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A Great Way to Help Kids With Special Needs Get Used to Flying

George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, had a special flight scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 13 — one with no plans to leave the gate.

About 80 participants went through airport procedures, then boarded a United Airlines Boeing 737-900 and pretended it was flying, the Houston Chronicle reported. It was part of a program called “Wings For All” that gives families of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities the opportunity to experience a mock plane flight in the hopes of reducing travel-related stress and meltdowns.

“It’s hopefully going to alleviate a lot of fears and anxiety and provide a great opportunity for communication to practice talking about what’s going to happen on the flight,” Jana Kennedy, a mother who participated in the simulation, said in the video below. “To have something tangible for them to see and practice with should really help better their flight experience.”

Wings for All preps kids for flying

How do you get autistic and special-needs kids used to the stresses of flying? Put them through a dry run at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.READ: Coomer / Houston Chronicle)

Posted by Houston Chronicle on Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Similar programs have been popping up all over the country, like “Wings for Autism,” a collaboration with Jet Blue and the TSA; the Philadelphia International Airport’s “Airport Autism Access” program; and Detroit Metro Airport’s “On-Board with Autism” program.

Flying can be a stressful for everyone, but for people with special needs it can be added sensory input and a change in routine that’s hard to handle. As we’ve seen in the past, not all pilots and flight attendants are equipped to properly deal with special needs, so extra preparation is always appreciated.

Watch “Wings For All” in action in the video above. 

Related: A Letter to JetBlue From the Mom of a Child With Autism