PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh International Airport has unveiled a sensory-friendly suite in order to help make traveling a little less stressful for children and adults with autism and other special needs.

The new space, which the airport touts as the “most comprehensive sensory-friendly airport suite in the world,” opened its doors Wednesday at the Airside Terminal near Gate A9.

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The idea for the sensory room came from airport heavy equipment operator Jason Rudge, whose 4-year-old son Presley has autism. The 1,500-square-foot room was named after the young boy, who was diagnosed with autism at age 2.

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh International Airport

“Presley’s Place” includes a calming transition foyer, a family room, individual rooms with bubble tubes and an adult area — all which are fully soundproof. The space also has a real airplane cabin with seats, overhead bins and working lights.

Rudge came up with the idea a few years back when Presley was enrolled in a preschool readiness program that had a sensory room, which helped him keep calm and stay with the other kids.

The airport employee then thought a room like that would be a great addition to the airport. He wrote a proposal to PIT CEO Christina Cassotis, who contacted him immediately.

“Acting on Jason’s idea to build a sensory room at the airport was a no-brainer,” Cassotis said. “It fits so well into our vision: to transform our airport, to serve the community, inspire the industry and advance our region as a world leader.”

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A team then visited sensory rooms at local hospitals and schools to get ideas for “Presley’s Place.” The space was then designed and constructed.

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh International Airport

Rudge stated that the opening of the sensory space is a dream come true.

“I’ve never done anything that has impacted so many people,” he said. “I hope that when Presley gets older, he’ll understand that I did this for him and he’ll feel proud.”

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh International Airport

Airport representatives say the goal is to give people with autism and other special needs an opportunity to decompress while traveling and to get acclimated to fly inside a real plane cabin.

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