Program simulates flying on a plane to ease stress for children with autism

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BOSTON - Saturday, a whole plane full of people sat at the tarmac at Logan Airport and never took off - but that was exactly the point.

"Wings for Autism" is a program designed for families with children on the autism spectrum to help ease the stress of flying.

Cramped airports, chaos, rushing to your boarding gate, these are just some of the many obstacles parents are faced with when traveling with children.

That is exactly why six years ago, Wings for Autism was created, as a dress rehearsal for children and families to get on an airplane in a low stress environment and simulate everything as if you're flying on a plane. 

"My boys haven't flown yet and we want to go to Disneyland next year, so this was a perfect dry run so there's no unexpected experiences when we come here to travel," said Joe Letaurneau. 

Families are able to navigate the travel process by practicing the different steps, from airline check-in to security clearance, waiting at the gate and finally boarding the plane. 

"It's free to parents, they can come, they can try the airport with no strings attached. If it works, great, if it doesn't, they didn't lose thousands of dollars," said Jennifer Ryan, Coordinator for Wings for Autism.

The program has benefited people like LeeAn Bowen, who tried flying with her family in May, but her two little boys would simply not buckle their seatbelts. 

Bowen is hoping the practice run helps as it's "better now to try this beforehand (rather than) waste a lot of money and not be able to board." 

Wings for Autism doesn't only benefit the families of children on the spectrum of autism, it also provides valuable training opportunity for airport personnel on how to accomodate children with special needs. 

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