Families practice airport travel for members with sensory issues

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) Local families got to practice traveling at the Springfield-Branson National Airport Saturday. The Arc of the Ozarks sponsored the "Wings For Autism" event. It gives people with sensory struggles a chance to prepare for waiting in lines, going through security and getting on a plane.

For someone with autism or other developmental disabilities, places like an airport can be daunting. Lights are brighter, sounds are louder.

For some families, travel can be quite the test. Arc of the Ozarks family advocate Elizabeth Obrey said, "Wings for Autism" gave the families a chance to try out travel, without the fear of missing a flight.

"What are barriers that the family may fear, anxiety, any issues that may come up are able to be addressed during this time and kind of do a practice to create that predictability," Obrey said.

Families were given boarding passes and went through security. They waited in the terminal and got to board a plane.

The event started last year after the Arc got a call from Jennifer Proctor.
Two of her four daughters are identical twins who have autism.

"Every day is a new day. They could have a great day yesterday, but today could be really hard. This could be the day you're going to get on a plane and fly somewhere," Proctor said.

They've flown as a family, but had some issues.

"It's completely out of their element. Little things, from the noise to the lightning, it can really be a challenge," Proctor said.

For someone with sensory struggles, just walking down the jet bridge can be intimidating. Once they're on the plane, there's a whole new world of sights and sounds.

Last year this practice ended at the bridge for one young man, but Saturday's event marked a milestone. He made it all the way to the plane door.

Proctor said it's all about preparation.

"Each kid or adult that has autism, they're needs are going to be different. One person may need noise-cancelling headphones, one person may need a weighted blanket," she said.

For some, just this practice run was hard, but sometimes, a small step toward progress can make a big difference.

The Arc of the Ozarks says there were about 65 families who participated Saturday and it will continue to hold "Wings For Autism" annually as long as there is a need.