My friend Ryan loves to visit his grandparents in Colorado. But getting there is another story.
For years, Ryan refused to fly. This meant that his family had to make a two-day (each way) road trip for family get-togethers. They didn’t mind, but a two-and-a-half hour flight would make the trip so much easier.
As Ryan got older, his mom began talking to him about his fear of flying. As it turned out, Ryan didn’t have a problem with flying at all! His issue was the airport security checkpoint:
All of this while being rushed along. The sensory overload and anxiety made air travel unbearable. Ryan told me, “The security screening is hard on me. I shake because I’m nervous. Sometimes I can’t control my anger because it’s too much for me.”
So Ryan’s parents visited the Transportation Security Administration website. They were happy to learn that accommodations are available to travelers with disabilities. They spoke with a TSA representative by phone to ensure that accommodations were in place to minimize Ryan’s fears. The TSA assured Ryan’s parents that things would be different this time. The representative verbally walked Ryan through the screening process. Ryan bravely agreed to give it another try.
Ryan returned from his Colorado trip with a huge smile on his face! He reported that this time was better. “I got to go ahead of the line. The man was nice. He didn’t make me take off my shoes and belt. My mom put my phone and Gameboy in her purse so I knew they wouldn’t get lost.”
Ryan’s mom says the key is calling TSA at least 72 hours before your flight. At their departure airport, a TSA agent met Ryan and his parents at the security checkpoint and escorted them to the front of the line. His mom was able to stay with him through the whole screening process. The accommodations greatly relieved his fears. She noted that each airport has their own procedures, but Ryan had a good experience both ways.
I asked Ryan if there was anything he liked about this new experience. “Yeah,” he said, “getting it over with!”
Although airport security still “isn’t my favorite thing,” Ryan admits that he likes having the option to go more places. And he’s already planning his next trip … to Harry Potter World!
Do you have a child or young adult requiring a little extra travel assistance? This website has a great article about Air Travel with a Child with Disabilities.
You may also want to check out The Arc’s Wings for All program, which provides individuals a chance to “rehearse” an airport experience with the assistance of trained airline personnel.