Airlines roll out new program to help children with autism

Airport program helps children with autism

Few things are more challenging for children with autism than crowded spaces and loud noises. That makes airports and air travel especially tough. But a new program is giving these children their wings.

Six-year-old Nathan Diamond will be walking on an airplane for the first time since he was a baby.  He has autism so the noise and activity of an airport can be overwhelming.

His parents, Sonya and Jonathan, are taking advantage of a special Delta Air Lines program to get kids with autism ready to fly.

"I'll be honest, it was a little nerve racking I think for us," Sonya said. "But for him he was like taking the challenge on, like 'what's going on.'"

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CBS News

Nathan gets to experience check in, security, boarding and what it's like to be on a plane. He'll even receive a tour from Captain Erich Ries.

The tours have been particularly fulfilling for Ries, whose son has autism.

"It's doing good and it's making families feel empowered and confident and comfortable," Ries said. "And I want them to have the same experiences with their children that I've had with mine."

Delta offers these programs at its Atlanta and Minneapolis hubs. Airlines including Alaska, American and JetBlue have similar programs around the country.

  • Kris Van Cleave

    Kris Van Cleave is the transportation correspondent for CBS News.