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New Non-Profit Gives Autistic Children a Chance to get the Medical Attention They Need

It may sound like an adventure travel company, but Autism Escapes offers much more than a smooth ride to the traveler’s destination. The non-profit company, founded by the parents of a child with autism, arranges air travel on private jets for children with autism and their families as a means to visit medical specialists in the field of autism.


"This service should allow families who might otherwise be reluctant to travel with a challenging child to do so without concern for that child's behavior during the trip and with the knowledge that they and their child will receive the specialized attention needed to make this trip as easy as possible,” said Margaret L. Bauman, M.D. Director of the LADDERS program at MassGeneral Hospital.


Autism Escapes was inspired by the personal experience of its founders, Lori and Paul Abend, two N.J. physicians who are the parents of a 10-year-old son with autism. Despite being treated by a local physician, their son, Michael, was experiencing daily severe episodes of abdominal pain for years.


“Because his verbal skills are limited, he would express his pain by exhibiting aggressive and self-injurious behaviors," the Abends said. "It was like a Catch-22; we knew that Michael’s behaviors were caused by pain, but his extreme behaviors prevented us from traveling to get the expert second medical opinions we so desperately needed."


In desperation, Paul Abend placed a call to Tim Buie, M.D., a gastroenterologist and autism specialist at MassGeneral Hospital for Children’s LADDERS program, who agreed to review Michael’s records and consult with the Abends by phone as a professional courtesy. After making adjustments to his medications, Michael is now happy and pain free most days.


Though the story could have ended there, the Abend's experience got them thinking about other children with autism who suffer as much as their son, whose families had not yet been able to see or speak to the right specialists because of travel constraints. They wondered if they might be able to create an angel network utilizing donated hours on individual and corporate private aircraft. They began researching the idea and eventually connected with Toni Drummond of EmreAir Solutions, a private charter company operating out of Teterboro and Morristown airports in New Jersey. When first approached with the concept behind Autism Escapes, Drummond said she was overflowing with both emotions and ideas on how she could contribute. “If we could help even just one child through such a great cause it would be worth all our efforts," she said. "I knew immediately that EmreAir could really help make a difference.".


The organization will be sending two New Jersey families on a flight from ­­­ the FTCFBO terminal located at 50 Airport Road, Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J., to MassGeneral Hospital for Children’s LADDERS program in Lexington, Mass., on May 15 at 9 am. The families will be flying on a private aircraft donated by FTCFBO. Both a physician and a behaviorist will accompany the families. To diminish their anxiety, both children will be given the opportunity to visit the airport and an aircraft similar to the one they will be flying on prior to their departure date.


It is the hope of Autism Escapes that by offering private jet travel, families of children with autism and co-existing medical conditions will be able to access top-notch medical care regardless of their current geographic and travel restraints.


Autism Escapes depends on donations from individuals, grants from foundations, fund raising activities and donations of private jet hours from individual aircraft owners and corporations. For more information, visit

Reader Comments (2)

I have an autistic brother and it makes me happy to see the world is doing their part in helping them. :)

June 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTyrone

I am the mother and founder of a new non profit organization to help families with special needs children get the resources, services, and therapy they need to lead the most happy and product lives.....I m researching organizations that will be part of the network and resources for these families at Our New Beginning.Org coming soon......
Irvine, CA

Mother and Advocate for Preston 12 Fragile X 949-485-8988 and

myspace: our new beginning
facebook: prestonplace4all
twitter: our newbeginning
plaxo: ournewbeginning

August 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Payton

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