Airport Employees Trained To Assist Individuals With Autism

Filed in Events by on November 7, 2013

AutismHartsfield-Jackson has long touted its status as the world’s busiest airport, but that message isn’t one that appeals to everyone.

“For a person with autism, an airport can be overwhelming because it’s loud and fast-paced and there are so many people,” explains Lisa Bausley-Williams, training specialist for the Department of Aviation. “The experience can easily cause a melt-down.”

That’s why Bausley-Williams invited the Emory Autism Center to hold a training session to help airport employees better assist autistic travelers. That, and the fact that she’s witnessed the effects of the disorder up close: Bausley-Williams’ own 13-year-old son is autistic.

“It’s a big part of why I wanted to see this program come here,” she says.

Bausley-Williams first got the idea for the training session two years ago, when the Emory Autism Center arranged to have several young adults with autism tour the Airport in an effort to make it seem less menacing.

She realized that even the most empathetic customer-service employee could benefit from understanding the signs of agitation and even hysteria that can result when a person with autism finds himself in a stressful situation.

“If you have no idea why someone is behaving the way they are, you may interpret it as suspicious or threatening,’ she explains.

Dr. Lauren Castriota, a psychologist with the Emory Autism Center, led the half-day session in late October, which educated attendees about Autism Spectrum Disorders and provided them with tips and tools for dealing sensitively with autistic travelers.

About 35 airport employees – TSA officers, customer-service agents, Delta workers and others – attended the session, which earned them badges (pictured above) that will identify them to travelers as having received autism awareness training.

“I think the greatest benefit is awareness,” says Bausley-Williams. “The better we can serve our broad base of customers, the better our customer service will be overall.”

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.