Calgary

Calgary airport makes travel easier for children with autism

Navigating an airport before a flight can be a stressful experience for families with children. It can be ever more of a challenge for families with a child on the autism spectrum.

Kids get a simulated experience, complete with a special passport

Kids from a few dozen families were given a full simulated airport experience, complete with a special passport that gets stamped at the end. (Stephanie Wiebe/CBC)

Navigating an airport before a flight can be a stressful experience for families with children. It can be ever more of a challenge for families with a child on the autism spectrum.

So the Calgary Airport Authority launched a program in the fall to gently introduce that process well in advance of a booked flight.

Kids from a few dozen families were given a full simulated airport experience, complete with a special passport that gets stamped at the end.

The YYC Navigators program allows those families with children with autism spectrum disorder a chance to go through to motions before boarding a plane.

Raed Jan brought his six-year-old son who has autism. The family only ever came to the airport to pick up guests.

Raed Jan says he wanted his 6-year-old son to experience the program to make flying to the U.S. next month a little less frustrating. (Stephanie Wiebe/CBC)

"This is one of the showstoppers for me," Jan said.

"In the past five years I couldn't travel anywhere with the family just because I know I am going to get extremely frustrated with the flight."

Jan says this program is a great learning experience in preparation for their vacation to the U.S. in a little more than a month.

Peggy Blacklock, with the airport authority, says when the program was tested out in the fall, families told her it made a huge difference.

Peggy Blacklock, with the airport authority, says they have had a lot of requests for the program. (Stephanie Wiebe/CBC)

"They have been able to fly and have successful family vacations together," Blacklock explained.

"Whereas before they weren't sure they were able to do that. So it's been more than worthwhile."

She says the authority has received a lot of requests for a program like this.

Organizers hope to continue this event again next year. (Stephanie Wiebe/CBC)

"We have received numerous inquiries, phone calls, etc, asking for a program like this for individual families so we thought rather than try to accommodate everyone on a one-off basis, it just made sense to launch an official program and accommodate as many families as we could at one time."

Organizers hope to continue this event again next year.

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