There’s plenty to hate about flying. I hate slogging through slow airport security lines, oversized bag in tow. I hate waiting for the laptop toting novices to carefully untie their knee high lace up boots and meticulously lay out their possessions on the conveyor belt at the screening checkpoint. Sure, my patience could use a bit of work, but, why would anyone wear knee high lace up boots to fly in the first place? I just don’t understand.
While traveling alone has it’s drawbacks, making it from point A to point B with a special needs sibling can be a true challenge. (It really makes my gripe about settling for Dunkin’ Doughnuts coffee rather than the across the terminal Caribou Coffee stand seem highly insignificant.)
When your travel companion has special needs, there is much packing, planning, and preparation before the airport even enters the picture. If special medications or assistive devices are necessary, there’s the added pressure of remembering everything. Unlike the toothbrush left laying on the counter, it’s impossible to run to Target for another set of arm splints upon arrival at your destination!
Then, there’s the travel day. Navigating airports can be harrowing for the most frequent flyer, and this experience can be exponentially intimidating for a child with special needs! For those with sensory issues, there’s much to contend with. Aside from the hectic process of reaching the airport, the terminals are filled with people, sights, sounds, and an overall hustle and bustle create an over stimulating environment.
One airline, Jet Blue, has seen the problem, and they’re doing something about it. The airline is working with airports to begin a program called “Wings for Autism” which will allow Autistic children to practice the boarding process, and will assist the parents with resources for a better traveling experience. Crew members are being trained to anticipate and meet the needs of families traveling with special needs children.
The goal is to create a familiar, friendly environment in which special needs children feel safe and comfortable. Jet Blue hopes to open travel options to families who would otherwise remain homebound due to the special needs of their child.
After a few special travel adventures through the years, I am deeply grateful to JetBlue for their act of compassion.
Traveling with those with special needs is an experience. Thank you, Jet Blue, for making it a good one!
by:: Rachel Martin