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A New Amenity at Newark Airport Aims to Reduce Travel Stress

Author Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner
Date January 8, 2024

The Anderson Center for Autism certified the space as sensory-friendly

Newark Liberty International Airport has a brand new space aimed to help alleviate some of the challenges of flying, particularly for neurodiverse travelers. 

A 1,000-square-foot sensory room in Newark’s new Terminal A can help travelers unwind before passing through security. Designed by firm PGAL and the Anderson Center for Autism, the space is designed to help folks on the autism spectrum escape from the overstimulation of the airport.

“It’s meant to be a calming place that gives you a little bit of a chance to catch your breath before you go through the busy airport environment,” said Sarah McKeon, the Port Authority’s general manager of New Jersey airports, in a news release.

Soft music plays throughout the calm space, which has an oceanic theme complete with a fish tank, bubble tubes, comfortable seating and artwork. The Anderson Center also provided training for staff in the terminal on the best ways to utilize and interact with the space and folks who need it.

“By opening a sensory safe space, Newark Liberty is opening worlds for neurodivergent individuals and their families,” said Kathleen Marshall, the Anderson Center’s director of program services. “They are truly leading by example, and our team at Anderson Center Consulting and Training looks forward to the continued growth of this collaboration.”

The group is working on adding a post-security sensory room in Terminal A, so the experience can be calming at each stage. In the second sensory space, currently under construction, an airplane simulator will help travelers familiarize themselves with an airplane cabin, complete with seatbelts and windows plus cabin lighting, allowing a full flight rehearsal to take place before boarding. 

“Autistic individuals crave routine and predictability and that’s not something you find at the airport, so having a space to escape and be able to process and refocus is especially helpful,” said Lauren Hamill, an Anderson Center consultant. 

Those using the pre-security sensory room can also request passenger support through the TSA Cares program. This entitles travelers to security with a TSA Passenger Support Specialist (PSS) who has received specialized training to work with people with disabilities.