Traveling through our airports, TSA screening can be a difficult experience for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who find communication, social and behavioral interactions challenging. This can be a challenge for officers and people with ASD when completing the screening procedures.
Several airports across our nation are partnering with autism organizations to help people with ASD become more comfortable with the airport experience and TSA screening by hosting on-site visits.
The Sky’s The Limit, hosted at Roberts Field Airport (RDM) in Redmond, Oregon, gives groups of autistic children, teens, adults and families a positive, first exposure to airport screening. Tobi Rates, Area Executive Director of the Autism Society, assisted with the process by giving red and green lanyards to people with ASD. The lanyards indicated whether participants were okay with having their photos taken, since this can be a difficult experience for some.
Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) hosted a “dress rehearsal” through the Wings for Autism program. TSA provided routine screening to all participants, including pat downs, bag searches and alarm resolution. “Being able to observe, interact, and deliver the screening process in a structured learning environment greatly improves our officers’ ability to make traveling a positive experience for everyone,” said BOS TSA Manager Tamena Amini.
Open Sky for Autism held a semiannual event at Air Hollywood in Los Angeles. TSA, airlines and the autism organization collaborate to help families living with autism and other developmental disabilities by simulating commercial airport travel and normal operating processes. “The event provides an opportunity for participants to experience all parts of the travel experience,” said Danielle Bean, LAX Stakeholder Manager. TSA officers also answer questions and share information about the TSA Cares program.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says autism spectrum disorder affects more than 3.5 million Americans. These partnership events give TSA officers a hands-on opportunity to become more familiar working with ASD and other people with disabilities.