Many families who have children with autism avoid flying because they are unsure how their children will respond. In an effort to ease the anxiety associated with an airport visit and flying, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), Fraser and the Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) have teamed up to create the Navigating Autism program. The program includes monthly events, all designed specifically for individuals with autism, that guide families through the steps of an airport visit, from walking in the door to finding their seats on a plane.
During the Navigating Autism event, families will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with airport and travel procedures. Children will practice entering the airport, obtain a security pass, go through screening at a TSA security checkpoint and walk through the airport to a boarding gate. To culminate their experience, children and their families will board an aircraft and find their seats. Please note that the aircraft will remain on the ground.
In addition to preparing families for a positive travel experience, the Navigating Autism program also will provide a valuable training and awareness opportunity for airport, airline and TSA personnel to learn how to accommodate children with autism and other special needs.
Families are invited to participate in any of the Navigating Autism event sessions, scheduled for the first Saturday of every month. Join MAC, Fraser and AuSM for a fun, safe practice run, while learning from airport personnel what works and what doesn't work to make your travel experience efficient and less stressful.
A WOW experience for an April 2014 participating family
We were "wowed" by the Navigating Autism program on so many levels. It is one of the most detailed, organized programs that I have ever attended. The details provided from the beginning were helpful, the check in was so organized, and everything about it was so well thought out. Every person that we had contact with was informed, kind, and helpful.
Our son really struggles with new experiences and I feel like the pace was set to what he was comfortable with and the explanations along the way were great. I didn't expect to experience so many things about the airport (actually riding on the tram, seeing the observation deck, locating the "quiet" places around the airport) and all of the details made us so much more confident about traveling in the future. The fact that they even offered water and snacks before we "boarded" was extremely generous after all the walking around. To experience the additional snacks and juice while on the plane was also appreciated.
The pilot and flight staff were all so welcoming, professional, and knowledgeable. I really appreciated the pilot's tips for traveling with a child on the spectrum. We don't often get to have "successful" outings and our family truly enjoyed it. We learned a lot and had fun doing so. I really compliment the entire team for all of the little things that made this such a great day for us (the visuals, the one-on-one help through security, and all of the things that we probably didn't even realize were happening). We are so appreciative of everyone's time to volunteer at this event and for all of your behind the scenes efforts to make this happen. Thank you again for offering this program and for letting us attend.
- Sara L.
Navigating Autism Schedule
Please register for one session only as registering for multiple sessions and only participating in one will limit other families' abilities to participate. Sessions are popular and will fill quickly.
September 6, 2014
October 4, 2014
November 1, 2014
December 6, 2014
These events are being offered free of charge, and require pre-registration. Click on the button below to register for the session that fits with your schedule.
Click here for tips to help you prepare for your airport visit and trip (pdf). Information provided by Rich Kargel, Delta Airlines Pilot and father of a child with autism.
Click here to see the Going to the Airport Social Story, a tool to help your child prepare for his/her airport visit.
The MSP Airport has a special Traveler's Assistance Program that helps those with special needs. Information booths, located strategically throughout Terminal 1-Lindbergh, are staffed by hundreds of volunteers dedicated to providing quality information and services to thousands of travelers every day. Click here to learn more about this program.