The number of children diagnosed with autism has been increasing in the past decade. Current statistics estimate that 1 in 68 children are living with autism in the United States. An estimated 5,000 children with autism spectrum disorder are enrolled in Broward County Public Schools (BCPS).
Families with autistic children face many challenges, air travel is one of them. On Wednesday, May 17, 2017, Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief, in partnership with JetBlue Airways, Broward County Public Schools and the Broward County Aviation Department will host the 5th Annual “Autism in Flight” event at Broward County’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
“This is the fifth year for this event and it has been very successful in helping children and their families travel. The stress of flying in general is magnified in the mind of a child with autism spectrum disorder. By taking them through the experience from check-in to take off, they are much more comfortable because they know what to expect and it’s a lot less frightening, “said Mayor Sharief.
The Autism in Flight Program began in 2013 after Mayor Sharief was contacted by a family in her district with an autistic child and learned of the potential challenges they faced when using airports.
The children check in at the ticket counter, go through a TSA security check and board a real airplane provided by JetBlue for a mock “take-off.” Trained JetBlue crewmembers provide assistance throughout the process. JetBlue pilots and flight attendants are onboard to simulate the true flying experience as they meet and interact with the children. Behavioral consultants from BCPS are on hand to assist students with any issues that might arise. The plane actually travels on the tarmac for a short distance before returning to the gate.