Having an autistic child is not the end of the world--far from it. It is my hope that through this blog, at least a handful of people will get to understand that. My child is amazing, she brings us tremendous joy. We have good days & bad days, but we CHOOSE to focus on the good. Our belief is that by loving our daughter, giving her the most comfortable environment we can, and by most of all accepting her differences, she will continue to blossom--in her OWN way.

6/26/08

Here We Go Again: Autistic Boy Kicked Off Of Flight

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.

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.

Instead, it only got worse:

"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?

1 comment:

Sharon said...

I took Duncan on a short flight a few months ago. It went better than I expected. Going through security, Duncan reached out for the ID tags on one of the staff. I was concerned, but realised he had noticed a small Noddy zip pull behind the man's ID badge. I explained to the staff, he was very kind and gave the Noddy toy to Duncan.

A few times I requested help. When we were told we had to change boarding gates in Paris, meaning we had to go through security a 2nd time, I walked to the front of the queue with Duncan, explaining our needs to the other travellers. They were understanding. On arrival back at Belfast, we were at the end of the line for passport control. I asked a staff member for help and we were taken through right away.

I have heard from many travellers that right now, USA airports are terrible places, with tense, crabby staff. They are reported to be far worse than the airports in many other countries, even in the UK which has had terrible terrorist attacks.