A group of local families kicked off Autism Awareness Month with a first class experience at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
When Larry Sprinkle is announcing the next flight, you know it’s not a regular day at the airport. For the first time, a Wings of Autism event was held in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s essentially an airport rehearsal so families who have children with autism can feel confident to book their next trip.
The timing was perfect for Leslie Cowles. She’s preparing to fly her family to Disney World in a few weeks.
“We are coming to do a practice run and make sure everything goes smooth and relieve some of the anxiety that he and I both have,” she said.
Amber Nunez has high hopes of taking her son to visit his grandparents across the country. She believes Wings of Autism will help them get there.
“Romeo has loved airplanes since he was born, his grandparents were in the Air Force. This is really important to us. It really hits home and he's really excited,” she said.
The families go through a very realistic experience. They faced lines, security, and even pat downs. The airport can be an overwhelming place.
“Sometimes certain smells can kind of set of a little bit of a meltdown, definitely bright lights also can affect someone with autism,” Cowles told us.
At the event, therapy dogs helped ease any fears. Parents say the process helped them as much as it did their children.
“I was a little intimidated and overwhelmed with that whole idea of flying with him,” said Nunez. Cowles added that social pressures also add stress. “The possibility of other people looking at us, judging us as parents, not really knowing the actual full story of what's going on,” Cowles shared.
So whether you are going to visit grandma in Arizona or going to Disney…with Wings of Autism every family has the opportunity to make a beautiful memory with a little less stress.
“We're just so grateful that they've been able to do something like this for our children and even grown adults who haven't flown before because of not knowing what to expect,” said Cowles.
A big thank you goes out to all the volunteers and sponsors of the event: Delta, TSA, Charlotte Douglas International Airport, The Arc of Mecklenburg County, The Arc of Union/Cabarrus, The Autism Society of North Carolina’s Mecklenburg Chapter