Autism Watch: 2007

Kicked out of church, voted out of class, booted off plane?

Posted on: June 25, 2008

Wow, autism’s not welcome anywhere, is it? Gosh, wish I’d known about that when I specially-ordered my child, or I’d have asked for some other more socially acceptable disability.
Nothing says it better than the ABC article itself: Autistic Boy Kicked Off Plane

I’ve read a lot about this on various sites on the net. So much hatred out there, so much selfishness, and the prevailing attitude of “Don’t inconvenience me with that crying, I paid for this flight!” (Didn’t the mom and her child pay, too? Maybe they didn’t like the inconvenience of having their first flight cancelled or the passenger commentary she heard on the second flight? And newsflash, it’s public transportation. You want no inconvenience? Charter a private jet.)

Moving on. I’ve seen quite a few people ask what we parents of autistic kids would want from the airlines. I wasn’t on that flight, so I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but what do I expect from an airline, or what would I expect if my child was having an issue?

1) Compassion and actual patience. I’d expect the attendants to treat my child with as much respect as anyone else on that plane. I’d want to be treated with respect, too, not as though I was some uncooperative moron who couldn’t understand basic rules. I’d want to be treated as though I am doing the best I can for a difficult situation and being trusted to know enough about my child to do what is right. This would mean actually getting out of my face if there were continuous nudges to quiet him down, and give me the five minutes it would take to get him to breathe and calm down. I could then get him back in the seatbelt that he was in until the attendant kept tugging on it, making him uncomfortable.

2) Stop the other passengers around me from making audible nasty commentary. If my crying child was expected to shut up because he was inconveniencing others, I’d expect those others to not subject us to their rudeness. It really does work both ways.

3) Truly give me the help you promised me when I called ahead to tell you prior to booking that my child was autistic. If you couldn’t help me, you should have told me then, when I asked you if you’d help.  Educate your employees about special needs, and don’t discriminate unfairly against a specific disability. If a person in a wheelchair is given extra time to load, I expect the same patience, time, effort and compassion that passenger and his family gets. No disability should be treated better than any others.

4) Know that we really don’t want to inconvenience or upset others. Know it upsets us to know we’re the cause of someone else’s upset. Know that we are embarrassed by the comments and the glares, and that we’re sorry. Know that we’re not selfish, over-indulgent parents, but just parents trying to use the same right everyone else has to get from Point A to Point B as quickly, quietly and safely as possible. Know that we want our child in the seatbelt, and we want him safe. Know that we are doing everything we can, as fast as we can, to make that happen. And know that your continued “are you done yet??” commentary will not help, but could only upset him.

5) We know autism is a puzzle. We don’t always understand it. We know our son looks ‘normal’ so it may seem as though we’re just letting him getting away with things. But know that doctor after doctor has confirmed our diagnosis, and if our child looks normal, give it five minutes, he may not. Know that when he does appear normal, it’s because of hours/weeks/months/years of therapy and working with him to improve him. Know that we are incredibly proud of our children, and we know what a long road they’ve traveled to get where they are. Know that keeping him at home won’t teach him social skills, and he’ll never improve if not exposed to different things. Know that we want him to be quiet as much as you do, but that our approach will work and yours won’t. Never letting him travel doesn’t help him, it only assures you won’t have to hear him cry…but that won’t stop the crying infant across the aisle (whose crying may upset our son, yet we can’t tell them to shut the baby up, that would be rude…so we suffer, in silence, a new theory for some people) and it won’t shut up the passenger in the back who keeps ordering beers and is now loud, and it won’t shut up the woman singing along to her iPod without thinking how we can all hear her.

Overall, we really don’t want special rules. We don’t want to stand out from everyone else. We just want to be able to get in, sit down, give our child a few minutes to prep, deal with any issues, and fly. Just like anyone else. Disabilities are supposed to be protected, but apparently that only goes so far as to not inconvenience everyone. Pretty sad state of affairs. I won’t fly AA, that much I know.


11 Responses to "Kicked out of church, voted out of class, booted off plane?"

Thank you thank you thank you!!

I could not have said it better myself.. as a mom of a 6 yr old with Autism & ADHD we struggle with this day in and day out no matter where we go.. so from one mom to another.. thank you for voicing what so many of us are feeling!

I must add a great big thank you as well. True understanding comes without judgements. This world has a way to go to understanding…..

Wonderfully said! Thank you for articulating so well what we all feel. Can I put a link to this post on my site?

Sure! Link all you want! 🙂

I have to say that I don’t think the autism was the issue.

I think the issue is the mother not planning well. To the general population (those of us without autistic children) she seems like a pampered brat who doesn’t believe that her child should have to be part of polite society.

I think that mothers like her do parents like you a huge disservice.

She is completely unlikeable and her unwillingness to accept responsibility for her behavior makes everything else she says just yammering.

As a mother of one autistic one normal and a step child with Fragile X. We are always pre-planning trips and sometimes walking on pins. I see both sides to this story. All three of our children are expected to be a part of society’s rules and that is easy to say now they are older. I could not imagine taking the three on a plane at 3years old. The airlines have taken drastic measures to boot off whoever they don’t want to deal with. I don’t think it’s a child with a disability thing. I witnessed a teenager getting snapped at by a flight attendant for writing on the window with the dew. The flight attendants have been given authority they do not need or deserve.

I am new to blogging but I have read about 2 of your blogs so far and I am very impressed with your writing style.

I agree that we should expose our children to normal activities and not limit them just because it might be an inconvenience.

We traveled several time by car from NY to NC and this year I finally decided that even though my daughter might scream or have a tantrum it was time to begin riding on airplanes again.

I’d rather take a 2 hour plane trip than a 12 hr car ride!

The root of this whole incident is the stupid anti-democratic anti-terrorism laws that we have put into place-that’s why the kid was most likely booted off the plane. Until we get rid of these, incidents like this will happen all of the time-one of the reason why I won’t be flying anywhere in North America anymore until things have calmed down somewhat.

People have to be made aware that this is what a child is like at certain ages, regardless of disability. Throwing them off of public transportation is not going to help with safety problems. Also, people need to learn more about conditions like autism instead of being generally ignorant , as well a understand that when a person with special needs acts out, they aren’t doing it to piss you off, or make your day bad; that is the way they are and the way they act due to certain stimuli. They are no different than a senior citizen with senile dementia, or a person who is mentally ill.

I think that the lady in question should sue American Airlines, or brtter yet, write her congressperson and tell them to give the flight regulations something of a rethink.

Hi, any chance you have an Iphone compatible version of this article, I would like to read the whole post on my commute?

Far be it from me to ever feel entitled to subject the general public to my kid’s bad behavior, but this article is great. Most of us parents of autistic children, if we had a magic wand, would never, ever wish our children away, but we would absolutely, unequivocally, and incontrovertibly wish their autism away! Nor for us, but for them! So try not to make their life any harder than it already is. And while you’re at, perhaps you could see your way to make the lives of their parents any harder than it needs to be because they have a very rough road to hoe. Alone.

[…] Apocalypse. That, or demonized in news and online rants, especially after a campus mass murder or a plane-halting meltdown . . . . So this bright, colorful and very relatable, approachable puppet interacting with the […]

[…] Apocalypse. That, or demonized in news and online rants, especially after a campus mass murder or a plane-halting meltdown . . . . So this bright, colorful and very relatable, approachable puppet interacting with the […]

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