American Airlines brought the “It’s Cool to Fly” program to San Diego this weekend ahead of Tuesday’s World Autism Awareness Day.
The carrier invited children with autism and their parents to participate in a mock flight at San Diego International Airport on Saturday.
The free event saw as many as 50 people pass through security, head to the gate, board a plane and taxi around the runway as if they were about to take off on an actual flight.
Daniel Castillo, whose two sons—six-year-old Elias and seven-year-old Nicholas—both have high-functioning autism, took part in the trial run, which typically lasts several hours.
“They have a lot of energy and there can be a lot of noise sensory issues. Things like that, you know, make it a little bit different for them,” Castillo told NBC San Diego. “I think they’re going to be fine.”
“You watch, from start to finish, the parents coming into the airport. When they are sitting and waiting for the plane, you see this face of concern; the what-if factor is all over the parents’ faces,” said Bruce Sickler, an American Airlines employee who inspired the program after suffering an injury in 1993 that limited his mobility.
“They worry how their child is going to react because they’ve seen their reaction before. But then you get on the plane and see that little bit of worry release. Then you get off the plane, and they are excited; they know how much their child can do and that this program has helped make a difference.”
Other airlines including Delta Air Lines have launched similar experiences for children with disabilities and some airports around the world have even made efforts to improve the passenger experience for travelers with autism.
Courtesy of Patrick Clarke
If your child has ADHD, having a “relaxing” family vacation can be challenging — but it can be done. Here are a few vacation ideas that can help keep super-active kids happily occupied while also letting the whole family have fun.
Theme parks are designed for kids—full of rides and child-friendly activities. They are one of the top family vacation ideas for kids with ADHD. TIP: Due to long lines, it’s a good idea to figure out beforehand which activities to do. Consider going on an off-peak day or week.
All-inclusive resorts or cruises:
Kid-friendly resorts and cruises are another vacation option for active kids. Both often have group activities for kids.TIP: When researching your options, check to be sure they offer the kind of activities your child enjoys.
Enjoy the outdoors? Going to a national park can be a great family getaway and is often affordable. Being outside can offer kids with ADHD space and freedom to have fun. Spending time in nature is also good for your child — many kids with ADHD find “green time” to be a much needed break.TIP: Be sure to bring games and toys for any down time, like when it rains.
Farms and dude ranches:
Ranches and farms both tend to offer a variety of things to do throughout the day, such as collecting eggs, milking cows and riding horses, which will keep everyone active.TIP: Look for a ranch or a farm with plenty of organized activities to keep your child busy.
Zooming down a hill on skis can be thrilling for active kids. Going to a ski resort is also a great winter outing.TIP: Look for a resort with lots of different activities the family can try, such as toboggan rides or ice skating, in case the novelty of skiing wears off.
Whatever vacation you end up choosing, a little preparation can help you avoid travel challenges, like sticking to your child’s usual routine for eating and sleeping. Kids with ADHD do best with a set routine.
We would like to thank Understood.org for this wonderful article.
Senzorna is a California-based travel agency that provides “Zen-like” travel services and experiences for adults and families impacted by Autism. Senzorna, through its affiliation with Travel is SWELL (Its parent Company), offers uniquely designed autism-friendly tours and cruises to over 30 destinations across the globe with strong foundations in travel within the United States, the Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America, Africa Asia and Europe.
Our diverse and experienced staff, consisting of Certified Autism Specialists (CAS), Certified Autism Travel Professional (CATP) and volunteers, are passionate about crafting tailor-made vacations that exposes you to new cultures and lifestyles while providing secure and safe facilities for you and your entire family, approved venues recommended by your therapist or physician, enhanced transportation to include the best flights possible, and well-trained staff to assist with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) needs. Most important, we work closely with Certified Autism Centers such as hotel groups, museums, attractions and Destination Management Companies (DMC) to ensure the best value and most accurate pricing available.
This month a new federal law goes into effect requiring airlines to declare how many wheelchairs or motorized scooters they damage or lose.
