Awesome: How Pittsburgh Airport Created A Sensory Room For Autistic Passengers

Flying has become increasingly stressful with the double whammy of less space and more passengers on flights. Those with special needs have it particularly difficult, with many airlines and airports being downright negligent in serving all of its customers.

However, there are handful of airports in the world — six in fact — that are trying to make the flying experience more pleasant for passengers on the autistic spectrum. Pittsburgh Int’l Airport is one of those airports.

Replica plane | Image from Pittsburgh International Airport

PIT has a dedicated “sensory space.” These rooms are for passengers to acclimate and destress from the pressures of flying. In particular, the 1,500-square-foot space is meant for both adults and children with autism. It combines a dedicated quiet, soundproof area with a replica airplane cabin which includes seats, trays, windows, and more. The idea is for anyone to get used to the feeling of sitting on a plane.

How Did Pittsburgh Sensory Room Come About? 

A soft rocking chair in PIT’s sensory room. | Image from Pittsburgh International Airport

This is where things get awesome. The sensory room in PIT is called “Presley’s Place” named for Presley Rudge, the 4-year-old son of Pittsburgh International Airport worker Jason Rudge. Presley has autism and is considered nonverbal.

Jason Rudge operates heavy equipment for PIT and pitched the idea in a letter to PIT CEO Christina Cassotis. How did he pitch the idea? He dropped off the letter in an employee suggestion boxes. Here is a copy of that letter:

pittsburgh sensory room

After Cassotis approved the space, airport officials consulted with various community groups and organizations including the Pittsburgh Center for Autistic Advocacy for design and implementation.

Here’s the video (worth a watch) that features Presley, Jason, and the sensory room in PIT.

Where Else Are There Airport Sensory Rooms? 

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport
  • Myrtle Beach International Airport
  • Lehigh Valley International Airport
  • London Gatwick Airport
  • Shannon Airport

Final Thoughts

It’s great to see airports making strides in not just refurbishing or renewing its facilities, but also providing a more welcoming environment for all of its guests.

For Pittsburgh, it’s even better since those without a plane ticket can access the sensory room after security. However, only six airports in the entire world cater to those with autism. Hopefully, Presley’s story can help raise awareness into the benefits of how these spaces actually help individuals who need it.

Source: NPR