Last week, JetBlue partnered with Autism Speaks and Pacific Child and Family Associates on to host more than 300 people for a Blue Horizons for Autism airport rehearsal event at Burbank Bob Hope Airport.
Blue Horizons for Autism provides families and individuals affected by autism with the opportunity to navigate the air travel experience in a realistic, relaxed environment, surrounded by other families in the autism community. 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.
Blue Horizons for Autism events simulate the entire process associated with traveling by plane. The families begin their day by checking-in at the airport’s ticket counter. Families then proceed through security screening, and wait at a designated gate for the arrival of their flight. Upon boarding the plane, JetBlue crewmembers lead the families through pre-takeoff procedures. To simulate the in air experience, the plane taxies and pulls into another gate to disembark.
In addition to providing the families with an opportunity to experience air travel, Blue Horizons for Autism also educates airport and airline crewmembers about autism and how to best meet the needs of this growing community of one in 88. JetBlue is working with Autism Speaks to roll out additional Blue Horizons for Autism events throughout its 85-city network. Plans are underway for the second annual event at New York’s JFK Airport in September as well as the first international event in Santiago, Dominican Republic later this fall.
In conjunction with Blue Horizons for Autism, Autism Speaks developed Adventures in Autism: A Guide to the Airport Experience to help prepare individuals with autism in advance of their trips.