This new rule will essentially allow wheelchair users to check a government website to find out which carriers are better or worse at handling their wheelchairs, an important item to their independence and mobility.
“It’s really consumer-empowering,” U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth told the Daily Herald. Duckworth is a war veteran and Hoffman Estates Democrat who helped pass legislation to speed up this new federal law.
Duckworth herself has had two wheelchairs break on flights between Washington and O’Hare International Airport. In one instance, the solid titanium rod that connects the seat and the frame had been broken and when she sat in it and she sunk to the ground.
“It’s 5 inches long and 1-inch square. I don’t understand how it could be snapped,” Duckworth said.
She was offered an inferior model that didn’t even allow Duckworth to roll herself in it.
“My wheelchair is my legs and it can’t be easily substituted.”
Before this new rule went into effect, it was unclear how many wheelchairs airlines had damaged or lost.
“We know there were 32,445 disability-related complaints of any kind filed with domestic and foreign air carriers in 2016,” said Liz Deakin, spokeswoman for the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Airlines must report damaged or lost wheelchairs starting this month. The data will be available to travelers in February at the U.S. DOT’s Consumer Air Travel Reports website.
More by Alex Temblador
Over the past several months, I’ve received close to a dozen press releases about attractions, accommodations and events around the Sunshine State that are making changes to their offerings or programming to make travel easier and more accessible for guests with disabilities.
For example, Legoland offers a “Blue Hero” pass to allow no-wait access to attractions and rides for families with autistic children. Saturdays at the Miami Children’s Museum are now sensory-friendly, and the Orlando Repertory Theatre adjusts several of its shows each season to a sensory-friendly environment. Sesame Place, which originated in Pennsylvania but will be added as a “land” to SeaWorld Orlando in 2019, was the first theme park certified as an autism center, featuring specialized attractions for children on the spectrum.
There’s clearly a course-correction being made in tourism for families with disabled children and for disabled adult guests. In the case of autism, the numbers speak for themselves: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 59 children will be identified as being on the autism spectrum. Alice Horn, CEO of VillaKey, a vacation rental company that specifically markets to families with autistic children, said, “Families with disabled children need an extra layer of support, and they need help establishing a comfort level even with the idea of traveling.” Out of VillaKey’s 1,200 rental properties, most of which are in Miami and Orlando, 250 of them are specifically intended for families with autistic children.
Horn worked with the University of Miami’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities on a focus group about families with children on the spectrum and travel. “There was a desire for these families to travel, but there were needs that weren’t being met,” she noted. VillaKey is now the first vacation rental company to be autism certified by the IBCCES, the leading organization for standards revolving around cognitive disorders.
VillaKey’s sensory-friendly properties, which range from $120 per night to well over $600 per night, depending on location and size, are chosen for their quiet locations, soothing decor in calming colors, lights on dimmers and extra security such as fenced pools, doors with chimes or alarms for wandering children. Many are pet-friendly, as some families have service or support animals, and all have kitchens for families with kids on special diets and cook familiar foods.
Autism is just one aspect of these “ability-driven” tourism adjustments. Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach is now giving tours in American Sign Language. Hannah Campbell, associate director of education at Loggerhead, said, “It’s critical that we strive for equal accessibility to the tools and resources we offer individuals to make informed choices and take responsible action regarding the environment.” Creating equal opportunities that enable deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to connect with the center’s mission to protect and conserve ocean ecosystems is essential, which drove the center to include sign language tours in their offerings.
At Loggerhead , the field operations assistant, Jennifer Reilly, who is a member of the deaf community herself, developed the translated content for the tours. “She continues to seek ways to connect the deaf and hard-of-hearing community with our conservation messaging,” said Campbell. Additionally deaf and hard-of-hearing accessible on-campus programming and virtual resources are forthcoming. Guests who have participated in the sign language tours have provided positive feedback, “particularly because they have experienced limited knowledge and access to the field of marine conservation in the past,” said Campbell.
