Autism Watch: 2007

Posts Tagged ‘airline

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.

Next month, dh and I are taking all four kids on a cross-country vacation. This means we have to fly. We’d considered taking the RV, but that would take so long to drive, we’d have little time upon arrival to do anything. And with the price of gas, flying is cheaper. (How very sad is that.) I’ve already made my lists of things to buy, to do, to research..and something about autism is on every one of them. Are we crazy for trying this trip?

A close friend of mine is getting married, and we are honored to be invited. With flights costing what they do, and with arrangements as difficult to make as they are, we’ve decided to combine the wedding with visiting my husband’s sisters, their families, and his mom. No need to cue the dum-dum-dum music, these are the cool in-laws. They are actually brave enough, in fact, to offer to let us stay with them the entire two weeks, though we’re staying in VA a few nights for the wedding and to visit Colonial Williamsburg and other historical places, along with D.C. Setting up the trip has been a lot of tedium, but it’s coming together pretty nicely. And it’s even paid for, what more can I ask for?

On my first list, I had to research flying restrictions. I have to be sure my daughter’s Diastat injections are not a hassle at boarding, and it turns out, with the proper documentation, they’re not. Check. Below that was getting all the medications renewed. Check. Talk to the airlines about my son’s dislike for lines and meltdown tendencies when bumped and rushed. Check. Thankfully, the airline was absolutely wonderful (so far) about accommodations — front of the line boarding so there’s no bumping and shoving, and notification to the flight attendant about my son’s issues. (I’m sure when it comes time to board and we’re taken in early, it’ll get us some nasty looks and mutters, but I’d rather that than ds having a meltdown and having to deal with worst nasty looks and outright comments while 30,000 feet over Nevada.)

Another list was Things to Pack to Occupy Kids. Mainly, it’s to occupy ds, though my 13 yod will appreciate the thought. Gameboy, DS, chargers, game case, DVD player, movies, CD player with CDs, crayons, coloring/puzzle books, paper…all in one backpack, also including his medications that I can’t risk going in checked baggage in case something’s lost.

And yet another list was clothing — will ds wear jeans shorts, or do I actually have to go buy him 7 pairs of ‘softs,’ which are basically pants or shorts made out of sweat or exercise material, with little seams and no pockets to rub. Will he be okay without his favorite blanket, and will he understand only one stuffed animal can actually fit? (And will the airline insist on counting that stuffed animal as a carry-on, aside from his backpack?)

So many things to consider when traveling with autism. It’s not only in your head, your thoughts, your mind, but it’s in your suitcase. It’s its own entity of massive proportion. Don’t get me wrong — any/all vacations take advanced preparation, time and money, but does everyone have to worry about their child throwing a tantrum around incompassionate people who may request your child is quiet, or worse yet, an airplane that wants to kick your child off? Am I worrying for nothing? I certainly hope so, but more and more it seems I’m reading articles about special education teachers/aides filing assault charges when a child kicks them or throws something, principals expelling special needs children for behaviors the child can’t control, or the general public just refusing to be around a child that says anything more than “achoo,” even though the most loudest people out there are talking on their cellphones about their sex life, or lack thereof.

Despite it all, I’m really looking forward to this trip. Two weeks of no work, time with just the kids and dh, and visiting with close family, something we don’t have out here. Unconditional closeness, with no judgments or trying to tell us how to raise our kids or what we’re doing wrong, or discluding us due to our son or our parenting differences. Sounds heavenly. Can I leave tomorrow??

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