Airports add ‘sensory room’ to help travelers with autism

Local News

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Just this summer Pittsburgh International Airport opened a “sensory room.”

With the hustle and bustle of airports, it’s goal is to ease the stress of air travel for kids with autism.

The Today Show highlighted the room in a story Wednesday morning. 

“I think the fact that Pittsburgh and other airports are doing that is really phenomenal,” said Amy Hess.

Hess is a Behavioral Health Outreach Supervisor for Nationwide Children’s Hospital and her 19-year-old son Henry has autism. 

It was 10 years ago when they took their first flight. 

“That first fight was pretty intense and terrifying,” she said. “And I have to say when we landed we felt like we had accomplished a lot.” 

Now she says Henry is a seasoned traveler.

The family started off with smaller trips and has been as far as Iceland. 

“We decided that just because he had a diagnosis of autism, we did not want it to limit the fact we could only drive a few hours away,” Hess said.

“Everyone in my family will say I think we’re pretty proud we’ve been able to take him across the pond now, so it’s been great.” 

Ten years ago when they started flying as a family, airports didn’t have “sensory rooms.”

NBC4 reached out to John Glenn International to see if it had any plans to make a room like Pittsburgh’s.

Angie Tabor, a spokesperson at the airport, sent the following statement:

“We don’t have any immediate plans for the creation of such a room. We do offer one-on-one tours for families with a family member who has sensory issues. These personalized tours take place prior to the family’s flight (often days or weeks in advance) and includes experiencing the check-in, checkpoint and boarding process.”

“I think that’s really great because experience and exposure can take you a long way in accomplishing goals and if traveling is one of your goals I think that’s a great environment to do that in,” Hess said about John Glenn International’s program. 

She also offered the following tips for families traveling with kids who have autism:

  • Take a picture of your child before going to the airport so you know what they’re wearing in case you get separated
  • Pack things the child loves 
  • Pack new things the child hasn’t seen before
  • Pack movies and games
  • Make sure to have the child’s favorite things easily accessible, not in the overhead bins or checked bags
  • Talk to the flight attendants when you get on the plane

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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