Organizations that market to people with physical disabilities are also expanding their offerings. Special Needs Group, a company that works with physically handicapped travelers to deliver and demonstrate wheelchairs, oxygen tanks and other equipment, recently unveiled a “white glove service” initiative at Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises terminals in Florida.
Andrew Garnett, president and CEO of Special Needs Group, said, “So many people automatically think that they cannot travel if they cannot walk as far as they used to or maybe they have started using oxygen. We want to get the word out that anyone who wants to travel can go and enjoy the trip.” To Garnett, the biggest gains in physical accessibility have been made in cruise travel as well as theme parks.
“There is still work to do, but a person with a special need who has a successful and enjoyable trip to your hotel, attraction or event will be your customer for life and will tell everyone they know how great your brand or location is,” he said.
Horn agreed and touted her connections to travel agents who either specialize in special-needs travel or have diversified their skill set to include special-needs travel. “There are 11 million families who have at least one child on the autism spectrum,” she said. “It makes good business sense to assist this market, but it also allows opportunities for accessibility to those who may have never been able to participate in tourism before.”
Courtesy of Holly V. Kapherr
Cities for All Thes 25 towns are generally considered the most disability-friendly cities in the world. The list was compiled based on research from such respected disability publications as 101 Mobility, New Mobility, Access2Mobility and more.
Washington, D.C. Surprised? Don’t be. With all of the amazing monuments and attractions, D.C. has done an outstanding job over the years of creating wide sidewalks and pathways for wheelchair users. Not to mention that the Metro is generally considered one of the best transit systems for the handicapped.
Berlin, Germany Just know this – in 2013, Berlin won the European Union City Access Award for its efforts to create one of the most accessible cities in all of Europe.
Seattle, Washington The home of the Space Needle has been widely praised for its implementation of a universal city design, allowing for more disability friendly restaurants, public spaces, transportation and more.
Milan, Italy Like Berlin, Milan is a winner of the European Union Access City Awards, in 2016, for turning this classic city from virtually inaccessible to one of the best on the continent for the handicapped.
Albuquerque, New Mexico The tremendous weather is an obvious advantage, but the city also has a bus system that is entirely accessible as well as a complementary Sun Van Paratransit Service.
Oslo, Norway Not only is the transportation system handicapped-accessible, but numerous ferry options that explore the country’s fjords are also wheelchair-friendly.
Reno, Nevada The Biggest Little City In The World is more than just a gaming destination. Reno has been noted for its plethora of accessible housing, rehabilitation centers and a strong public transportation system – with discounts for the disabled – that also includes a door-to-door paratransit service.
Vienna, Austria As Billy Joel once sang, Vienna waits for you. This is another of the most accessible cities in the world, with drop-curbs, a handicapped-friendly public transportation system, and an added emphasis of making sure the historical sites are also accessible.
Portland, Oregon The city has drawn kudos for addressing shortcomings with some of its most popular attractions, particularly trails and parks that can be difficult for manual wheelchair users. A task force has been assembled to assess the city for ADA compliance.
Dublin, Ireland In addition to the many accessible areas of this great city, as well as its plethora of accessible hotel rooms, there’s this – the Guinness Brewery tour is handicapped accessible.
Chicago, Illinois One of the best cities in the world known for its tight-knit disabled community, highlighted by the annual Disability Pride Parade. Taking it a step further, the city has commissioned the University of Illinois to identify the accessibility of buildings, facilities, sidewalks and stores to make its renowned shopping and attractions even more disabled-friendly.
Bridgetown, Barbados Normally, wheelchairs and beaches don’t mix. But this Caribbean paradise recently instituted its ‘Fully Accessible Barbados’ program, with a goal of making sure its tourist attractions are for all – and hotels followed suit by making their accommodations fully accessible, including beach wheelchairs that allow customers to enjoy the ocean.
Denver, Colorado Arguably the best handicapped-accessible transportation system in the country, with its priority seating on the Metro and a paratransit system that offers rides seven days a week, 23 hours a day.
Sydney, Australia High on the list of any handicapped person with a travel bug should be Sydney, one of the most accessible cities in the world. Many restaurants and stores have flat entries and even such iconic sites as the Sydney Opera House not only are accessible, but have special tours for the handicapped.
