Travelling with a Child Who Has SPD: Cars, Buses, Airplanes

Traveling for the holidays?

Sensory kids need lots of movement breaks, activities to keep them busy (well, all kid do, but sensory kids especially), and oral comforts. Here are some important tips if you’re preparing for a road trip: Car and Bus Tips

This blogpiece from a Dallas mom has some  fabulous ideas:


Some airports in the U.S. now have implemented advanced screening techniques for travellers. If you haven’t flown recently, you may not have experienced (I was on 5 flights a week ago, through O’Hare, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Milwaukee, and at that point, none had these new procedures). I am currently trying to get info from the TSA on what the OFFICIAL policies on screening and patting down children are because the info on their site is ambiguous and many rumors are flying. What’s more, as we’ve seen in the past, some TSA agents are not “up to speed” on the official procedures and may make judgment calls. I’d say that you should be prepared for your child to be screened–that is, to be asked to stand in front of a machine with his arms up while a scan is taken. The other option is a pat down and apparently they can do a “modified pat down” on children under 12 but I haven’t been able to get details on this yet.

Note that the TSA claims that the x-rays in the scanner are at a safe level (just flying in a plane exposes you to natural x-rays) but some reporters and scientists are saying they may not be as safe as the TSA claims (see a PDF of a letter from some scientists at Univ. of California-San Francisco) I imagine that the pat-down, even a modified one (although I don’t know what that would entail as there are no details on the TSA website)  is likely to upset any child with tactile issues or anxiety, so I feel you are probably better off consenting to the screening for now. In a regular pat down, the agent will run his or her hands up the legs very close to the genitals, and near the breasts.

The scanners do pick up details of genitalia BUT they do not have the person’s head in the picture, and the scans are read by someone who is not seeing the people in line. This may address some of your or your child’s privacy concerns.

The TSA website is here, and they have a page on traveling with children with disabilities.

It’s my impression that not all children and adults are being screened in airports with the new scanners. If your child doesn’t set off the metal detectors, it may be that he then won’t be subject to a scan or pat-down. If he is, remain calm so that you can make sure the agent understands your child’s needs. Do not panic or get angry! And be sure to allow plenty of extra time for air travel this year (always a good idea anyway to avoid the stress of rushing about with a child who is not great with transitions).

I’ll do my best to post info from the official TSA blog as soon as I can get it. They are, as you can imagine, rather swamped with inquiries.

On a less stressful note…

Wherever you are going for Thanksgiving–“over the river and through the woods” or simply to your own kitchen or dining room–I hope you have a stress-free, safe, and happy holiday!

And please know that I am grateful for all of you who are helping not just your kids but others to become sensory smart and respectful of those with differences. You make the world a better place! Thank you!



Filed under Uncategorized

4 responses to “Travelling with a Child Who Has SPD: Cars, Buses, Airplanes

  1. Danielle Esparza

    Hi there! Great article! I wasn’t able to get the link from the Dallas Mom to work. Anyone else have the same problem.

    Thank you again for posting this info. I’ve been looking for articles related to holiday travel and children with SPD a lot lately. We’re preparing for our trip this December from WA to NY.

    Happy holidays!

    • Danielle, I don’t know why my tinyurl didn’t work but I posted the actual link to be safe. It’s from the Dallas Mom’s blog; a post from a few days back.

      I have read that some airlines and airports, notably Philadelphia, are setting up programs to walk children with autism through the experience as a test run but we have a long way to go. Apparently the TSA wants people to be unsure of exactly what the pat-down entails, for security reasons.

      The TSA’s “Blogger Bob” has not replied to any of my posts and their site still has minimal info.

      I did hear that Sherrie Shepherd of The View, whose son Jeffrey has sensory issues, planned to tell him that screening was like a game where they will look for a secret treasure and you have to do just what they say to help them but if they don’t find it and they’ve screened you thoroughly, you get a prize (and she has a treat planned). I like the idea of making it fun and a game, and a very small child doesn’t have to know about radiation or what the screener will see, but of course, so many sensory kids would ask a million questions: Where do I stand, how many seconds do I hold up my arms, etc. I wish we could get more info but perhaps some parents will share their successful strategies!

  2. Danielle Esparza

    Perfect, thank you so much for re-posting. Happy holidays!


  3. Thanks so much for sharing this. I think you should post this on

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s