Wings for Autism hosts rehearsal airplane boarding

Posted at 6:37 PM, Sep 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-15 20:53:32-04

Going to the airport can be a stressful experience: having to check your bags, go through security, and make it to your terminal on time. It can be even more challenging for those with autism, which is why Boise Airport held a special event for children with autism.

The "Wings for Autism" event helped kids with autism and other spectrum disorders try and overcome their anxieties of flying. One boy with autism did just that-- and had the time of his life.

Oliver Ellsworth boarded his first airplane ever today. 

"I was a pilot and I was driving it. Beep beep beep!"

He even got to go in the cockpit.

"It had so many buttons."

And hold the control wheel.

"And I did this!" he explained with a gesture.

But it wasn't an easy road to get here.

"My oldest son has autism, and I've never taken him on a plane before because I don't know how he'll respond," said Jamie Ellsworth, mother of Oliver.

A concern that Nicole Lang of Arc Idaho says many parents of autistic children share.

"There's additional commotion in airports, there's lights, there's louder noises. If you have sensory issues, it's amplified," Lang said.

Arc Idaho teamed with Southwest, Delta, and Skywest Airlines to present "Wings with Autism," where those on the spectrum were invited to gain practice in boarding an aircraft.

"This has been great, he's been able to go through security, and meet pilots, and understand how airplanes work," said Ellsworth.

The plane didn't actually leave-- or even taxi-- but the airline staff helped provide as authentic of an experience as possible.

"Oxygen masks will drop from the compartments overhead," said one flight attendant.

Resultingly, Ellsworth may someday soon be able to fly to the place of his dreams.

"We're gonna fly to Lego Land," he said.

His mother says she's optimistic their California trip will happen as soon as next summer.

"I think the next time we fly he'll be a lot more comfortable and hopefully it'll go well."

After he deplaned, Ellsworth even stuck around to give the other kids "high fives."

This is Arc Idaho's second time partnering with The Autism Society to put on the airport rehearsal in Boise.