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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Riding a busy tram and waiting in security can be stressful for anyone trying to catch a flight at the airport, but add other factors to the mix and it could be an overwhelming experience.
“People with autism have differently structured brains and they’re really sensitive to stimuli coming in,” said Autism Connection of Pennsylvania Executive Director Luciana Randall.
Randall said her organization has teamed up with Pittsburgh International Airport to help make this travel experience easier on people with sensory processing issues such as autism.
Jason Rudge, a heavy equipment operator at the airport, is the brains behind the project. He said he got the idea from a kindergarten readiness program in Greensburg, where he took his 3-year-old son, Prestley.
They have what’s called a sensory room.
“So day-to-day we would go into that sensory room. Each day it got easier for us to get him to intermix with the other children there,” said Rudge.
“We want to make sure people with those issues can fly with their families and when they get through that process they have a place to calm down before they get to the plane,” said Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis.
The sensory room will be coming to Pittsburgh International Airport sometime in November. Airport officials said it will be built in the airside terminal, but they don’t know where just yet.
“It will be the fourth airport in the world to have one and yeah, this is a big deal,” said Cassotis.
Pittsburgh International Airport also collaborated with Children’s Hospital, which has a sensory room for patients, staff and families. A marble wall and projector are in the room to help a patient relax.
“They asked things of what’s working, what didn’t work for us and we also talked about how they might have to adapt that a little bit in their environment,” said Stephanie Colaberardino with Children’s Hospital.
It’s unclear right now what the room could look like at the airport.
One thing is for sure. It will make the travel experience easier for everyone involved.