Flying with your ASD child. Part 3 – In the Terminal.

A selection of Airport signs. EPS10 vector formatGoing through security screening.

Contact the Transport Security Administration (TSA) 72 hours prior to travel. You need TSA Cares and that phone number is 855-787-2227. You should request that they provide you with a Passenger Support Specialist (PSS). Your PSS should contact you on your cell phone sometime between 72 hours and 24 hours prior to your flight. If you have not heard from TSA 24 hours prior to flying, contact them again.

When your PSS does call you, they will make arrangements about when and where to meet them at the airport. If all attempts at prior contact with the PSS fail, tell the first TSA staff member that you encounter at the airport that you have requested a Passenger Support Specialist. They will contact your PSS or find somebody else to assist you.

Please remember that everybody has to be screened. You do, however, have some choices on screening method. If your child cannot stand in the full-body scanner on their own for a few seconds, ask to go through the old metal-detector arches. If your child might be disturbed by the alarm from the metal-detector, perhaps the body scanner will be the better option. Tell your PSS if a manual pat-down is something that will be tolerated or is something that will cause distress.

Empty water bottles and any water-filled toys before going through security and refill them afterwards. For medications in liquid form that exceed the 3 oz limit, try to bring them in unopened containers and have a doctor’s note saying that it is medically necessary. You may even be able to bring Play-Doh® or Thera-Putty® if you have a doctor’s note explaining the therapeutic use.

Please remember not to wear anything that might trip the metal detector. Ladies, do NOT wear an underwire bra. Although TSA gives you the assurance that you and your child will not be separated, setting off the alarm may cause confusion for everybody.

If traveling with two adults, send one through first, then the children and the other adult.

If you are flying domestically, TSA should contact you while you are away in order to set up arrangements with a PSS for your return journey. If you have not heard from them 24 hours before your flight, contact them again. If you are flying internationally, you cannot make these types of arrangement overseas.

In the terminal/boarding.

Contact your airline, ahead of time, and request priority/early boarding. Airlines differ a little on their procedures for this so it will help to check before you get there.

Find your gate and speak to the gate agent as soon as possible. Tell the gate agent that you have arranged early boarding and ask when that will start. Sometimes this can be well in advance of the posted boarding time.

If, after checking with the gate agent, you have time to fill, you will be able to visit any food service outlets or shops that you wish. If you just want a quiet place to play, look for empty gates close to yours.

If the seating arrangements for your family include an aisle seat, it is probably best if your child has one of the other seats and not the aisle seat. Lots of strangers brushing past them may cause a problem.

As soon as you board, try to speak to the flight staff and tell them that your child has autism. They will probably need your input on your child’s needs and what help may be needed during the flight, if your child is having difficulties. It is a lot easier to explain this before, rather than after, it happens.


  1. Kathie strout says

    This was very informative and helpful. Thank you.

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