On Saturday, The Arc of Baton Rogue will hold its first Wings for Autism event starting at 7 a.m. at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport.

Wings for Autism, one of The Arc’s newest national initiatives, is an airport “rehearsal” specially designed for people with autism spectrum disorders, their families and aviation professionals, a news release said.

Originated by the Charles River Center, a chapter of The Arc in Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Port Authority, Wings for Autism is designed to alleviate some of the stress that families who have a child with autism experience when traveling by air. The program provides families with the opportunity to practice entering the airport, obtain boarding passes, go through security, and even board a plane.

The event is being held in partnership with ExpressJet Airlines, the Transportation Security Administration, Baton Rouge Airport and The Arc Baton Rouge.

Wings for Autism also gives airports, airlines, TSA professionals and other personnel the opportunity to observe, interact and deliver their services in a structured, learning environment. This experience is equally useful for families that have a member with other intellectual or developmental disabilities that are concerned about the ability of their family member to travel.

The United Airlines aircraft being used for the event will allow for up to 50 families from the South Louisiana area to take part. It is scheduled to depart the airport at 9 a.m., but the rehearsal event starts at 7 a.m. Upon arrival at the airport, Wings participants will check in to receive their boarding pass, go through security, and be greeted at the gate prior to boarding the plane. A reception will be held afterwards.

“We are excited to be hosting this brand new event here in Baton Rouge. For young persons with autism, air travel can prove particularly challenging between clearing security, the overwhelming noises, and harsh lights,” said Barry Meyer, executive director of The Arc Baton Rouge.

“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 at Baton Rouge Airport, ExpressJet/United Airlines, and the local TSA who are committed to making air travel possible for families with children with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

The Arc advocates for and serves people with Down syndrome, autism, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy and other diagnoses. Founded in 1954, The Arc Baton Rouge is the oldest nonprofit organization serving people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the Baton Rouge and surrounding areas, and one of the oldest such organizations in the U.S. The Arc Baton Rouge serves residents in a seven-parish area that includes East and West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, East and West Feliciana.

For information, visit www.thearc.org/wingsforautism.

Call (225) 927-0855 or visit www.arcbatonrouge.org.