Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Come Fly with Me: The Flight Crew Introduced Themselves ... They Too Had Children with Autism and the Pilot Who Led the Tour, Erich Andrew Ries, Had Flown Several Times with His Son on the Spectrum

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Come Fly with Me: The Flight Crew Introduced Themselves ... They Too Had Children with Autism and the Pilot Who Led the Tour, Erich Andrew Ries, Had Flown Several Times with His Son on the Spectrum

Article excerpt

The thought of working through severe behavior in a closed compartment, flying through the air at 40,000 feet, around a hundred people I've never met, makes me want to vomit. Literally, vomit. As you can imagine, since our son's diagnosis we have not flown together as a family on an airplane. Seven years have passed and we have managed to drive to every location or ask my parents to watch our boys so we do not have to endure this unthinkable act.

Realizing that some day we may need to fly. we looked into an offer we could not refuse. A few weeks ago, we drove to the Atlanta airport to meet a flight crew from Delta airlines. They have started doing mock flights for children with autism to introduce the idea of families flying with their children on the spectrum.

The flight crew introduced themselves. They were a special crew because they had something in common with us. They too had children with autism and the pilot who led the tour, Erich Andrew Ries, had flown several times with his son on the spectrum. Erich was different. He didn't dwell on the fact that we hadn't flown with our son in seven years. The Delta pilot instead spent time educating us and encouraged us that the thought of us flying together was not just a pipe dream.

When we walked through the TSA checkpoint, I started to snarl. I thought to myself, "Oh this is going to be fun." I was not allowed to curl my lip for too long. I quickly learned that some things have changed in the last seven years. The team discussed a program called TSA Care (1-855-787-2277). If you call ahead and explain to them your child's disability and when you will be arriving, they will work with you at the TSA gate. What a brilliant idea. We started to walk through the airport. Broden was a little uneasy, but he hung on to Mark and kept moving. Who really took me by surprise was Hayden. He was looking around and amazed at what was in the airport. "Mom, they have restaurants and stores in here! This place is huge!" I looked over and asked Hayden, "Honey, haven't you seen the inside of an airport before?" I realized that the last time Hayden flew in a plane was when he was three years old. My heart sank. This is not only a new experience for Broden, but for Hayden too.

Once we arrived at the gate, Erich gave us pointers on how to fly with our kids. He used his own experiences to educate us. He assured us that it was not always easy, but the key was to learn from our mistakes and to keep trying. …

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