Autism is an invisible disability, so people who need the extra assistance often don't get it, or are forced to announce their child's medical condition in public, which can be stigmatizing and embarrassing.
Airport travel is especially taxing on a child with autism. The stress created by changes in routine and schedule, extreme sensory input, and standing for long periods of time on check-in and security lines with restricted movement can be debilitating. They don't always understand typical social cues and sometimes can't distinguish what is inappropriate behavior.
When an autistic child is in a state of agitation they become overwhelmed easily and often react in unpredictable or even dangerous ways that disrupt the airport and threaten their well-being.
My husband is English and my parents live in another state, so we travel quite a bit during the holiday season with our two sons, both of whom are on the autism spectrum. We usually fly Delta, because we find the on-board staff to be really accommodating and tolerant.
Our last experience waiting on the security check-in line during Thanksgiving travel was so bad that we actually stayed home this year for Christmas.
Our older son threw a tantrum because he was disturbed that they wanted him to take his jacket off and put his bag on the conveyor belt for screening. He also tried to push past the barrier so he could touch the TSA guard's gun. Our younger son got distracted and ran off when he was supposed to walk through the metal detector, which meant I had to leap across the "do not cross" lines in order to retrieve him.
These incidents are really common occurrences for us and delay the travel process for everybody. The longer we stand on line with them, the worse it seems to get.
Limiting the amount of time a child with autism has to spend on line, limits their exposure to the outside stressors that causes over stimulation and unmanageable behavior. This benefits everybody.
By enabling passengers to register their child's autism disability (much like pre-ordering a special meal) at the time of ticket purchase, Delta can give these families priority boarding cards and kids with autism will get the simple allowances they need to make travel more bearable for them and their caretakers.
Delta - April is World Autism Awareness month. Please show your customers how much you care about their children with invisible disabilities and make allowances for them NOW!