TRAVELLING by plane can be a stressful experience at the best of times.
But for a person with autism, navigating the busy, new surroundings of an airport can be an impossible challenge.
Now Glasgow Airport has become the first in the UK to give specialist training to staff from the Autism Reality Experience.
The innovative sensory experience is designed to give people a better understanding of some of the difficulties faced by people with autism.
Hands-on sessions help people better understand how sensitivities to light, sound and the everyday environment can impact individuals on the autism spectrum.
Passengers and many of the airport’s 5000 staff visited the Autism Reality Experience’ mobile sensory unit outside the main terminal.
Those taking part attempted a series of tasks while being bombarded with effects designed to overload their vision, hearing and thoughts.
Glasgow Airport’s Terminal Compliance Manager Paul Scott said: “We regularly receive requests from the carers or parents of people with autism who are planning to travel through the airport and the level of support they require can vary depending on the specific needs of the person travelling.
“We’ve been arranging pre-flight visits to the airport from families for a number of years.
“These can vary from a coffee and a chat through the process to arranging airport familiarisation tours.
“The number of requests we receive each year is increasing, so we thought it was important to bring in the Autism Reality Experience team to ensure that both our staff and passengers can better appreciate the difficulties faced by people with autism doing something seemingly as straightforward as going through an airport.”
Charlene Tait, Director of Autism Practice and Research at the charity Scottish Autism, said: “We are delighted with Glasgow Airport and fully support its commitment to create the best possible environment for people with autism.
“The crowds of people, bustling atmosphere, security requirements and higher than usual noise levels, which are common features in many airports, along with the added tension that accompanies flying, can make air travel untenable for individuals who live with the condition.
“We are very pleased to see Glasgow Airport taking the lead within their industry by introducing this new initiative.”