San Francisco, California Another place that’s a bit of a surprise, especially given the city’s hilly reputation. But aside from the famed cable cars, which are not handicapped accessible, the city’s main hubs of transportation – BART, Caltrain and MUNI – most certainly are. And all the major attractions, including Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf, are as well.
Frankfurt, Germany Better known for being a financial hub and not generally considered a huge tourist draw among German cities, Frankfurt nonetheless has an impressive ‘Museum Row’ on the banks of the Main River, all of which are handicapped accessible.
Las Vegas, Nevada One thing you can count on in Sin City – arguably the world’s best collection of handicapped-accessible hotel rooms, featuring transfer showers, built-in seats in the tubs, and wide swaths of room to maneuver.
Jerusalem, Israel Don’t necessarily be put off by the fact that this is one of the oldest cities in the world, with miles and miles of cobblestone streets. Its holiest sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Wailing Wall, are handicapped accessible.
Orlando, Florida Now this is no surprise at all. With Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, this is one of the most handicapped-friendly cities in the world.
Warsaw and Krakow, Poland It’s hard to talk about one without the other. Only two hours apart, the two cities are connected by an accessible train ride. Warsaw, especially, has many hotels with accessible rooms and roll-in showers, and even its historical areas have undergone improvements to be wheelchair-friendly.
Berkeley, California It’s not a stretch to imagine that such a great college town would be part of this list. The city does a tremendous job, not only with transportation services but also offers emergency help for fixing wheelchairs.
Ljubljana, Slovenia Pedestrian-only tourist areas, dropped curbs, wheelchair ramps, accessible museums and attractions …. What’s not to like about this capital city?
Baltimore, Maryland From its bus system to its attractions, Baltimore is one of the more disability friendly cities in the U.S. The National Aquarium is widely acclaimed as one of best venues for those in a wheelchair.
Scottsdale, Arizona The city has taken progressive steps to develop its own code of practice for everything from tourist attractions to buildings and sidewalks.
Types of Autism
To fully understand autism, you must first understand the different types of disorders.
Types of Autism
- Asperger’s Syndrome
Children with Asperger’s Syndrome tend to struggle to understand and interpret social cues, develop intense, often obsessive interests in one or two subjects and often display a higher-than-average and even gifted intelligence. Although children with Asperger’s can suffer from sensory integration difficulties, like sensitivity to tags on shirts or seams on socks, they do not usually have delayed speech. In fact, many children with Asperger’s Syndrome have an advanced vocabulary for their age.Due to its subjective nature, some children with Asperger’s Syndrome receive an initial misdiagnosis because other conditions resemble it, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder. Parents can help children with Asperger’s Syndrome by locating social skills classes, taking part in behavioral modification for any obsessive tendencies, possibly altering diet to remove preservatives, gluten, artificial sugars and food coloring, and looking into differentiated curriculum for advanced learners.
- Rett Syndrome
This type of progressive autism only affects girls and begins to become apparent when they reach about 6 months old. Typical symptoms of Rett Syndrome start with several characteristics found in other forms of autism, including repetitive hand and arm flapping, delayed speech and problems with fine and gross motor skills.More severe symptoms start to appear as the child gets older. These can include difficulties breathing, mental retardation, grinding teeth, seizures and growth delays. Girls with Rett Syndrome usually need lifelong care. Treatment includes physical therapy to help increase mobility and straighten limbs, occupational therapy to reduce involuntary movements and to promote self care, speech therapy, diet modification and certain medications to control seizures.
- Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (CDD)
You may have heard stories of children who seem to develop normally — meeting all of their milestones — but then suddenly start regressing around the age of 2. This type of autism — CDD — can feel devastating and confusing for parents. Children often show no signs of developmental delays whatsoever, then out of the blue will stop talking, stop making eye contact and often completely lose the ability to socially interact with others. Doctors have seen a connection between this rare form of autism and seizure disorders. Parents can help kids with CDD through early intervention involving behavioral modification, dietary changes, occupational therapy and speech therapy.
