Removing barriers for those with autism when they fly

Community Online First

HALIFAX STANFIELD: For 20-year-old Jacob Thibault of Dartmouth, travelling outside Canada has been a life-long dream. As a Nova Scotia Community College student and avid YouTuber, Jacob loves new experiences and adventures.

Now, with his college graduation just around the corner, Jacob’s dream of travelling is about to come true. His mother, Erin, has planned a special graduation trip where the two of them will visit Santa Monica Pier in California.

“Having autism makes things like travelling different for me,” said Jacob. “I don’t like when there’s a lot of things happening at once. I hope it’s not too busy and not too noisy. I am nervous about security screening and the body scanner.

“Even though I am nervous about flying, I’m so happy that I get to go on my trip.”

On May 26, Jacob participated in the second Autism Aviators mock travel day at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, organized by Autism Nova Scotia and Halifax International Airport Authority (HIAA). The event gives individuals on the Autism Spectrum who plan to travel by air a chance to experience airport processes first-hand, including check-in, security screening, and the departures area.

“Supporting Jacob with his travel needs is what Autism Aviators is all about,” said Cynthia Carroll, Executive Director of Autism Nova Scotia. “While airports can be unpredictable and overwhelming, this partnership helps to reduce the stress around travelling and opens up air travel for autistic individuals and their loved ones.”

(Meghan Tansey Whitton photography)

Kelly Martin, HIAA’s Customer Relations Manager, agreed and said one of the top priorities at Halifax Stanfield is to provide a positive and accessible travel experience to all passengers.

“This is just one of the many ways we work in conjunction with our airline partners and government agencies towards removing barriers to air travel,” added Martin.

For Jacob, his future travel plans are now a little closer to becoming a reality.

When he and his mom go to California, he hopes to go to Legoland and Disneyland. He also looks forward to playing PokemonGo on Santa Monica Pier.

The Autism Aviators mock travel day is offered biennially. This year, 21 Aviators took part in the event.

The program also includes resource material available online throughout the year. For more information, visit www.autismnovascotia.ca/autism-aviators.