Myrtle Beach Airport to become autism-friendly

Myrtle Beach Airport to become autism-friendly

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Families with children on the autism spectrum want to do what any other family would do, and that includes going on vacation.

However, more often than not, traveling is out of the question.

To help these families, the Myrtle Beach International Airport is partnering with the Champion Autism Network to become autism-friendly for families traveling to the Grand Strand.

"As an autism parent, we go through this all the time. It's a relentless and unpredictable disorder, but you can count on those meltdowns coming when you don't want them too," said Becky Large, with the Champion Autism Network.  

Large has been working to make the Grand Strand autism-friendly for both families who live here, and those who would like to visit. 

"Flying on its own, we all get nervous. A lot of children have a hard time sitting still. There are a lot of requirements to be quiet and behave or at least we try to have those requirements. [For] children on the spectrum, they just, a lot of times, can't handle that," Large explained.

Recently, Large spoke with airport officials to spread autism awareness. She never expected the magnitude of the result.

The airport is dedicating a room near baggage claim for families with autistic members.

"They are retrofitting it to be kind of a waiting area for families with children on the spectrum to go and wait while one of the parents or family grabs the bags and maybe goes across the street to get the rental car or whatever. But there's somewhere quiet for them to be and just kind of hang out," she said. 

Large will also train airport ambassadors to assist families once they land. 

"Just lead with love and just understand that these children are just getting off a flight. We don't know how long they've been cooped up, and they may be acting out and having a hard time transitioning, maybe, and these families may need an escort to know where this room is," Large said.

Several autism-friendly events kick off in the Grand Strand the first week of April, and Large has already talked to families in several states about planning a trip - a  trip she can now say will be a lot easier.

"It'll be so much less stressful for everybody," Large said. "That's really my main goal, to reduce stress for everybody."

Large believes the airport will have its ribbon-cutting and press conference before World Autism Awareness Day in April.

For more information and a list of all of the upcoming events on the Champion Autism Network, click here.

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