American Airlines has program to get children with special needs familiar to airport

American Airlines has program to get children with special needs familiar to airport

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The airport can be a tough place to take a child, especially with autism.

American Airlines tried to help make the process a little easier Saturday with a program to get them familiar with the airport.

The program, the first for children with autism in Charlotte, was also held in Chicago and other cities across the United States the past couple of years.

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After filing in one at a time, and getting settled in their seat on a plane, the families from all around the Charlotte area took a quick trip around Charlotte-Douglas without leaving the ground.

Each of the families have a child with autism, and this unique experience was created just for them.

Robin Sale's son Connor has been diagnosed with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder and he processes sound differently, so this opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of a flight is what his family was looking forward to.

“I know being on a plane is really scary, especially for him,” Sale said. “We're going on an international flight soon and wanted to make sure he was prepared, instead of going into it blindly and having something terrible happen."

American Airlines hosted the event that allowed families to meet their pilot after checking in complete with a boarding pass and going through the security line.

That's a task the families appreciate getting a chance to practice because they say it can be more challenging to travel with children who have special needs.

“We've been wanting to travel with him,” said Jan Thigpen, who has a child with autism. “We always travel and fly, but we haven't taken him yet, just from stress and the unknown. So for us to get to practice, it means the world to us."