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Appleton International Airport unveils quiet rooms during Autism Acceptance Month

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 4:07 PM CDT
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APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - There’s a lot of hustle and bustle at airports, which can be overwhelming for those in the autism community. That’s something Appleton Airport Director Abe Weber knows well.

“My wife and I are blessed with a child on the autism spectrum, so we certainly understand the intricacies and the needs that someone on the autism spectrum can go through when they’re traveling, or the anxiety that can come up,” said Weber.

The Appleton International Airport teamed up with the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin. It’s now considered an “Autism Friendly Community Partner” in the Fox Valley.

The airport is taking steps to be more inclusive, unveiling one of two newly designated quiet rooms during a press conference for Autism Acceptance month on Tuesday.

“Our goal and our mission at Appleton Airport is really to provide access to the world, and we take it very seriously that access to the world is for all,” said Weber.

The event included members of the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin and people with autism who are all excited to see the airport making this effort.

“It’s very important. Even when flying there’s a lot that goes into it and just to have areas to go if there’s sensory overload or something - it’s just, it’s a big deal just to have that space so people can take time to just gather their thoughts and be ready to go,” said Matthew LaBerge, a person with autism.

“It’s huge to just keep spreading the word on autism acceptance, it’s really just big what these communities are doing,” said Mitchell LaBerge, who is also a person with autism.

Weber announced other measures they’ve taken, including employee training and a new online video people in the autism community can watch to see how the travel process works before visiting.

These changes, according to Wisconsin’s Autism Society Executive Director Kirsten Cooper, is what changing Autism Awareness Month to Autism Acceptance Month is all about.

“Awareness is a great first step in improving our communities being more inclusive,” said Cooper. “But acceptance is the next step, it’s taking action to ensure that people with autism and their families are fully supported and included.”

The organization’s hope is that more will follow the Appleton Airport’s lead.

“We’re just hoping to build even better, stronger, more inclusive communities,” said Cooper. “We’re hoping to bring more partners along in this journey.”

Learn more about the Autism Society of Greater Wisconsin HERE.

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