Families gather at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport for Wings for Autism

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Wings for Autism exposes kids with autism to the challenges of the unfamiliar experience of going through an airport as a safe dress rehearsal, so they'll be prepared to handle a real flight. (KFSN)

A first of its kind flight launched autistic kids into travel experience Saturday.

"Cheese," Tristan Saxelby exclaimed. "That's awesome."

Tristan normally doesn't like taking pictures or waiting in line, but he's finding new strength.

"I love planes," he said.

Tristan is seven years old and has high-functioning autism. He's one of 25 kids at Fresno Yosemite International Airport as part of Wings for Autism through the arc.

Like Tristan, a lot of them don't always respond well when faced with artificial boundaries.

"Many families don't take big trips because they're concerned about what might happen," Lori Ramirez with The Arc said. "The challenges they experience at the airport may be too much for their loved ones."

Wings for Autism exposes the kids to those challenges and gives their families a dress rehearsal, so they'll be prepared to handle a real flight.

They boarded a SkyWest plane, and when the passengers proved ready and well-behaved, flight attendants shut the doors and the pilot pushed off.

This flight never took off, but just going through the motions gave parents a new confidence.

"Having this opportunity to come see what an airport experience would be like is beneficial to me as a parent," Tristan's mom Kathleen said. "So, in the event we decide to go on a family vacation involving flights, we know what to expect."

This is the first ever Wings for Autism event in California, and organizers hope it sends kids comfortably flying to a better future.
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