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A review of airport accessibility programs for individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders: Recommendations for the development of a program at portland international airport

26 July 2013


Children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) need additional support when using air travel as a mode of transportation. Airports across the United States have developed programs that address some of the behavioral, cognitive, and emotional difficulties that children with an ASD may exhibit when engaging in the airport process and while seated on the airplane. Through participation in these programs, children with an ASD may be more prepared to use air travel, and families with a child with an ASD may be able to use air travel for family vacations, to visit friends and family, and for other long distance traveling. The current project was designed to review available literature on airport assistance programs as well as the types of common difficulties likely to be encountered by a child with ASD who is attempting air travel. Specific air travel support programs were also presented and compared to identify commonalities and areas of strength. Finally, recommendations specific to Portland International Airport (PDX) were proposed. It is recommended that PDX, located in Portland, Oregon develop a program to address the needs of children with ASD and their families. This program should include three core components, including a simulation experience, a storybook, and trainings for airport personnel. Implementation of an air travel support at PDX is a necessary step in fostering independence for children with ASDs by increase accessibility in a community setting.


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