Tips on travelling with a special needs child

By Shirley Barber

The following are a few airport security tips  which  parents of children with special needs can be aware of:

  • Inform the security officer if the child has any special needs or medical devices.
  • Inform the security officer if you think the child may become upset during the screening process as a result of their disability.
  • Offer suggestions on how to best accomplish the screening to minimize any confusion or outburst for the child.
  • Ask the security officer for assistance during the process by helping you put yours and the child’s carry-on items on the X-ray belt.
  • Know that at no time during the screening process will you be separated from your child.
  • Know that if a private screening is required, you should escort and remain with your child during the private screening process.
  • Tell the security officer what your child’s abilities are. For example: can the child stand slightly away from equipment to be handwanded, walk through the metal detector, or needs to be carried through the metal detector by the parent/guardian.
  • Know that at no time should the security officer remove your child from his/her mobility aid (wheelchair or scooter). You are responsible for removing your child from his/her equipment at your discretion to accomplish screening.
  • Know that if your child is unable to walk or stand, the security officer will conduct a pat-down search of your child while he/she remains in their mobility aid, as well as a visual and physical inspection of their equipment.


Good News

Before leaving for the airport and travelling within the United States:


  • The Transportation Security Administration has a new toll-free hotline specifically for airline passengers with disabilities and special medical needs. TSA Cares is available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST by calling (855) 787-2227.


  • Representatives are available to answer questions about airport screening procedures and can refer passengers to TSA disability experts as required.  it is recommended that one calls 72 hours before leaving home so that the agency can coordinate as needed with local airport security


  • Travelers can request a supervisor at the airport if they have questions about screening procedures.