PORTLAND — Heading down Airport Way toward Portland International Airport, there’s a big sign boldly proclaiming PDX “America’s Best Airport.” But for someone with autism, the airport with all its sights, sounds, and busyness that can be an overwhelming, overstimulating place. Scary, even.
Mid-afternoon Saturday, the airport is not crowded. And Elliott Beaver is not afraid of the airport.
“Let’s go, guys!” the 6-year-old says while waiting with his family at the Alaska Airlines ticket booth. It’s the waiting game he’s uncomfortable with, says his mom, Jeannette Beaver. Elliott often paces in circles. The Beavers, who live in Vancouver, and other area families with children with autism get to practice going through airport security and boarding a plane, as part of the first Wings for Autism event at PDX hosted by the Arc and the Autism Society of Oregon.
“This is the hardest part,” Jeannette Beaver says, pointing at the queues. Elliott, who’s high-strung and has a high-functioning form of autism, is no stranger to cutting in line and darting in and out of crowds.
“One time he got away from me and almost got on another plane,” Beaver says. That was when Elliott was 2 years old, though.