The Children's Institute Blog

TDS Students Take To PIT Airport

Posted: Jan 25, 2018 by The Children's Institute

Travel surrounds our Day School students, even those who face obstacles with their own mobility.

"Our students come to school in a bus or van, they travel around their communities in cars,” teacher Chrissy Stevens said. “We were joking about the movie ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ – and trains will come up eventually.”

So, considering that, Chrissy and social skills therapist Stacy Porter Smith did what came naturally: they took her students to planes.

A group of eight Day School students from Stevens' High School Multiple Disabilities Support Classroom toured Pittsburgh International Airport recently, getting an up-close view of what it’s like to be an air-traveler. For many of them, it was the first visit to the airport. They went as part of their CBI, or Community-Based Instruction, program, where students have the opportunity to practice generalizing skills that they learned in the classroom into a community setting.

“We took pictures, checked out the baggage claim area and went through security,” Smith said.

She went on to explain that, while at the airport, students practiced their social, communication and safety skills. The students also thoroughly enjoyed the tram ride between the air and land terminals.

"It was definitely a highlight," she said.

At the security checkpoint, the TSA learned a lot about disabilities. The TSA agents gained exposure to travelers with multiple disabilities and their needs–such as limited mobility, feeding tubes and individuals with augmentative communication devices.

The airport’s Jeff Martinelli, who is the manager for customer programs, said it was great to host the students. TDS was one of the first groups to come through on the MyPitt Pass, which allows non-travelers to access airport amenities such as stores and restaurants.

“When we get these kinds of opportunity, especially non-passenger, that’s a benefit to the TSA,” he said, stressing that TSA agents constantly are undergoing training for their roles at the transit hub. “It was definitely beneficial for EVERYONE at the airport.”

What’s up next for these traveling students? They are taking to the water, of course. The students are planning a CBI to visit The Gateway Clipper and ride on Pittsburgh’s three rivers.

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