FFU together with SkyUp and Join UP! have created a social story for kids with autism to help prepare for their first flight20.11.2023
A journey to the Turkish sea coast, which our lion cubs made last month thanks to partners SkyUp and Join UP! within the Travel Without Barriers program framework, impressed the LEVCHYK SPECTRUM HUB cubs and their parents! Nevertheless, parents had some worries before the trip because most of the children were first-time fliers, and unfamiliar surroundings, new sounds, and feelings could provoke any reaction in little passengers with ASD.
To help parents prepare their children for travel, SkyUp and Join UP! along with LEVCHYK SPECTRUM HUB, created a vividly illustrated guidebook in the format of a social story about the boy Mykhailyk and his best friend, a stuffed toy Levchyk. Mykhailyk has always dreamed of a journey to a distant land, and now he and his parents are finally going on a trip by plane to the sea for the first time. Also, the boy takes his best friend Levchyk on a trip, so he feels calmer.
Such a method of presenting material through a social story is a scientifically proven practice. Its author, American psychologist Carol Gray, has dedicated her professional life to helping children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
"We believe that traveling helps not to lose the ability to enjoy life even in the darkest time. Discovering the world of travel for children is a special pleasure also for us as adults. Sincere delight and unrestrained emotions of a child nothing compare," says Marianna Hryhorash, Marketing Director of SkyUp Airlines. "That's why the idea of this guidebook was one of the first as soon as we started cooperating with the Future for Ukraine Foundation and the LEVCHYK SPECTRUM HUB. This is our first step towards making travel accessible and comfortable for the children with ASD, which brings useful experience and becomes one of the children's favorite activities," adds Marianna Hrygorash.
The social story, which is part of the Travel Without Barriers program, is like a fairy tale but is more specific and does not hide its meaning via metaphor to prepare the reader for the journey. The guidebook will help children to learn the following steps:
- how parents choose and buy tours;
- how to check in for a flight;
- what procedures must be completed at the airport;
- what to expect aboard;
- what is turbulence and how not to be afraid of it;
- what awaits children at the resort.
At the beginning of the guidebook, a small instruction for parents is provided on how to read social stories correctly, along with practical tips.
"The social story aims to tell the little passenger about all the stages of the journey in advance, their sequence, and possible sensory irritants that can affect a child. This guidebook will help to reduce anxiety and fear because all events will be clear and predictable. Thanks to the step-by-step illustrated description of all the processes, a child will learn social skills more effectively. We are pleased that, together with LEVCHYK SPECTRUM HUB, we can help families who raise children with ASD to understand that everything is possible and that they are not alone on this path," says Liudmyla Pleskach, marketing manager and leader of the Travel Without Barriers program.
The guidebook can be downloaded free of charge on the SkyUp Airlines website. A printed version is under development.
“The great value of this social story is that it is designed specifically for children with ASD. It is also suitable for all children preparing to travel. Visual clues are easy to read and could be useful even for adults after a new country’s arrival. And the orderly course of events raises a child’s confidence.” — comments Hanna Perekatii, behavioral analyst, psychologist, founder of the START development centers, the author and editor of the Travel Without Barriers social story.
We sincerely rejoice that more and more Ukrainian businesses join our initiative to create an autism-friendly society. We are convinced that due to the Travel Without Barriers program, discovering the world will become easier not only for children with ASD but also for all people with special needs!