Dr. Wendy Ross Pioneers Flight Practice for Children with Autism


After witnessing a family and a child with autism deplane from a stress-induced episode, pediatrician Wendy Ross realized she needed to do something to help children with autism fly. The stress of going through security, and so many new experiences can cause children with autism to have a meltdown, and prevent families from travelling certain distances as a result. Dr. Ross, who has two boys with her husband, worked with Philadelphia International Airport to create a program for children with autism. The program allows the kids to practice the process of going to the airport, checking in, passing through security screenings, and even boarding a plane. This provides a memory of the experience for them to draw upon when the day of the actual flight comes around. By minimizing the fear of the unknown, and making flying a prior experience, the children are more successful in travel.

United Airlines began making the program nationally available, partnering with Autism Inclusion Resources (AIR) in November. The AIR program is now available in major cities including Washington, D.C. and Chicago, and will expand to Houston, Los Angeles, and Newark in 2013. The Green family testified to the success of the program, which allowed them to take their son Julian to Disney World in 2011 after completing a dry run though of the boarding process using Ross’ program.

Source and image courtesy of People.

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