I have to tip my hat to society--if it weren't for its' continued intolerance of autistics, we'd never hear "autism" uttered so frequently by every news agency in this country. The last several weeks have brought on a barrage of stories about autistic individuals. Some have been more positive, sadly, most have been about autistic children being excluded (or much worse).
On Monday, two and half year old Jarett Farrell and his mother were on an American Eagle flight, on their way to visit family in New Jersey. Jarett, who is autistic, was having a tough time and was upset. It it should also be pointed out--many young children have difficulty on an airplane.
Instead, it only got worse:
His mother says she was doing all she could to calm the autistic boy, but got no sympathy from the flight crew.
"If they just would have been a little more understanding I think that none of this would have been a problem," Mother, Janice Farrell said.
"She kept coming over and tugging his seatbelt to make it tighter, 'This has to stay tight'. And then he was wiggling around and trying to get out of his seatbelt. And she kept coming over and reprimanding him and yelling at him," Farrell said.
One of the pilots came back to the cabin with a stern warning and Farrell says the frustration level escalated.
The pilot turned the plane around, and the mom and child were "escorted" off the flight. And, just to ensure no one would be confused about what was going on:
"The pilot made an announcement that there was a woman and her child on the plane and the child is uncontrollable. And at that point I just broke down," Farrell said.
We are taking a family vacation this summer. After much discussion, we decided to travel by car. This decision will take much longer, be more costly, and we still are not certain how either of our children will handle it. However, when we thought about flying, and the many delays and cancellations my husband has faced, it seemed we were better off driving. We'd also heard of at least one other child whose flight made an emergency landing, because she was crying. Friends of ours recently had an experience where a flight attendant placed her hands down on their son's (who is not yet 3) legs, trying to force him to sit in his seat (they were about to land, and he wanted to sit in his mother's lap). Other passengers were outraged, and made complaints over this crew member's behavior.
We thought long and hard about our daughter, at the airport, on the plane, and so on. What if our flight was delayed? How would she handle long security lines (this story in particular was concerning)? What if we were stuck on the tarmac? What would happen if she had a meltdown mid-air? All of those questions and concerns made us lean toward driving.
Yes, our decision to drive (which we made almost 2 months ago) was our own. I feel better knowing we will be in our familiar car, and not have to deal with strangers and others who may interfere or do otherwise should our child have a meltdown. Knowing how the airline companies have handled other situations, I was honestly anxious thinking of flying with my daughter.
I have to wonder though--if society (including airline crews and airport staff) was more tolerant and these stories weren't so common, would I still feel the same?