By Tashanea Whitlow

EAST BOSTON (CBS) — Travelling by plane can be an anxiety-provoking experience for children and families dealing with austism.

A Boston mom is helping such families get over their anxieties with a special program at Logan Airport. “Wings For Autism” gives kids a dry-run before they take to the skies.

Brittany Look of Augusta, Maine described flying with a child with autism: “It’s kind of rough. A lot of screaming. Kind of a traumatic experience.”

The event hosted hundreds of kids at Logan Saturday to provide a full airport experience, from check-in, to passing through security to boarding a plane.

“This is our first practice getting on an airplane, going through the process, so this is going to open up a lot of doors for us to travel,” said Rachel Briggs of Providence, Rhode Island.

Families gathering at Logan Airport Saturday for Wings For Autism. (WBZ-TV)

Traveling with a child with autism can sometimes be difficult. Long lines, large crowds and lights can trigger them and sometimes stop them from seeing the world.

Wings For Autism, now a national program, was founded in Boston by Jennifer Ryan, who at the time was working for the Charles River Center.

“A mom was telling me with tears, ‘I wish we could practice,'” Ryan said.

After the family she was working with missed a trip to Disney, Ryan reached out to Massport, and the rest is history.

“The first event we had 250 people register within the first week. And now we have anywhere between 400 and 500 people twice a year,” Ryan said.

Lauren Lopes, 22, of Abington, has autism and Williams Disease. She said wants to celebrate her birthday with Mickey and Minnie.

“It’s a chance of a lifetime, really, for her, because we can only travel locally with her to like Maine, New Hampshire,” her mother said. “It’d be nice to see her go on a plane.”

Similar rehearsal programs are also available in Detroit, Philadelphia and New York’s JFK International Airport.

 

Tashanea Whitlow

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