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"It's Cool to Fly!" American Airlines Program Helping Kids With Autism (and their families!)

Hope for the Caregiver / Peter Rosenberger
The Truth Network Radio
October 22, 2019 7:32 am

"It's Cool to Fly!" American Airlines Program Helping Kids With Autism (and their families!)

Hope for the Caregiver / Peter Rosenberger

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October 22, 2019 7:32 am

Bruce Sickler, team manager for American Airlines "It's Cool to Fly" Program called our show to discuss this groundbreaking program with us. For further information, contact directly. 

"You're caring for people on life's journey." - Bruce Sickler 


From American Airlines:

To many flyers, the airport experience is a routine part of life. Check-in, security, gate areas and jet bridges are features of a second home. Customers buckle in, the plane pushes back and with a nudge of the throttles, two engines begin to roar. The plane taxis down the ramp and onto the active taxiway in preparation for takeoff.

With each of those experiences comes sensory inputs that we might take for granted — sights and sounds like crowds, intercom announcements, lights, screens, safety demonstrations and more. But to a child with autism, and to that child’s family, any of these things can instantly create fear, anxiety or discomfort and become a challenge that, in the moment, feels insurmountable.

For the last five years, American Airlines team members across the country have partnered with local organizations and airport colleagues to make the process less of a mystery, helping these children and their families know what to expect from their air travel experience and bringing greater inclusion, awareness and understanding to those on the autism spectrum. And they’ve had one unified message: It’s Cool to Fly American (ICTFA).

ICTFA is essentially a mock travel experience. Kids and their families concerned about the hustle and bustle of air travel are able to experience nearly every aspect of it without actually taking off. They park, check-in, wait at the gate, board, taxi, return to the gate and retrieve their luggage. The experience lasts about 3 1/2 hours.

Since its inception in 2014, ICTFA has served more than 5,000 participants and 1,500 families.

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So for caregivers about caregivers hosted by caregiver.

This is Peter Rosenberger.

This is the nation's number one show for the family caregiver for those who are putting themselves voluntarily between a vulnerable loved one in even worse disaster. That was my wife Gracie singing rejoice evermore. That is, from her upcoming record, titled resilient and I would say John that she is resilient, that she is best yet not really a matter of debate. She said if you want to tell her she stuffer and train smoke and we can flat out saying to wait to hear some of the stalls are on this record we get. If if only her producer would just really get it together 08 that would be left okay if you want to be a part of the show. It is 877-655-6755 877-655-6755 would love to hear from you John.

Not too terribly long ago I saw a new story about a special training program. It's called it's cool to fly which I've a flight bit a good bit is clinical. I enjoy flying, but the whole point of this is to help kids with autism lying Bulgarians. Now airlines does this and and I thought and I started reading about this fascinating.

That is why we thought of this before, thinking they been doing this program for a while and and I thought this is really a spectacular program but it's not what you think is not what they don't put them on the plane and would lately have a whole simulation of this Camaro will provide a role like a role-play sort of thing will know they have the whole thing for baggage check-in. The whole thing. You just playing, just does it take off.

They have all the simulations THEY run they run through like a driver might address Yeah to make the in and out so I reached out to American Airlines and Bruce Sickler is with us. He is the manager. He's the leader of this program is called it's cool to fly.

Bruce and I get that right.

You, the leader of that year. The main do the head honcho culture start will programming this is a great program and thank you for taking time to call this the start.

Others always get the story behind his head at the start. Well, it started back and it airlines supposedly know and will focus on disability and back in 2010 and there were had a segment on one airlines how they participated in one of the programs brought and after the conference I came back to the current leadership and I was like, you know, why can't we pitch it away to where airlines reaches out to the community committee reaching out to the airlines and being gone told instead of just volunteering doing the service, the community, so it took a while business case together and so forth and pitched it to the leadership and like anything there, leery about all the work out worry about it will work out. I got faith in it so you 2010 2014 and Acre flight DFW we had 20 participants get the whole school of Primerica simulation checking at the ticket counter gutter boarding passes went through security. Went to the gate, waited for about 20 minutes or so and got on the plane and we taxied around Eric work about 2530 minutes and the flight crew did their announcements boarding announcement. The whole thing like they do every day economic climate announcement that you grounded a high-speed taxied down the runway, given the vibration of the knowledge of aircraft engines. The vibration of baggage baggage overhead overhead bag up and storage and I got it back to the gate and that was it.

