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The Butterfly Effect at KLIA: Travelling with Ease & Comfort for Passengers with Hidden Disabilities

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

By Erica Tan Ying Xuan and Sharifah Diana

Have you ever heard of the Butterfly Effect? It is about how a small change in initial conditions can make a big difference at a later stage. Building on this theory, KL International Airport (KLIA) has taken the very first step to introduce autism-friendly facilities and services for children with autism as well as other neurodiverse children such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities, aiming to be more inclusive while creating a better travelling experience for all passengers. What is Neurodiversity? - An idea that neurological differences like Autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome (John Elder Robison)

- Differences that may not have physical signs, and not immediately obvious (eg. impairments in mental health, mobility, speech, visual or hearing, learning difficulties) - Common neurodiverse abilities include:

  • Autism: a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties with social interaction and communication, as well as restricted and repetitive behaviours

  • Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behaviours

  • Global Development Delay (GDD): a diagnosis of generalized intellectual disability

  • Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD): a diagnosis of generalized difficulty in integrating information from the senses

This “Butterfly Effect” initiative started with the idea to make KLIA the first airport in the Southeast Asia region to provide facilities for neurodiverse individuals. Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) believed that this initiative would later be expanded to other airports across the country and further benefit more passengers with special needs. In KLIA, the Butterfly Effect was launched earlier this year in collaboration with the National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM) and the Autism Behavioral Centre (ABC). To ensure all related services in the airport to be autism-friendly, professional training has been given by the Autism Behavioral Centre (ABC) to airport personnel.

Passengers may use the facilities by registering through the Malaysia Airports corporate website at three days prior to their flight. They would also need to bring with them either the official Persons with Disability (OKU) card or a letter from any hospital or clinic confirming the disability.

Now, let’s take a virtual tour of the Butterfly Effect services and facilities!

The Butterfly logo can be seen at the departure hall, where neurodiverse passengers can use the special drop-off at the kerbside for added convenience.

Neurodiverse passengers will then need to proceed to the Customer Information Counter located at Level 5, Terminal 1 (for passengers flying through Terminal 1) or Level 3, Terminal 2 (for passengers flying through Terminal 2) for document verification and the Butterfly Kit collection.

The Butterfly Kit includes the locations of facilities catered specially for neurodiverse passengers. Most importantly, it includes a Butterfly Lanyard that gives access to all the priority lanes at security, immigration, and customs checkpoints.

Special handling counters are established to prioritize the check-in of Butterfly Effect Travellers.

Information boards with descriptions of The Butterfly Effect initiative can be easily found in different corners of KLIA, which could raise public awareness regarding hidden disabilities.

A total of ten sensory walls were installed across terminals in Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, KLIA to provide endless exploration to Butterfly Effect travellers through tactile, visual, and auditory play.

“The Colour Wheel - stimulates the imagination”

“The Gear - create a sense of control and holds the attention”

“The Maze - promotes social interaction and motor planning”

The Calm Room is the practising main feature of the Butterfly Effect initiative (located at Level 5, Main Terminal Building of KLIA). Equipped with multiple activity stations, it is a safe haven that shields the Butterfly Effect Travellers from external noises and enables them to prepare themselves before departures. Neurodiverse passengers are able to access the room via the code provided in the Butterfly Kit.

Listening to calm music played by the installed audio system in the Calm Room can help to relax and reduce anxiety. With the essential oil diffusion, it can also aid in anxiety and stress relief.

“Bubble Tube - filter away noise, and immerse one in a quiet and tranquil state of mind”

“The Swirl - stimulates touch sensors through the multi-textured materials”

“The Ball Race Run - promotes concentration and play skills”

“Multifinity Explorer - promotes an all-in-one learning environment through exploring different effects of shapes, patterns, colours, and speed”

In conjunction with World Autism Awareness Day on 2nd April, MAHB has provided an opportunity for neurodiverse passengers to participate in a pilot journey named “The Butterfly’s Adventure”. In this tour, participants would be able to experience the entire airport journey from arriving at the airport, checking in, going through security screening up to accessing the boarding gate without a passport. By testing and practicing each step in the actual scenario, participants could familiarise themselves with the services and locations of the Butterfly Effect facilities. These mock airport tours for Butterfly Effect will be held on a fortnightly basis with the involvement of five families per session. To sign up or learn more about this initiative, please visit Malaysia Airports’ official website and social media platforms.

Twitter: MY_Airports

Facebook: Malaysia Airports

Instagram: malaysiaairports

When it comes to flying, unlike how most people would treat it as an exciting and simple routine, families that involve children with Autism or other neurodiverse passengers may find it stressful to face all possibilities that would lead to the meltdowns of their children. Fortunately, with this great initiative of MAHB, they are now able to travel with ease and comfort.

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