Traveling with Autism | Written by Shira Firestone

Traveling with Autism

Presley’s Place: Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport

Don’t let the Halloween decorations in the store fool you. There is still plenty of summer left for last minute vacation. Now, for individuals with autism, it is becoming easier to do.

This summer Pittsburg became the latest among a growing number of International Airports to consider the needs of travelers with autism. Others include Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, Ala.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Lehigh Valley, Penn.; Gatwick in the U.K. and Shannon in Ireland.

Named “Presley’s Place”, after Presley Rudge, the son of an airport employee, the space is considered exceptional in its design, including soft furniture and lighting, soundproof rooms, and a mini replica of an airplane cabin.

Travelling can be stressful under any circumstances. But for individuals with autism, the sights and sounds and changes in routine can be particularly overwhelming. Many families make the decision not to travel far from home.

The good news for travelers is that growing awareness of these challenges doesn’t stop at take-off. Resorts and hotels are making efforts to accommodate and are designated to be “autism friendly”. Museums and cruises are taking these individuals’ needs into account. Entire travel agencies are dedicated to assisting arrangements for “autism travel vacations”.

Major theme parks such as Disney, Six Flags, and Legoland are making efforts to accommodate visitors, as well. And in San Antonio last year, the first ever non-profit water park called Morgan’s Inspiration Island was opened for individuals with a wide range of special needs.

So pack your bags and buckle up. With some careful planning and use of available resources, you might still get to enjoy what’s left of the summer.

Resources for Traveling with Autism

There are several resources available to prepare for travel. Among them:

Autism Speaks offers a series of guides for travelling with autism, including one specific to air travel.

Vancouver International Airport has also taken special care to prepare its travelers, offering a number of resources to be used before heading out to the airport, including a story book and a video series explaining what can be expected at the airport.

Other helpful print and video resources are available here.

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