Pittsburgh airport creates sensory room to help travelers with autism


PITTSBURGH, Pa. (WTHR) — The Pittsburgh International Airport has created a one-of-a-kind sensory room at the request of an airport employee.

Jason Rudge is a heavy equipment operator at the airport but has been unable to travel on a commercial flight with his wife and 4-year-old son, Presley.

"TODAY's" Mary Pflum reports Presley was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old, and his parents say Presley struggles when it comes to changes in his routine; however, they discovered sensory rooms at Presley's school helped calm his nerves.

“The difference was like night and day after he went into a sensory room,” Jason Ridge, Presley’s dad, told TODAY Parents. “He’d come out of the sensory room and be ready to interact with others.”

Jason began doing his research to install a sensory room at the airport and wrote a proposal to airport CEO, Christina Cassotis.

The sensory room, appropriately named "Presley's Place," opened last month and features soft colors, low lightning, bubbles, padded seats and rockers. The textured walls were specifically designed to sound-proof the space, and the bathrooms feature adult-sized changing tables that can be moved up and down.

To help families prepare for their flight, there's a mock-up jet bridge and airline cabin to get kids and adults acclimated to flying.

Families can check out the new sensory room as early as six months before their scheduled flight through the airport's myPITpass program.

Atlanta Hartsfield Airport and Myrtle Beach Airport also recently built sensory rooms in their airports.

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