Kids with Autism Try Air Travel

By Stilson, Ashley | Deseret News (Salt Lake City), August 18, 2017 | Go to article overview

Kids with Autism Try Air Travel


Stilson, Ashley, Deseret News (Salt Lake City)


By Ashley Stilson

Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY - Onboard a motionless Delta airliner, 25 Utah families shifted in their seats. Parents and children fiddled with the seat belt buckles, played with the folding tray tables and pulled at the window shades.

It was the one flight that was never meant to leave the airport tarmac on Thursday afternoon. Instead of taking off, the families were part of a simulation for parents who have kids with autism.

The simulation gave autistic kids and their families a chance to experience air travel without the stress of leaving on a trip, said James Vaughan, president and cofounder of Families for Autism and Asperger's Standing Together, which hosted the event.

"Going through the process of ticketing and security, all of these things can be a little bit overwhelming for kids on the spectrum," he said. "We just provide them with an opportunity to share in that experience and get an idea of what the travel process is."

Nearly 100 participants received tickets and passed through Transportation Security Administration security for the event at the Salt Lake City International Airport. Airport personnel brought out service dogs, treats and water for families waiting in the terminals before the plane arrived.

Mindy Hunt, of Eagle Mountain, is planning a trip for her family to Disney World in Florida. But she worries about her 9-year-old autistic daughter, Brynley, who has never been on a plane before. Even waiting in the airport was difficult for her, Hunt said.

"We're kind of worried about how she'll do," Hunt said. "I want her to get kind of familiar with it, and not get kicked off the plane when we do try it."

Hunt also hopes the simulation will bring awareness to others about families traveling with autistic children.

"Looking at Brynley, you can't tell anything is wrong with her. So when she does act out, people think she's just being a brat or not disciplined," Hunt said.

Tiffany Van Gelder is also planning a trip with her four kids, all of whom have autism. At the event, she said the volume of the airport was often overwhelming for her kids, ages 6 to 12.

"I'm just hoping that we walk away from it just being able to understand how an airplane works, and what we need to do," she said. …

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