Autism Angels Take Flight is a ground-breaking program for the Philippine autism community. This program headed by ASP Trustee Gina Bermudo aims to help remove the "invisible" barriers that allow individuals with autism travel -- whether for their day-to-day commute or for adventures in far away places. After years of training in public transportation, ASP actively pursued exposure of PWAs to the airport and air travel.
Seven members from ASP UP CAMP Manila, 6 from ASP Pasay, 3 from ASP Mandaluyong and 1 from Footsteps Learning Center under ASP National were invited to have a flight orientation by Cebu Pacific last 22 May 2015. Children with autism (CWA), who mostly were first timers to see a real airplane up close, were given a chance to explore the different parts of the Airbus 350, the biggest plane of Cebu Pacific. This was done to orient the participants on what to see in an airplane, in case they would really be having a trip in the future. The CWAs and their mothers / guardians saw both the economy class, business class and even tried sitting on the pilot's seat in the cockpit.
The activity was most useful to Wesley Miles of Footsteps Learning Center because it was a chance for him to overcome his fear of airplanes. In the shuttle bus, he got fidgety and anxious from seeing the airplanes we have passed by the hangar. His teacher told us that he was left behind two times already because his family can't make him enter the airplane they need to ride for their trip.
After most of the group were finished exploring the plane, Wesley was just starting to overcome his fear of seeing the Airbus. We were about to go back to the Cebu Pacific office, but he was just about to start his ascend on the plane’s steps. He kept coming up a few steps then going down again. We cheered him on for him to continue going up the stairs. The Cebu Pacific / Airbus crew also helped convince him to go up. His teacher was waiting for him near the entrance of the plane.
The group was also treated to snacks and some souvenirs – cap, baller bracelet and bag tag of Airbus. My son, Rolo, is fond of playing airplane games in his iPad. So this activity gave us a chance to let him see an actual airplane up close. He can’t stop staring at the airplanes we passed by while still inside the shuttle bus. He was excited more when we were about to go up the airplane. When he was seated inside, he was asking for the plane to take off. He wore a bigger smile when he saw the cockpit and was able to sit on the pilot’s seat. He watched the other planes taking off or running by the hangar. He also saw a helicopter. It was a treat for him especially because the activity was done a day before his birthday.
Thanks to all the crew and staff of Cebu Pacific and ASP for this opportunity! Hope we can have this activity regularly for other members to experience it too. I know it’s also a learning experience for the staff of Cebu Pacific because they get to see the different reactions of the CWAs upon seeing and going inside the airplane. They would know more about how to handle them properly in case they get to encounter a CWA in a real flight.
After the event, we ask for comments and reactions from the participants through text and here are some of the replies:
“Even for a short time, I saw my daughter amazed and excited looking at the airplanes and helicopter in real life, she saw a landing aircraft, and she was really excited to see the inside of the airplane, she already wanted to ride. She was ready to go and ride without fear. Thank you!
I hoped they were given a paper or certificate that they had an orientation so that if ever someone interviews her, she can say she had experienced and was given a flight orientation
already.” – Esther Nosotros
“Enjoy na enjoy kahit mainit. Thanks!” - Aida Larga
“Thank you Cebu Pacific! Happy na naman ang aming mga anghel sa buhay lalo na ang anak kong si Aldae Buendia. First time nya makasakay ng airplane at makaupo. Sana sa next activity yung nakalipad naman ang eroplano kahit malapit na destination lang. Thanks and God bless ASP!” – Dolores Buendia
“Thank you so much for inviting us. We were able to convince him to go inside the plane though
it took us an hour. I hope we can join again your other endeavors. God bless!” – Teacher
“Yes, we enjoyed it. Thank you very much and more power to you all. God bless!” - Carolina Lim
“Thanks so much po. It was a great experience.” – Tess Dimayuga
About the contributor: Jennette F. Rodriguez, a mother to 3 kids, including an boy with autism, is the Secretary of ASP UP CAMP Manila Chapter and a Parent-Volunteer at the Padre Gomez SPED Center. A graduate of BS Commerce major in Economics at University of Santo Tomas, she has assisted in organizing several events of the chapter and has given talks on Orientation on Autism and ASP to different schools and colleges, and PWD Ministries in the Vicariate of Loreto.