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ARC of Arizona looks to alleviate stress of flying for autistic kids

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Monday, Oct. 20, 2014

By Sierra Oshrin


MICHAEL GORDON/CRONKITE NEWS: Flying can be a rough ride for children with autism, but as Sierra Oshrin reports, one advocacy organization is hoping to change that.

SIERRA OSHRIN/CRONKITE NEWS: ARC of Arizona and Phoenix Sky Harbor are trying their best to alleviate some of the stress these families face when traveling by air, and they’re doing it through practice.

JOHN DALEY/MANAGING DIRECTOR OF AMERICAN AIRLINES: You know, as a father of a 16-year-old Autistic boy my family early on worked our way through this process and we’ve flown many miles since then, so it is possible. We enjoy some great travel experiences at this time. Not all of them are smooth, but over time we’ve been able to figure out the best way to make it happen.

SIERRA OSHRIN/CRONKITE NEWS: Flying can be scary for children, but the unpredictability of flying for a child with autism can be downright terrifying. That’s why the ARC of Arizona put on Wings for Autism, an airport rehearsal.

Over 90 families were able to go through security and board a plane, which then was taxied down the runway at Phoenix Sky Harbor.

JENNIFER BOUTHA/MOTHER OF CHILD WITH AUTISM: We had a great time today. It was such a great opportunity for him to come and experience the airport, the noise of the airplane, and see what it’s like so that when we come and we actually fly he’ll be more comfortable and he won’t be so overwhelmed.

SIERRA OSHRIN/CRONKITE NEWS: Though this is a national initiative this was the first Wings for Autism event to be held in Phoenix.

NITA KAUFFMAN/BOARD MEMBER OF THE ARC: Oh, I think we more than accomplished what we. We were surprised at the turnout the response that we even had here. We had a huge turnout, look at all of the green shirts we have, we had a huge turnout of volunteers. I think it was completely successful. Looking forward to the next one.

SIERRA OSHRIN/CRONKITE NEWS: Five more programs are planned in the next few weeks in cities from Anchorage, Alaska, to Washington, D.C..