Anyone who has flown anywhere with a toddler, autistic or not, will get this. A mom, flying with a child who had autism was kicked off a plane in Raleigh, North Carolina. Why? The child didn't want to wear his seatbelt tightly. He kept it on, but didn't want it as tight as it would go. The flight attendant engaged in a power struggle, and called in the pilot. After that, the child had a meltdown. Rather than understanding how difficult it is to deal with a child (compounded by the fact the child has autism, and the various sensory issues that it involves), the pilot made an announcement that was a judgment on her parenting, turned the plane around and left them standing at the gate. Was this wrong?
Talk to any flight attendant, and you will hear about how their first duty is to ensure the safety and comfort of the passengers. Anyone that poses a hazard needs to be evaluated and left behind. And while I get that view, I don't buy it. How many times have you been seated next to someone who has bad breath? Or is sleeping on your side of the seat? Or, the person is just taking up too much room? How about the kid behind you or in front of you that constantly *knocks *the *seat until you want to get up and throttle them? And all of those people stay on the plane.
A mother with a toddler needs to be treated with understanding. She is having a hard enough time without derision and judgment. A mother who is dealing with autism? Should get a medal...
Should the mother have alerted the airline to the fact that her son had autism? Probably. Did she? We don't know. We also don't know if they had early-boarding. What we do know is that rather than try to help the mother or the little boy calm down, they simply took the hard-nosed approach and kicked them off the plane.
I am sorry that passengers were inconvenienced, and funny how easy it is to judge when one hasn't a clue about the issue. Would we ask someone who is overweight to get off the plane? How about someone in a wheel chair? Autism? IS A DISABILITY, people! It is not a catch-all for crappy parenting, or an excuse to let a child run amok. Believe me, as a parent of a children with autism when I say,
"I don't WANT my child to act in a way that embarrasses the snot out of me and makes me want to climb under a rock."
Kids with autism really don't have a lot of choice in many of their behaviors. And? Neither do their parents.
What would I have done in the mother's situation? I am pretty sure I would have cried, just like she did. Enough of the shaming. When did we declare war on mothers of small children? When did they become second-class citizens? They have just as much right to travel as anyone, and a harder time of it. What the pilot did was
chicken shit inexcusable. As a parent, I am tired of being judged because my children have a NEUROLOGICAL DISORDER!
But, you know? At least, even with kids who have autism, I haven't lost my sense of civility. This is, after all, a kind blog. There is another blog out there that said some really rotten things about the child and the mother, and how "she" shouldn't have to be inconvenienced. She compared autism with a child to an adult with bipolar disorder. First of all, bipolar adults have a choice in whether they want to be where they are. She also mentioned that many kids are being diagnosed with autism when really they are just "flaming brats." Excuse me? I didn't comment there, what's the point? (I am not linking to the blog, simply because
But really? If you haven't lived special needs parenting? If you don't know what it is to live with an out-of-control, neurologically-damaged kid?
SHUT THE HELL UP!
As far as a child who is throwing a fit? Talk about feeling helpless! A two year old is along for the ride, he doesn't get a choice. This giant tin can is going to lift off the ground, it makes noise and makes your ears feel funny. Explain it to a two year old? And an autistic one at that? Have some compassion for those who just don't get it.
The airline industry is floundering. With airlines discriminating against moms with small children (there was another incident of a mom thrown off a plane with a toddler last year), who wants to fly? This kind of negative press can do nothing but hurt them in the long run. I suggest some sensitivity training for the flight attendants, at the very least. I won't be flying American until they apologize to the mother. Clearly, they cannot admit a mistake. And that to me is what is inexcusable.
T, who realizes that we have a long way to go on autism awareness