Airports and Autism – Rehearsing for Flight

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Navigating an airport for the first time can be a nerve wracking experience for any first-time flyer.  But mix airports and autism together and you can have a highly stressful situation for that traveling family.

Sensory overstimulation is often a fear for parents of autistic children.  How their child might deal with situations outside their normal routine (from going through a TSA check point to boarding a plane and taking an assigned seat with other passengers) can lead to a great deal of worry at the start of a family trip.

At least fifteen US airports have now stepped up to offer special dress rehearsal programs geared towards families preparing to fly with an autistic child for the first time.

While programs vary, most offer families a safe environment to practice the routines of air travel with an autistic child and also explore the airport so that it becomes a familiar space.  Some even offer the opportunity to practicing boarding, “taking off” (simulated by a ride around the airport taxiways), and deplaning.

Click here for a list of participating airports and a description of their program offerings.  Families can now be reassured that autism and airports are slowly becoming more friendly with one another.



About Jennifer Moody

Jennifer is a management consultant and avid volunteer. Her career and volunteer duty travels have helped her log top-tier airline and hotel status annually for the last eighteen years. In addition, she embraces the opportunity to maximize her vacation time by planning extracurricular trips that have taken her to over 60 countries and 48.5 US states. Although she averages 200 days a year on the road, she loves to return to “the homestead” in her native Fort Worth, Texas where she enjoys cooking, gardening, sewing, needlepoint, wine, and cocktail mixology.

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  1. I know that the official TSA video seems pretty silly, but it really helped all of my kids (especially my autistic one) just know what to expect in security.

    In fact, when asked what her favorite part of the whole vacation was, my daughter responded “Stop. Screen. Go” 🙂

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