Air Travel

Testing the new TSA ‘Opt Out’ Program

Testing the new TSA 'Opt Out' Program Xrays


We flew out of Los Angeles International Airport last week, for our weekend in New Orleans.My husband and two sons, all decided to pass through the scanning machine and were cleared quite fast and efficiently.I decided to try the much talked about ‘OPT OUT’ TSA concept that had caused such a news commotion in the last few weeks.

The minute I uttered the five magical words, ‘I want to opt out’ I was asked to step aside, and my request was whispered down a six-person pipeline,” she opted out.”

For a split second there I felt like Alice down that virtual rabbit hole, landing in uncharted territory.
Noticing my family on in the other side, impatiently waiting for me, I turned around and recanted,”…I think I’ll do the scan, after all.”
“Oh no,” was the rehearsed TSA agent’s response,”Once you are in this line, you can’t go back!”.
I felt trapped but by then I understood all I could do is sit patiently and wait.

I could hear quiet dramatic music playing in the background.
Next, I was approached by a female officer who asked me politely whether I  prefer a private room or a public setting. For my check.Thinking it is bound to be quicker, I chose the public version.
Drum roll, please.
She proceeded to describe exactly where she would be touching me and to what degree, to prevent any misunderstandings, as she conducted the search.
The check was executed in a professional manner, methodically back to front, and lasted a total of two minutes.
No groping, No mishandling,  No privacy invasion, No abuse to note.
Totally anticlimactic.

Dramatic music fading.
Special tip: ask the TSA person to put a fresh set of gloves on, since after they touch you, they run the gloves through a machine to detect traces of explosives.
In summation -How annoying did I find it?
On a scale of one to ten, a minimal one.

Autism Travel Tips

If parents don’t want their kids to go through the scanning machine for any reason they need to prepare their child with autism to the fact, they will be touched by a stranger.If your kid is ok with that, then there shouldn’t be any issues.

Explain to your son or daughter that the TSA agent might ask them to remove jackets or hats during the check.

Recommendations for the TSA

It would be beneficial to provide some online printable material such as a pamphlet or flashcards with pictures describing the process for travelers with autism.Furthermore, a short demonstration video with cartoon characters would also be useful for parents to show younger kids what the TSA checkpoint is about and what they should expect. .

A bean bag doll for demonstration purpose (can be handed out to special needs persons as a gift later) and an i-pad application should also be considered by the TSA decision makers, as a possibility.

The traveler with autism should be allowed to be accompanied by a family member or caregiver to the location of the pat down area.

If possible, a different waiting area for travelers with special needs (including the families with autism ) should be created.



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Margalit Sturm Francus
A reformed dentist who gave up pulling teeth to show her son the world! Need tips on how to #travel with #autism? Follow me on Instagram & Facebook
Margalit Sturm Francus

Margalit Sturm Francus

A reformed dentist who gave up pulling teeth to show her son the world! Need tips on how to #travel with #autism? Follow me on Instagram & Facebook

0 thoughts on “Testing the new TSA ‘Opt Out’ Program

  • Ligia

    Great information! We found it useful!

  • Love all that you do, and also the fabulous photos!!! Keep up the great work and the inspiration you are sharing with others on the Naturally Autistic ANCA radio shows, thank-you from all of us here! Look forward to the 3rd episode of Parents Corner.

    • Thank you ,Leo for stopping by!
      We love your work and how you inspire the autism community to find new solutions to existing challenges.
      Keep in touch.


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