Calgary Airport (YYC) played host to the YYC Navigators program, which provides individuals with autism and their families with the chance to become more familiar with airport processes and air travel.
Working with Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge, Society for Treatment of Autism (STA) and numerous other autism support organizations, this year’s program included more than 90 participants – the largest group the airport has hosted in the three years the program has been offered.
Families participating in this year’s event went through the entire airport process in the new terminal from curb to gate. Upon arriving, families checked in with their airline, Air Canada, went through the pre-board security process, boarded the Air Canada Rouge aircraft and went through all flight safety announcements.
They finished their trip with a visit from Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) representatives, who stamped their mock passports.
Peggy Blacklock, manager, airport community engagement for the Calgary Airport Authority, said, “We’ve heard from the many participants over the years that this program has been very helpful to families who are planning a trip and want to take their family members with ASD through the process in advance.
“It really allows them to get a first-hand experience before their flight so that they can determine whether air travel is a viable option for their family.”
Participating agencies include Society for Treatment of Autism, Ability 4 Good, Lead Foundation, Renfrew Educational Services and New Heights School & Learning Services.
Dr Kimberley Ward, deputy executive director for Society for Treatment of Autism, added, “Although vacations are something most families look forward to, they can be extremely stressful if a family member has ASD. Unfamiliar environments, routines, sights and sounds can trigger anxiety, so some families avoid travel altogether.
“The YYC Navigator’s Program gives families a chance to become more familiar with the airport and the routines involved. We are excited that this year’s event introduced families to the new terminal. We anticipate that taking part in the program will give families the confidence to consider international travel, perhaps that trip to Disneyland they have been worried about booking.”