The Jeuns

‘Partnership Launches ‘Learn to Fly’ Program to Raise Autism Awareness in Vancouver’

May 5, 2024 | by The Jeuns

Vancouver International Airport and the Canucks Autism Network have joined forces to present the “Learn to Fly” event, a flight day simulation aimed at enhancing accessibility for individuals on the autism spectrum. This initiative seeks to alleviate anxiety and sensory sensitivities that can overwhelm autistic individuals in airport environments. By offering tours and rehearsal opportunities for the preflight process, the goal is to reduce anxiety, remove travel barriers, and boost confidence by familiarizing participants with what to expect, creating a more predictable and less stressful airport experience.

During the recent “Learn to Fly” event, participants were guided through a tour and had the chance to practice the entire preflight process. Lindsay Petrie from the Canucks Autism Network highlighted the significance of allowing families to go through a dry run of the airport experience to increase predictability and decrease anxiety for participants. This year’s event marked a milestone as attendees were able to taxi briefly on the runway inside an airplane. For individuals like Lalaiane Parker’s son, who had been afraid to board a plane since 2011, the event offers hope of overcoming fears and enabling travel to visit relatives outside of Canada.

The collaboration between Vancouver International Airport and the Canucks Autism Network for the “Learn to Fly” event aims to provide practical experience for individuals on the autism spectrum to prepare for air travel. By familiarizing participants with the airport environment and letting them rehearse the preflight process, the initiative aims to reduce anxiety, increase predictability, and boost confidence among autistic individuals. With unique experiences like a short runway taxi, the event enhances exposure to flight and helps individuals like Lalaiane Parker’s son surmount travel barriers and embark on journeys with confidence.

This partnership underscores a commitment to inclusivity and accessibility for individuals with autism by addressing their specific needs and concerns when navigating airport environments. Through hands-on activities and support from airport staff, participants gain the tools necessary to navigate air travel confidently. The “Learn to Fly” event represents progress in creating an accommodating and understanding airport environment for individuals with autism and their families.

The impact of the “Learn to Fly” event is evident in stories like Lalaiane Parker’s son, who previously avoided flying due to fear and anxiety. By participating in the event, individuals can confront their fears, understand the air travel process better, and gain the confidence needed for future journeys. The event serves as a transformative experience for families and individuals on the autism spectrum, providing a supportive environment for learning, growth, and empowerment. Through initiatives like the “Learn to Fly” event, airports and organizations can collaborate to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for individuals with autism, ensuring comfortable and confident air travel experiences for all.


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