Columbia, SC (WLTX) – Flying can be stressful for anyone, but imagine what it’s like for someone living with autism.
The crowds, noise and unexpected delays can be that much more uncomfortable for the more than 6,000 autistic children living in South Carolina.
On Saturday, local charities partnered with the Columbia Metropolitan Airport to help these passengers and their families prepare for takeoff.
“I’m excited about getting on a plane. Yep. I’m excited about it. I’m excited about it,” said Gabe Taylor.
Checking in, printing boarding passes, making it through security and preparing for takeoff. It’s something that Gabe and his family have gone over many times.
“You do a lot of talking about it. Sometimes you do a social story and have pictures and you try to give them a dry run through it visually before you come to something like this,” said Rose Taylor, Gabe’s mother
The Taylors won’t physically leave the ground. They’d like to, but Gabe and his brother Daniel have autism and their parents are not sure how they’d handle taking flight.
“There’s that unpredictable factor. You don’t really know what’s going to happen next. And you just pray your way through it hoping that everything will be fine,” Rose said.
So they’ve joined close to 50 other families and are taking part in Wings for Autism. It’s an event that gives families with special needs the chance to experience a day at the airport. Melinda Moore helped organize the event.
“There are a lot of trigger points at an airport for somebody with autism and when you meet one person with autism you meet one person with autism, so it’s different for every person. It can be noise. It can be light. It can be standing in line. There could be different trigger points throughout the process, so this allows them to see where these trigger points are and be able to deal with those, so that when they travel for real they know what to expect,” said Moore.
When Gabe was passing through the security process a Transportation Security Administration officer realized the Gabe forgot to take his iPod out of his pocket.
“Luckily he didn’t panic that time and he handed it over, but it can be hard for him to understand that he’s going to get something back if somebody takes something from him,” Rose said.
“It was a lot of fun going to the airport. Just having a good time,” said Gabe.
The Centers for Disease Control found that as many as 1 in 68 children in the United States are living with Autism.
As for the Taylors, they’re not sure when they’ll be able to take a trip, but after today they aren’t ruling out flying as an option.
(© 2016 WLTX)