Working with TSA for Airport Travel During the Holidays


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Friday, December 15, 2017

The Scott Center

When traveling with a loved one with autism, airports can often be a source of anxiety and stress for both the individual with autism, as well as their families.

Going through security is often the most intimidating part of traveling. Some airports have special lines for families with special needs, but if they don’t let a TSA agent know and they will help accommodate you. Take off jackets, belts, and empty everyone’s pockets prior to getting into the security line. And no matter what happens, stay calm!

The main terminal is more likely to have a family restroom than the gates, so this would probably be a good time for a pit stop. Don’t hesitate to ask for special assistance getting to your gate. Golf carts and shuttles may be available to make your walk through the terminal much shorter and simpler, or a wheelchair may be provided instead. Empty gates are great places to sit if your child could use some extra space until your flight departs, or some airports may have a play area for kids. For longer waits, opting to purchase access to the airline lounge may be good, as they often have televisions, snacks, and a quiet place to escape from the sensory overload that often accompanies airline gates.

And if you need it, remember to contact TSA Cares (855–787–2227). TSA Cares is a helpline that provides travelers with disabilities, medical conditions, and other special circumstances additional assistance during the security screening process. You may want to call at least 72 hours prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint the number to contact.

Passengers with intellectual disabilities or developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome or autism, can be screened without being separated from their traveling companions if traveling with one. You or your traveling companion may consult the TSA officer about the best way to relieve any concerns during the screening process. You may also provide the officer with the TSA notification card or other medical documentation to describe your condition.

TSA Cares is available to assist Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 9 PM Eastern time, excluding federal holidays. For more information about the TSA Cares program contact 855–787-2227 or