Wings for Autism helping children with disabilities travel

BALTIMORE -

There are thousands of places families will be traveling this holiday season, but some will have to go without doing it by plane because air travel can be frightening for kids with certain disabilities such as autism.

Airports are full of lots of noise and walking, and there are people just about everywhere. Traveling through an airport can be challenging even for an adult, sometimes, so just imagine doing it as a child with autism.

"I've wanted to travel, but i figured i was just going to drive because i didn't know if he was going to be a little too active on the plane," said Debra Greene. her son Devin Huff, 5, has autism.

The sentiment expressed by Greene is exactly the kind of sticky situation many families face when considering their next vacation. It's also exactly why the Wings for Autism program exists.

The program  gives kids a dry-run of what airport travel is like, everything from checking in for a flight to making their way through security, and ultimately, boarding that flight.

The Lesniak's drove down from New Jersey for their son, Alec, Jr. to get the experience.

Alec Lesniak, Sr. said there aren't opportunities to "bring your child through security, put them on a plane, have them sit there [because] most people are afraid to invest the money to take a chance with a flight."

The Wings for Autism program is in its second year at BWI's Southwest counter, but it was started years earlier in Boston.

"Let's be honest, in this day and age, there are a lot of places that we want to travel to that are more than a reasonable car ride away," said TJ Casser, at the airport with his son Ethan.

Though the families took their first leap toward airline travel, for some, it didn't come without tears and challenges. However, the verdict is in: for all of them, perhaps, now there's a reason to book the next big trip.

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