6 Apr 2016

Plans to make North East Autism Friendly Take Flight

06-04-16

Plans to make the North East autism friendly have now really taken flight after Newcastle International Airport signed the Autism Charter.

As part of the nationwide Connect to Autism campaign, all permanent Passenger Assistance airport staff have now been trained by the North East Autism Society (NEAS) to understand autism and how they can better support passengers and family members who have autism while using the airport.

Newcastle International Airport Chief Executive, David Laws, said: “We are delighted to be able to partner with the NEAS to make the small changes that will have a big impact on people with autism. We are hoping that by the summer holidays there will be nothing now stopping families using the airport or having the holidays they deserve.”

To make the airport experience less of a struggle for children and adults with autism, NEAS is working with the Passenger Services team to make sure they know where quiet spaces are within the airport so families can be helped to find a less noisy, less crowded area to wait.

Groundbreaking steps also include the creation of an Airport Autism Passport which, by the summer, will be downloadable from the airport or NEAS website, completed and then brought to the Passenger Assistance Desk on arrival. This well then ensure a ‘fast track’ service for the family, avoiding queues and crowded areas, which can be distressing for people with autism. Families will then also have the choice to board the aeroplane first, or last, as transitioning from one place to another can be a particularly difficult time for people with autism.

NEAS is also working with the Newcastle International Airport team to create a social story about the airport, so people with autism can familiarise themselves with the environment and what they can expect to happen, before they turn up on the day.

John Phillipson, Chief Executive of NEAS and chair of Autism Alliance UK, said: “This will open up a world of possibilities for people with autism. Busy, unfamiliar places can be so off putting that many families will have never even attempted to travel in this way.

“We work tirelessly not just to provide services at a local level but to make sure people with autism can have the full, rich life they deserve. This is another fantastic step in the right direction to make this happen.”

The Autism Charter which was produced by people on the autism spectrum aims to show businesses and organisations how minor adjustments and a better understanding of the condition can help those affected feel welcome.

Funded by the Department of Health, the charter is being delivered by Autism Alliance UK, a network of specialist autism charities which includes the North East Autism Society.

As part of the project, Newcastle International Airport is now one of many organisations in the region signing the Autism Charter, highlighting their commitment to helping people with autism and to work with a local charity, the North East Autism Society (NEAS,) to make the North-east more autism friendly.