Centerlines - October 2011 - (Page 58)
P S E U ER F CAOSL N GM N O C U S
WINGS FOR AUTISM
Airport partnership reaches out to families with special needs
BY JODI R ICHARDS
arlier this year, Boston Logan International Airport gave families who previously might have thought of air travel as impossible the opportunity to have the full airport experience without leaving the ground. Its program, Wings for Autism, was such a success another session is planned for November. Wings for Autism is a partnership between the Massachusetts Port Authority; The Charles River Center, a Needham, Mass.-based nonprofit organization serving children and adults with developmental disabilities; the Transportation Security Administration and JetBlue Airways. Logan does its best to reach out to any group that asks for special services at the airport, said Brad Martin, deputy director of aviation customer service. When Jennifer Robtoy, director of autism services at The Charles River Center, contacted Massport regarding assistance for a family she works with through the center, the airport jumped at the chance to help. “[The family] has two sons—a typical son and an autistic son,” Robtoy explained. “The autistic son had a huge meltdown in the airport and [the mother] had to stay home with him, and the typical son and [father] went to Disney. [The mother] said, ‘I wish there was a way that the airport would allow us to go and try it out first.’” Wings for Autism is designed to do just that. Logan officials partnered with the Charles River Center, TSA and JetBlue airlines to arrange a field trip day for families with a child with autism. “This is a great way for [the parents of children with autism] to see if it’s possible,” Robtoy said. “It’s a lot of money to pay for a trip to have your kid not go through security, not get onto a plane. A lot of those parents have this fear.” First meetings for the Wings for Autism team took place in January, but the planning “really got up to speed” in April, Martin noted. The Charles River Center reached out to the families it serves to participate in a field trip exercise. The event was designed especially for the families “to see if the kids could handle going through the checkpoint process, going down the jet way, going through the door of the aircraft,” Martin said. “There are so many details that can trigger a reaction that other people wouldn’t understand.” According to Robtoy, 170 people participated in the exercise. The exercise took place in the airport’s international Terminal E, he said. Terminal E’s schedule, which mainly has European departures that do not begin until late afternoon, allowed the airport the flexibility and open space to conduct the exercise, without impeding on the normal traffic pattern of the facility. Working with the TSA, Martin said, boarding cards were preprinted and the parents were all vetted ahead of time through the normal TSA screening process. The TSA agents assigned to the security checkpoint during the exercise were given an overview of how children with autism might behave, as well as suggestions on how to encourage them through the process.
JetBlue provided the aircraft as well as several crewmembers, including pilots, to help with the day’s exercise.
Brad Martin, deputy director of aviation customer service for Boston.
CENTERLINES | OCTOBER 2011
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Centerlines - October 2011
On the Hill and On the Stump
The 2011 William E. Downes Jr. Award
Cover Story: Money, Service and Regulations are Top Concerns at Small Airports
Feature: Celebrating 20 Years of Annual Conferences
Feature: The Heart of the City—Aerotropolis Concept Positions Airports as City Cores
Security: TSA Reauthorization
Passenger Focus: Wings for Autism
On Management: Health and Happiness—Wellness Programs Benefit Employee and Employer
Index of Advertisers/Advertiser.com
Centerlines - October 2011