I just think that's phenomenal. We did a whole thing on autism, not to Kevin Longo and that the lady called in the show she headed up autism Tennessee and she was talking about just the little things in life that can affect a child with autism, like getting a haircut. We we don't we take that for granted that you don't get haircuts. But when you put scissors close to somebody's face and they have autism. That's up that's in terrifying experience for them, and anything about getting on a plane and getting on a plane for for many people the don't have autism. It can be terrifying and go to the airport is unsettling. All that and I think that is just fascinating that you guys have done that and it's blossoming you start off with hundred 20 W. now you got up to how many families it done this to your goals this year 1500 families on the and that is following every year without let me what are some of the things that have impacted the AA staff there that that the flight attendants and so forth. How have you gotten great stories back on how this is been meaningful to them as a lady. I mean all volunteer all your volunteer crew quite attendants, pilots and you would be nonchalant. Locally.

To do this and it is date you find out little thing that allowed your team members have children who are on the spectrum are have family members on spectrum so that they'll open the whole new door for opportunity to give them opportunity to share their story with other crewmembers, but also within the company itself that had that sense of pride where you have somebody that actually get get the gist of what it takes to travel with a disability, how it affect your everyday life and see we travel with my wife and I we travel with a disability. She has significant mobility impairments, but when you let something like this and and and other other passengers may not be aware that the child has autism and and and I member this this this friend of mine who was on the show. We did this whole thing. She said she wanted about teachers that don't judge it's autism you know and and I think that is it so important to bring this out to the forefront so that passengers that have a missing link in connection autism in their own personal journey, but can be aware that you know it's this can be a very terrifying experience and it's okay to to to be compassionate and end the beef kind human beings in the situation and that this is got to be meaningful to these flight attendants and crewmembers and so forth who have autism in their own family to see that to be able to participate in some like this and so I just really applaud you to give him do you hand out the peanuts we get back sometime depending on what we don't do a full cart like that because that they will say we can't do a card search. Good work. Packing so do it after the fact that before the fact will have a reception with snacks provided. I can feel refreshed cards that you see when you waiting at the airport so I we provide that before or after. Well I one of the things we talk about the show and referred us from caregivers. For many, many, many years is what you guys talk about on the flight but your mask on first okay we get that, but I when you put a mask on a child with autism there that could be a little bit challenging because they're not quite understand that you guys go over that at all of you. Are you approaching matter what we do all the announcement early out a coloring book/social story which gives them step-by-step process of going to the airport the day of your vacation. This is what the traveling you know you get your bags pack your bags at all. You get in the car you go to the whole process step-by-step. In this coloring book/social story is all that really thought this thing through.

And I just applaud you and I appreciate you taking the time on Sunday afternoon just to call the show and share this if people want to find out more information about that was the best way where you either reach out to airlines or personal email with that is very generous of you put that out I'll put that out the podcast and will will put this as well. Some people have it written down if you can get that, but it's a this is an incredible gift that you're doing to so many families and I hope I think I get the sense that you guests see that that this is beyond a business model.

This is a this is a really meaningful thing you're doing family so thank you for that. Now you're welcome all about. Can you Are people I liked her and not just another opportunity to find a way out family travel because it because car and trying again. Think about it the whole travel industry would do that.

It would make a lot more opportunity for Him to travel well there so many new stories out there about the negative aspects of it and this is one that just deserve to get extra bit of attention, and please keep us in mind when you have advancements in this third things that you want us to know we would you're always welcome to call and share the sinks because this is something this important. We have a lot of people that listen to the show who travel they have a special needs child, or they have a child with autism things and it's really nice to know that there travel companies that are aware of this and are trying to make a difference is not just trying to be accommodating. It's really going the extra mile with it and that's what you guys are doing so. Thank you very much for that. Bruce, you are welcome.

Appreciate you what your court was a Bruce Sickler from American Airlines going on this and Bruce. I do appreciate it and listen to the things a caregiver struggle with so much is isolation and that's what we did show because what we know, the caregivers get isolated and now you're having some some real passive salt if autism is been a is a big part of your family's life and you're afraid to get on the plane because of it. Here's here's a real real no kin practical solution and please recheck American Airlines

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