Press Release Article


Date: Apr 02, 2015
Press Release Number: 43-2015

Partnering with the New York chapter of The Arc and airport stakeholders, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will host a "Wings for Autism" event at LaGuardia Airport on Saturday, April 18, to help familiarize autistic youngsters with key parts of the aviation system.

April is National Autism Awareness Month and The Arc, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting and protecting the rights of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has made improving the travel experience for autistic children and their families a longstanding priority. Delta Air Lines and the U.S. Transportation Security Administration are joining the initiative at LaGuardia.

Navigating a busy airport like LaGuardia can be challenging even for seasoned fliers. Volunteers will assist autistic children and their parents as needed from their entry into an airport terminal to ticketing and baggage check-in, continuing on through the security checkpoint and into the gate area, before boarding a plane.

Tightened post-9/11 security rules have made it harder for individuals with autistic children to accompany them to the gate area if the youngsters are flying on their own.

"Traveling creates added difficulties for autistic children and their families. These types of programs help our youngsters feel more welcome and comfortable at our busy airports," said Port Authority Commissioner Jeffrey Lynford, who has a daughter with autism. He and his wife, Tondra, a Trustee of the Anderson Foundation for Autism, actively advocate autism awareness. "We truly appreciate the time the volunteers are contributing to make the airport experience more pleasant for all children suffering with this heart-breaking, life-long affliction."

"The Port Authority is appreciative of The Arc's efforts, as well as the assistance of TSA officials and Delta representatives to help make 'Wings for Autism' as realistic and informative as possible," said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye. "The agency is proud to play a role in this important endeavor."

"We are excited to be expanding the 'Wings for Autism' program to New York City. For parents of children with autism spectrum disorders, everyday tasks can sometimes prove to be far more difficult for their child," said Peter Berns, CEO of The Arc. "Air travel can prove particularly challenging between clearing security, the overwhelming noises, and harsh lights. This program will not only alleviate the stress children and their parents may feel, but help educate airport and airline professionals about how best to serve children with autism or other intellectual and developmental disabilities in the future. We are grateful to our partners on the ground in New York City – The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Delta Airlines, LaGuardia Airport, and our local chapter of The Arc, AHRC New York City – who are committed to making air travel possible for families with children with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities."

The upcoming "Wings for Autism" day at LaGuardia will be the second autism-related event involving the Port Authority. Today is World Autism Awareness Day and the agency will turn 128 LED lights blue on One World Trade Center's 408-foot spire, highlighting "Light it Up Blue" in commemoration of the day and to increase awareness for Autism Speaks.

Autism Speaks uses each April 2 to help increase the focus on autism and raise funding for disease research. Blue is the color symbolizing solidarity for autism awareness.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Founded in 1921, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey builds, operates, and maintains many of the most important transportation and trade infrastructure assets in the country. The agency’s network of aviation, ground, rail, and seaport facilities is among the busiest in the country, supports more than 550,000 regional jobs, and generates more than $23 billion in annual wages and $80 billion in annual economic activity. The Port Authority also owns and manages the 16-acre World Trade Center site, where the 1,776-foot-tall One World Trade Center is now the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere. The Port Authority receives no tax revenue from either the State of New York or New Jersey or from the City of New York. The agency raises the necessary funds for the improvement, construction or acquisition of its facilities primarily on its own credit. For more information, please visit

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