Take Flight

(WSVN) - An airport can be a stressful place for anyone … but for someone with special needs, the crowds and chaos can be too much to handle. Now, one local airport is offering passengers with disabilities the courage to “Take Flight.” 7’s Belkys Nerey has more in our special report.

Most of us hop on and off planes without thinking much about it. But for a person with special needs, the airport can be overwhelming.

Dickie Davis, MIA Public Relations: “Fear, a lot of noise, or a lot of stimulation, unpredictability.”

Shelagh knows all about unpredictability. All four of her children have autism. Anxiety and unexpected meltdowns happen daily. The thought of putting them in a crowded airport has always put travel off limits.

But she and her husband want their children to see the world.

Shelagh Traill, mother: “Their father is Scottish. We met when we lived in the UK and they haven’t had the opportunity to see a lot of the places that we’ve lived in Europe. These are opportunities that you simply can’t have without flight.”

So when she found out Miami International Airport has a flight dress rehearsal program for people with special needs, she knew it could be life changing.

Ticket agent: “This is your boarding pass there my friend!”

From check-in…

MIA Air Program worker: “You guys have any electronics?”

To security…

PA system: “It’s time to get you ready for takeoff.”

To boarding a plane, participants in the MIA Air Program are immersed in every aspect of flight.

Dickie Davis: “We basically walk the passenger through the travel experience: we check in; we go through the TSA checkpoint; we go to the gate; we wait to board our flight.”

The plane never takes off … but for Shelagh, the program is offering her children the opportunity to soar.

Shelagh Traill: “Seriously, they’ve changed our world. They’ve changed our lives.”

Shelagh Traill (to her son): “What did you learn about flying?

Son: “Don’t be scared.”

And she hopes sharing their story will inspire others with special needs to overcome their fears and take flight.

Shelagh Traill: “This provides them the courage to take on something new. Nothing should stop them from seeing the world.”

Mom: “Are you afraid anymore?”

Daughter: (shakes head).

Mom: “That’s amazing!”

The program isn’t just for kids. Adults can participate too. If you would like to register for the program, visit http://www.miami-airport.com/MIAAIR.asp.


MIA Air website:


University of Miami-NOVA Southeastern University Center for Autism:


U Health Ear Institute:


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