Since May 2013, Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) has partnered with JetBlue Airlines for the annual Autism in Flight event at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. This year’s event takes place on Wednesday, May 22, 2019. The Broward County Board of County Commissioners, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Broward Sheriff’s Office, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Broward County Aviation Department are also partners in the Autism in Flight event, which has provided opportunities for nearly 200 students with an autism spectrum disorder to participate in a simulated flight experience.
Approximately 60 fourth and fifth grade students from eight BCPS elementary schools – Coconut Palm Elementary School, Coral Park Elementary School, Dania Elementary School, Floranada Elementary School, Norcrest Elementary School, Park Springs Elementary School, Silver Lakes Elementary School and Tradewinds Elementary School – are participating in this year’s simulated flight experience. Students will board the plane, hear boarding announcements from the flight crew, participate in a simulated takeoff and landing, enjoy a JetBlue snack and receive a water cannon salute on their return the gate.
The annual Autism in Flight is the culminating event of several weeks of classroom lessons focused on airport travel. On the day of the event, students and their family members pack their bags and meet at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport for an opportunity to practice the travel experience.
Air travel can be challenging for individuals affected by autism due to symptoms associated with the disorder, including hypersensitivity to large crowds, loud noises and communication difficulties. As a result, many families do not fly due to the fear of the response it could elicit from their children with autism, and subsequently fellow travelers and airline crewmembers. Trained JetBlue crewmembers and BCPS behavioral consultants and staff provide assistance throughout the Autism in Flight event.
Autism in Flight is a win-win for students and families, who are able to travel without anxiety following the simulated flight experience, and for airline, airport and TSA staff, who gain a better awareness of individuals with an autism spectrum disorder.