Preparing children with ASD for flying
Manchester Airport first launched its Autism Awareness initiative back in 2009 to help support autistic children and their families when using the airport. The initiative has now been refreshed and includes a booklet and video which explains to children on the autistic spectrum what happens when they go to the airport and covers all 3 terminals.
Keith Duffy, actor, singer and Autism campaigner supports the initiative and appears in the video.
“I’ve been actively fundraising and raising awareness for children with autism for many years now, ever since my daughter Mia was diagnosed in 2001. I think it’s brilliant what Manchester Airport is doing to help both children and parents affected by autism. This initiative will make a real difference to families traveling through the airport and I’m delighted to be supporting Manchester Airport with this.”
The booklets and video show in detail the chronological order of using the airport. Arriving, checking in, going through security and boarding the plane. The child is therefore made aware of what will happen and the order of events. The airport will also be a familiar place when they arrive and will therefore lessens anxieties. The ‘awareness book’ videos for Terminals 1, 2 and 3, can be viewed here.
Gillian Mann from Morecambe UK recently used this service with her son Henry, 11 who has Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Gillian told Autism Daily Newscast.
“Travelling with Henry is always a stressful time, especially during half term. So throw in a change of airline and a change of terminal and you’ve mixed up a recipe for disaster. Luckily I had seen a friend post a link about the autism awareness policy at Manchester airport. I called the number and got through to a fantastic lady at the special assistance desk. Not only did she give me a blue bangle for Henry to wear, which said “special flyer”(Henry HATES people knowing he has autism as it makes him really self-conscious.) Because we fly a lot I just told him we are a special flyer as we’ve clocked up loads of air miles. This meant we skipped the one mile queue at security which is the place where the sensory overload and meltdowns normally start.”
Gillian was also sent an autism awareness booklet and video which she found hugely helpful as the terminal they were going to was new for Henry. Gillian further describes her experiences.
“The security staff were so friendly towards Henry. They answered his non-stop questions about exploding liquids and confiscated items with genuine concern and didn’t rush us through even when a queue had started to form behind us. When we got to the body/hand luggage scanners they made sure we stayed together. In the past Henry has been rushed through and I’ve been shouted at for running after him as I always “beep” going through the scanners. Having to explain Henry has autism in front of him and everyone else always leads to a massive meltdown as he gets very self-conscious and embarrassed. With the bangle there was no explanation necessary.”
Gillian ended by telling Autism Daily Newscast that her experience of using the ‘Special Flyer’ service was extremely positive and that she hopes that other airports will start to use a similar service.
More information can be found on Manchester Airport’s Travel Advice for Parents and Carers of Children on the Autistic Spectrum page.
Hard copies of the booklets can be requested free of charge via Manchester Airport’s Customer Contact Centre on 08714 777 747 or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org