FWA makes children with autism comfortable with air travel

Fort Wayne International Airport helped families with autistic children experience boarding a plane to help calm their nerves.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Parents with children who have autism have many unique factors to consider when traveling by plane. Fort Wayne International Airport helped those families feel things out by putting on a plane boarding rehearsal called Wings for Autism.

More than 30 kids and their families took part in FWA’s first-ever Wings for Autism. The event, held Saturday, was presented by Easterseals Arc in partnership with FWA and Allegiant Air.

The kids practiced entering the airport, obtaining boarding passes, going through security and boarding a plane. The goal is to make them more comfortable with airports. That includes the lights, noises, security, and being touched.

“It gives him an opportunity to be able to experience the airport without having to do it,” said Ashley Stemmler, who brought her son Lukas. “So we were able to take our time and get used to it and he was able to take the time and actually see the inside of the plane instead of rushing into a seat. So next time we’ll be more familiar with it and it’ll be fun for him.”

Jana Leonard, an Allegiant Air representative recalled one child who grew a lot from the event.

“He was so hesitant,” she explained. “He walked on and off the aircraft three times and said ‘I can’t do it. I can’t do it.’ By the end, he was walking to the back and hugging the crew that was there. It melts your heart.”

FWA is just the latest airport to join Wings for Autism. There have been 67 events at 40 different airports.