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.READ MORE: Alumni Band Rescues Aliquippa High School Marching Band Just In Time For Homecoming
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.
“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.
“I’ve never done anything that has impacted so many people.” Find out how an airport employee's four-year-old son inspired Pittsburgh International Airport’s industry-leading sensory-friendly space: https://t.co/lTeLxQuOEO pic.twitter.com/0UZ11TKw7P
— Pittsburgh International Airport (@PITairport) July 24, 2019
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.”READ MORE: Fourth Stimulus Check: Is Another Relief Payment Coming Soon?
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.
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.”
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.MORE NEWS: Penn-Trafford Football Player Asks For Donations For Each Tackle This Season To Raise Money For Police Department