Today at OCA Adriana, Behavior Assistant at OCA, shares with us her experience in going with her client, Aurora and Aurora’s Mommy on a visit to the Orlando International Airport. This was part of the Blue Horizons for Autism program offered in a partnership between Autism Speaks and JetBlue. The program gives kids with autism and their parents the opportunity to go through the airport security to experience and prepare for future travel. Here’s Adriana’s story…
As we got to the airport, we went immediately to register and get our tickets, just like it would be if we were going to travel in reality. We then proceeded to airport security. In there, we practiced waiting in a line for our turn. Once it was our turn, we had to take our shoes off and pass through the detector. Aurora was confused as to why we had to do all this. Her Mommy explained that we had to take our shoes off and pass through the big machine so that we could get to the plane. The excitement of getting on the plane for the first time made it easier for Aurora.
As we walked to our gate, Aurora was mesmerized with everything that she was seeing. Once at our gate, Aurora got to see the airplane from afar. There was more waiting, which it was great because this is how it would be if we were traveling in reality. This gave us the opportunity to tell Aurora what to do in case she got scared. We told her that if she got scared she could do deep breaths and hold her Mommy’s hand. We practiced twice and then it was our turn to get in the airplane.
Once on the airplane, we let Aurora pick her seat. She picked the one next to the window and as per her request, her Mommy sat next to her, and then me. We waited some more for everyone to get in the plane. Then, we put our seat belts on and listened to the instructions. We pretended that we were going to go to New York and the flight was about 2 hours long. Once in the air (pretending), we got to take our seat belts off. We waited for the snacks, provided by JetBlue. We then waited some more. At some point during our pretend flight Aurora mentioned being scared, she requested that her Mommy hold her and we practiced the deep breathing exercise.
Finally, it was time to put our seatbelts on because we were landing. This was a little difficult because Aurora didn’t want to put her seatbelt on. We explained to her that she needed it on because the plane was going to land. We showed her the light that shows when to have your seatbelt on or off in the airplane and she agreed to put it on. Once the plane landed and it was time to get out of the plane, we walked to the exit. Aurora started saying good bye to everyone in the plane. Some of the airport staff and people from Autism Speaks were waiting for us outside. They greet us with cupcakes and drinks for the kids, something nice to add to this great experience.
Aurora not only got the experience what would it be to board a plane for the first time, but she also made new friends along the way. It was amazing to be there as her behavior assistant and to have the opportunity to experience this with her and her family.
OCA’s Early Intervention Program