Aer Lingus has launched visual guides online to help prepare people with autism and similar conditions for air travel, in partnership with the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support at Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia. The guides contain a series of slides that walk the viewer through all the steps involved in preparing for and experiencing air travel, and they are intended to ease anxieties surrounding flying for individuals with autism. An industry first, the guides are now available for families and caretakers to download from aerlingus.com.
The guides capture the entire air travel experience in colour photographs with first-person language and are divided into three parts: pre-flight, on board, and post-flight.
Aer Lingus recommends going through the guides prior to travelling to prepare for the unknown, which can be anxiety-inducing in individuals with autism. It gives parents and caregivers unprecedented access to visuals that are not normally available, given today’s security standards.
Declan Kearney, Director of Communications at Aer Lingus, commented: “We are delighted to launch this resource as we know it will make a real impact on the travel experience of people with autism. We understand this can be a stressful experience for both the individual, families and caregivers and we noted a need for increased support in this area.
“The guides are available online so that caregivers can easily access them, whether that’s on a desktop computer, on the go via a mobile device or by printing it out onto cards.”
Shirelle Stewart Director of the National Autistic Society NI has welcomed the launch of the visual guides, she said: “Like anyone else, people on the autism spectrum and their families want the opportunity to travel and go on holiday. But many rely on routine and find the often busy, loud and unpredictable environment of airports and getting flights disorientating and overwhelming.
“The National Autistic Society through its Autism Friendly Award recommends that businesses take steps to provide relevant information to aid accessibility. These visual guides are a step in the right direction and we congratulate Aer Lingus on this initiative.
“The National Autistic Society is keen to work with airports, airlines and businesses to make sure autistic people and their families have the same opportunity to travel as everyone else.”
Each guide was produced by Kinney Center Board Certified Behaviour Analysts and Aer Lingus, with the cooperation of John F. Kennedy International Airport Terminal 5 and the Transportation Security Administration.
Jack Foley, Vice President for Aer Lingus in North America was instrumental in leading the development of this resource with the Kinney Center for Autism Education. Speaking about the launch he said:
“Aer Lingus is proud to offer this proactive resource that allows families and caretakers who fly with our airline to narrate and prepare for travel scenarios that could be challenging for individuals with autism. We are grateful to our partners at the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support for giving us this opportunity to respond to the needs of this population and for providing this essential support to our guests.”
The guides can be accessed online at www.aerlingus.com/travel-information/travelling-with-children/travelling-with-an-asd-child/