Autism awareness: Vancouver International Airport, Canucks network host ‘Learn to Fly’

Click to play video: 'Taking the fear out of flying'
Taking the fear out of flying
Getting on an airplane can be a stressful experience, even for the most seasoned travellers. For anyone who has communication difficulties, it can be downright scary. So a program at YVR tried to take out some of the fear. Here's Julia Foy. – May 4, 2024

Vancouver International Airport and the Canucks Autism Network have teamed up to provide a flight day simulation-type event, called “Learn to Fly.”

The goal is to increase accessibility for air travel for people who are on the autism spectrum.

“Due to anxiety and sensory sensitivities, individuals on the autism spectrum can become overwhelmed by the airport environment,” airport staff said in a release.

“These tours work to decrease anxiety, reduce travel barriers, and build confidence by preparing autistic individuals for what to expect, making the airport a less stressful and more predictable environment.”

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Vancouver produced film looks at autism impact on families

Participants were taken on a tour, and were able to rehearse the entire preflight process on Saturday.

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“It’s all about allowing families to do a dry run of the entire airport experience,” said Lindsay Petrie, with Canucks Autism Network.

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“It will really increase predictability and decrease anxiety.”

The event is an annual one. However this year, for the first-time ever, participants were able to experience a short taxi on the runway while in the airplane.

“Today is really important (for my son). Since 2011, he has been really afraid to get onto an airplane,” Lalaiane Parker said on Saturday, whose son is a participant.

“Ever since then, we never go anywhere. But now, he says he wants to go travel and so this day is good for him to learn that flying is OK.”

Parker said the event will help her son conquer his fears of flying, and he will soon be able to travel to see family members who live outside of Canada.

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