports more than 6,000 adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. As one of the nation’s largest and most respected organizations of its kind, The Arc Baltimore is an indispensable resource, providing employment training and support, day and residential services, family support and education, treatment foster care, respite care, public policy advocacy and information, and referrals. For more information, visit or call 410-296-2272.


  • Media planning to cover the event on-site on Saturday, January 13 are urged to provide name, date of birth, and driver’s license number no later than 2 p.m. on Friday, January 12 to
  • Media will need a valid driver’s license or other form of identification in order to go through TSA security.
  • Media are not permitted to film specific technology (x-ray monitors inside, etc.) or procedures at TSA security checkpoints.
  • Media can park in the designated area behind BWI’s Hourly Garage. For more details, contact BWI Marshall Airport media relations, 410-859-7719.

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