- Kanner’s Syndrome
Also called Classic Autistic Disorder, children with Kanner’s Syndrome usually demonstrate what many people consider the standard behaviors of autism. These include difficulty understanding and communicating with others, limited to no eye contact, hypersensitivity to noises, touch, light and smell and a strong preference for routine.Children with this more common type of autism often seem absorbed in their own world and have little to no interested in interacting with the world around them. Children with this form of autism can benefit from a weekly immersion program that incorporates different forms of cognitive and occupational therapies with social skill development.
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS)
This more mild form of autism can cause children to have social or developmental delays, like walking or talking later than most children. Children with PDD-NOS often learn to cope with their developmental and social challenges more easily than children with more severe forms of autism. Like Asperger’s Syndrome, children with PDD-NOS can benefit from social skills classes, dietary changes and occupational therapy.
The Staff at Travel is SWELL had the privilege of attending in the San Mateo Abilities Expo on Saturday October 27, 2018. This enlightening event is an important “go-to source” for the Community of people with disabilities, their families, seniors, veterans and healthcare professionals. This event opened our eyes to new technologies, new possibilities, new solutions and new opportunities to change live. We learned about ability-enhancing products and services, played a few adaptive sports and attended several informative workshops to include abilities travel and real estate prerequisites for families with disabilities.
Travel is SWELL firmly believes that the Abilities Expo is passionate and deeply committed to elevating independence and building awareness of people with disabilities throughout the country. We look forward to attending the Abilities Expo again in 2019.
Los Angeles – Feb 22-24, 2019
Toronto – April 5-7, 2019
NY Metro – May 3-5, 2019
Chicago – Jun 21-23, 2019
Houston – Aug 2-4, 2019
Boston – Sep 13-15, 2019
San Mateo – Oct 25-27, 2019
Dallas – Dec 13-15, 2019
A bill of rights for airline passengers with disabilities and enhanced disability training for Transportation Security Administration officers, among other changes, are on the way under a new federal law.
President Donald Trump signed legislation late last week to reauthorize funding for the Federal Aviation Administration for five years. Contained within that package are an increase in civil penalties for bodily harm to passengers with disabilities or damage to wheelchairs and mobility aids, creation of an advisory committee to recommend consumer protection improvements and the development of an “Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights.”
“I think it’s a very good message to the Department of Transportation and the airline industry that Congress is very concerned about air travel for passengers with disabilities,” said Heather Ansley, associate executive director of government relations for Paralyzed Veterans of America. “We have a lot of good opportunities in here to reconsider regulations, get out education and get the department to have regular conversations about passengers with disabilities.”
Tyson, whose hand was amputated, sometimes travels with a prosthetic and a cane. She said her air travel experiences have varied tremendously. She recalled once being told she couldn’t sit in an exit row and other times being singled out in the security line.
While airports are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act, air travel is governed by the often less familiar Air Carrier Access Act. The to-be-developed bill of rights requires that “plain language” be used to spell out the rights of passengers with disabilities, including receiving timely assistance and seating accommodations if requested. The law says airline employees and contractors must undergo training on the bill of rights.
The legislation also requires the TSA to revise its training for screening passengers with disabilities in the next six months. The agency must address proper screening and any particular sensitivities a traveler with a disability might have, including to touch, pressure and sound. Signs must be posted at security checkpoints advising on how to complain of screening mistreatment based on disability.
In addition, the law directs the Department of Transportation to set a final rule for service animals on planes in the next 18 months, including a service animal definition and minimum standards.
What’s more, the law requires studies of airport accessibility best practices and the feasibility of someday allowing in-cabin wheelchair restraint systems so that people could remain in their wheelchairs in flight rather than having to transfer to an airplane seat.
“That’s something that a lot of people who use wheelchairs would like to see,” said Ansley with Paralyzed Veterans of America. “That’s certainly how you travel on a train or bus or any other mode of transportation.”
(This article is made possible by Courtney Perkes of Disability Scoop)