Film Studio Recreates Air Travel Experience To Help Kids With Autism

PACOIMA  (CBSLA.com)   —   Families who deal with autism often have many challenges.

Things that many people take for granted, like air travel, can be difficult for children on the spectrum.

CBS 2’s Tina Patel reports on a novel approach — using Hollywood techniques — to make it easier.

It’s a big day for 8-year-old Ramon. He’s going on his first trip to the airport with his parents.

He’s asked if he is excited. Of course, he says “Yes!”

Ramon has autism and his parents are trying to make the experience of air travel — sometimes difficult for all of us — even in the best circumstances.

The lines, lots of people, the noises, hustle and bustle, security, checking in. It can all be overwhelming. His parent’s are showing him how to check-in and go through the security gate.

He goes through like a champ and gets a “good job” from the TSA.

Ramon’s mom, Karina Acosta, knows deviations from a set schedule can set her son off. Is there anything with more hidden turns that travel?

“He has to follow a schedule and if we go off of the schedule, he gets a little tantrums and he’s like I don’t want to do it,” Acosta says.

Today’s exercise was all just practice It’s a special program put together by Air Hollywood — a movie and TV studio — based in Pacoima.

The head of the studio, Talaat Captan, said he got the idea for Autism Flight eight years ago.

“I was flying out of LAX,  and I was going through TSA, and I watched a family going really  through a struggle,” Captan says.

The child had autism and didn’t understand what was going on. Captan thought he could uset sets to help families. Partnering with real TSA agents and flight crews his idea, no pun intended, took off.

For all concerned, it’s a win-win, he says.

“They learn about the kids and the kids learn about them,” Captan says.

Ramon’s mom says she has long wanted to take her son on a trip. Her entire family lives in Mexico. But before today, she wasn’t sure he would be able to handle the trip.

“They have never met him before, so that’s why I want to go to Mexico and introduce him to my family,” she said.

She is very proud of how Ramon did throughout the practice run and simulated flight.

“Nothing’s going to happen,” she reassures.

Air  Hollywood did today’s simulations to help families get ready for the summer travel season. They hope to do this again later in the year to help families right before the big Fall holidays.

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