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

BALTIMORE, MD (11/30/16) — To give children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities a “practice” opportunity to experience the sometimes challenging aspects of airline travel, The Arc Baltimore with BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, Southwest Airlines, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Maryland Department of Transportation, and Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation to hold Wings for Autism®.

To be held on Saturday, December 3, noon – 3 p.m., at BWI Thurgood Marshall International Airport, Wings for Autism® offers individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families 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.

Wings for Autism® also gives airport, airline, TSA professionals, and other personnel the opportunity to observe, interact, and deliver their services in a structured, learning environment.

Approximately 70 families from across Maryland will arrive independently at BWI Thurgood Marshall International Airport by noon then make their way to the Southwest Airlines international passenger ticket counter, located adjacent to the B/C security checkpoint, for check-in before going through TSA security.

All participants will be at the gate by 1:15 p.m. and will board by 1:30 p.m. Once on board, flight attendants will provide the usual pre-flight instruction and simulate some aspects of the flight experience. Participants will depart the aircraft and proceed to pick up their luggage by 2 p.m.

“Air travel can be challenging for anyone and particularly for individuals with autism or other intellectual or developmental disabilities, given the issues inherent in clearing security, the overwhelming noises, and harsh lights,” explains The Arc Baltimore Executive Director Stephen H. Morgan.

“Wings for Autism® is designed to help not only in alleviating some of the stress individuals may feel, but also in educating airport and airline professionals about how best to serve children and adults with autism or other intellectual and developmental disabilities in the future,” Morgan continues.

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, Chief Executive Officer 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.”

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