Travel without barriers: the SkyUp airline and the Future for Ukraine fund have joined together to help children with autism spectrum disorder · p. 455 - SkyUp Airlines

Travel without barriers: the SkyUp airline and the Future for Ukraine fund have joined together to help children with autism spectrum disorder

03 Apr 2023

Travel affordability is not only about finances, but also about the ability to travel freely and have quality rest for everyone without exception. To organize such a vacation in Ukraine and abroad for children with disabilities, SkyUp and Join UP! join forces with LEVCHYK SPECTRUM HUB from the Future for Ukraine fund. Already this year, families of internally displaced persons with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who left the war zone will go on a trip where SkyUp will take care of the flight, and Join UP! tour operator will take care for comfortable accommodation of families in resorts.

The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1 in 100 children have an autism spectrum disorder, and 16% of the world's population (1.3 billion people) live with a disability. Every year, the number of children diagnosed with autism in Ukraine increases by 30%, reports the Public Health Center of the Ministry of Health. The availability of rehabilitation and socialization for children with autism spectrum disorders is vital. According to studies, 80% of children who were diagnosed with ASD at an early age integrate into society after further rehabilitation. And in this case, rest and travel are one of the tools of such rehabilitation.

The goal of the project is to make recreation and travel for children with ASD and their families as accessible and comfortable as possible, which will be the beginning of large-scale changes in the field of tourism and recreation. This cooperation is a step towards the formation of an inclusive society, one that provides the best conditions for the social adaptation of children with disabilities.

Our transformation will include the following stages:

  • study and analysis of successful international practices in the organization of inclusive travel in fields of aviation and tourism and their implementation on the Ukrainian market;
  • research on the identification of specific needs of children on the autism spectrum and their families on the basis of the hub and the development of an effective plan;
  • training of SkyUp fleet crews with the help of qualified specialists and training for guides, transfermen, and Join UP team! on ASD issues;
  • involvement of partners in cooperation: airports, handling services, hotels, and hosting companies to create conditions for the reception of children with ASD at resorts;
  • creation of a project for psychological preparation of children for travel: development of illustrated instruction books together with LEVCHYK SPECTRUM HUB methodologists, conducting briefings for families and meetings with crews before the flight;
  • organization of trips for the first families with ASD from the center for helping children with autism spectrum disorders in Lviv.

"SkyUp and Join UP! are two large socially responsible participants in the tourism market. We are changing the travel industry with our activities. For us, inclusiveness is a natural part of such changes, and children are the main focus. We strive to make their flights more comfortable and their parents happier. Cooperation with the Future for Ukraine fund and the LEVCHYK SPECTRUM HUB center created by them is the first step on the way to these large-scale changes that we are initiating. We will continue to draw society's attention to the problem and do everything we can to solve it," Marianna Hryhorash, Marketing Director of SkyUp Airlines, comments.

"Children with autism spectrum disorders experience great stress against the backdrop of wartime realities. Especially considering the fact that they were forced to leave their homes, and some of them witnessed hostilities and destruction, experienced the loss of loved ones. It is important for us to minimize upheavals for them and create an environment where they feel safe. That is why we are always looking for and comprehensively involving partners who share our values and desire to take care of the smallest Ukrainians. Our partnership with SkyUp is an example of such collaboration," Olena Nikolayenko, Head of the FFU Poland board, volunteer curator of strategy and development of FFU Ukraine, says.

The center for helping children with autism spectrum disorders, LEVCHYK SPECTRUM HUB, started working in February this year. The organization will primarily help the children of displaced persons, because, due to the war and forced relocation, they faced an additional burden and are experiencing extremely strong stress. It is planned to provide assistance to more than 100 children with ASD every month.

Currently, the LEVCHYK SPECTRUM HUB conducts about 500 free remedial classes every month, which help children on the autism spectrum develop household skills and speech, relieve mental and physical tension, integrate into society, and reveal their talents. Such classes contribute to the adaptation of children on the autism spectrum to the new realities of life during the war and their integration into society.