Autistic Toddler and His Mother Removed From Plane For "Uncontrollable Behavior"

BlogHer Original Post

It's happened again.  First it was the removing of a toddler for saying "bye-bye plane" during take-off.  Now they have removed a mother and her two-and-a-half-year-old autistic son for his "uncontrollable" behavior:

A 2 1/2-year-old autistic North Carolina boy and his mother were kicked off an American Eagle flight taxiing to a Raleigh-Durham Airport Monday after the crew deemed the child "uncontrollable," WTVD reported.

"If they just would have been a little more understanding I think that none of this would have been a problem," the boy's mother, Janice Farrell, told the station, adding that the flight attendant made things 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." (Fox News)

I know there are two sides to every story, and maybe this flight attendant even thought she was acting in the best interest of the other passengers. 

What I find alarming is the underlying message in this, that the "best interest of the passengers" meant that their convenience was more important than this family's need. 

Would it have been unnerving to be a passenger on a plane with an uncontrollable child?  Sure.  Would it have created some tension and stress?  Probably.  But the fact is that we live in a world where disabilities exist and things aren't always perfect.  Sometimes, being a responsible and considerate member of the human race means cutting people some slack, realizing we're all in this thing together.

Julie's Health Club points out that

flight attendants have seen it all, and they're often dealing with difficult situations. Meltdowns can occur with any child, not just one with autism.

But the prevalance of autism is increasing, and society must learn how to handle the special needs of people who are on the spectrum.

Kyron at The Special Parent agreed that the airline could have shown more understanding:

The reality is that with airlines today I’d like to act like some of those kids were. The difference is my decades of additional experience and my brain’s ability to exhibit impulse control. Now take away the decades of experience and the fact that even the most “normal” child has impulse control issues because their brain is not fully formed.

Kristina of AutismVox points out that

the response of the flight crew (those requests to tighten a seatbelt could evoke not only sensory distress in Charlie, but also agony at the barrage of words and orders directed to him) does not sound like it helped. Just today in New Jersey legislation calling for autism training for first responders (Bill A-1908/S-1217) passed and it seems that this kind of training—including more understanding about disabled individuals and the accommodations they need—-is more than called for.

Considering that airlines provide special meals for diabetics and wheelchair access for people with mobility issues, I think a little grace is this particular instance was not too much to ask.  As Angie Felton of ParentDish said,

While it is true that "rules are rules" and Jared was not following the seat belt rule if he was having a fit on the floor, a disorder affecting 1 out of 150 kids just might warrant some training on how best to handle those with autism and making flying the friendly skies...........well, just a little friendlier.

Shannon Lowe is a BlogHer contributing editor (Mommy/Family).  She blogs at Rocks In My Dryer.

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