Teen With Autism Gets a Helping Hand From TSA During Rush Hour
For most of us, the thought of the Transportation Security Administration line is enough to elicit groans and eye-rolls. However, single mom Angie Solis recently raved about her wonderful experience with TSA passenger support specialist Alesea, who helped Angie and her 13-year-old son Zion through the security checkpoint at Indianapolis International Airport (IND) on their way to Jacksonville, Florida (JAX).
In Angie's own words, here's what happened:
Zion and I, along with my daughter Zoë (who is 15 and not special needs), were traveling to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, to stay with my best friend and her family for spring break.
Two years ago we drove, and it was beyond painful: 42-hour round-trip due to traffic, construction and accidents. Ugh!
So this time, we decided to fly. I figured it would be challenging, but decided that we could do anything to get through a 2-hour direct flight in lieu of that insane drive.
TSA made it flawless. Then between the iPad and good headphones, some lollipops, stickers and a coloring book, he never made a peep. Allegiant was amazing as well!
In gratitude, Angie penned an open letter to TSA on Facebook, which understandably went viral within minutes:
You are my sunshine. I will brag about you to anyone who will listen. I called you on Thursday morning in a worried frenzy. I was overly anxious and driving myself nuts about flying with my son for the first time. He’s 13... and has autism.
I was worried about airport security and how his anxiety would create a giant meltdown. But you made it flawless.
When we walked through your doorway at 5 a.m., there were people everywhere. Hundreds upon hundreds of people waiting to pass security...and get on with their spring break. Fear struck me. Hard. My heartbeat quickened. I started to breathe faster.
I looked over at my son and smiled, trying not to show my fear. He pointed at the long line and said, “No, thank you.”
And before I could even take another calming breath... Alesea appeared: Your passenger support specialist.
Sweet, precious Alesea. Sent to us from TSA heaven. She spoke directly to my son. She treated him like a person with feelings and a voice and worth. With her super powers she lifted a divider, motioned us through, and escorted us to the front of the line. We went through a gentle security check where no one put their hands on us or even said much. We didn’t even have to remove our shoes. Alesea escorted us to our gate, saving us from panic... because our flight was not listed on the reader board.
Total time from the moment we walked in the front door to being seated at the gate: 14 minutes.
Thank you TSA, from the bottom of my heart for making this experience stress-free. And for caring enough to understand that some people just process differently and need extra TLC.
Your new BFF,
In case you didn't know, TSA offers the same passenger support for any travelers with special needs. For the best experience, call or email the TSA Cares helpline 72 hours before your flight to request special assistance ahead of time. Otherwise, you can also ask a TSA officer or supervisor for a passenger support specialist who can provide on-the-spot assistance. Dial (855) 787-2227 x 711 to reach a representative on weekdays between 8am to 11pm ET, or on weekends and holidays between 9am to 8pm ET.