A groundbreaking, and frankly life changing, academy scheme has landed at Newcastle Airport. Its aim? To help staff understand the impact of autism on their customers as well as and the various forms of neurodiversity in the North East.
The Autism and Neurodiversity Academy (ANDA) believe it to be the first of its kind in the country, and aim to provide training packages, consultancy and one-to-one wellbeing training for staff.
Kerrie Highcock of the North East Autism Society (NEAS) which is behind it, said: “It is important that organisations understand and find out more about what autism and neurodiversity is all about so it can support its customers.”
For anyone slightly unsure, Neurodiversity is recognised and respected human variations in neurological differences. Differences can be labeled as Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and many more.
A standout example of the work that has already been completed took place at Newcastle Airport, where over the last 18 months staff have been trained in increased awareness for those with autism. The training has even lead to an ‘autism passport’.
One of the biggest challenges for someone with Autism is communicating with others, so coupling this with being in a sensory overload environment is sure to have its problems. With this in mind Newcastle Airport have attempted to simplify the airport experience and make it less stressful. A new ‘fast track’ service has been created to help ease the passengers through large queues, which has already proved to be a big success according to airport representatives.
Its CEO and former chair of the Autism Alliance UK, John Phillipson, said: “For a long time now we have been working tirelessly to shift mindsets when it comes to how people perceive autism and it’s really paying off. We’ve come so far.
“By society and businesses understanding what each neurodiverse person can offer we can change the way we provide services from shopping and leisure, to sport and the arts. From hotels and hospitality, travel and employment to GP services and job centres.”
As well as at airports, the scheme has also been trialed at many other organisations including Npower, the Great North Children’s Hospital, Sunderland Empire Theatre, both Sunderland Newcastle United football clubs, Durham Police and more!
The autism passport can be found on the official Newcastle Airport website and can be downloaded, filled in, and then brought along to the PRM assistance desk after you’ve checked in for your flight. The noticable benefits to using this scheme mean that holders of the passport will have any searches at security conducted as sensibly and directly as possible, with access to private search rooms. Once through the security process, quieter passenger waiting areas are available to use. Assistance getting on and off the aircraft is also available, while designated help desks are available to people with the passport, should you need more assistance.