Flight Risk

27 Jun

Flying with AutismSometime in the near future, my husband and I are planning to bring Alphonse halfway around the world to attend a special autism camp. We’ve been preparing for this for months now, working on skills he will need to endure an intercontinental flight. Alphonse has never been farther from home than an hour’s plane ride and we’re unsure of how he will take to this long trip. Were this help readily available in the country, we would not even entertain any thoughts of plane travel with him. The logistics alone burns a big hole in the pocket, and with the economy going bad every day, we’re loath to convert our measly denomination into dollars.

Yet, at thirteen, we feel that adulthood is looming large over our heads. While the camp does accept young adults, we’d hate for him to have to wait for very long before we can see what else is out there for him.

I’m having second thoughts, though. Just the other day, the news reported of a child and his mother being forcibly removed (kicked off?) from an airplane. That the child is autistic only made my fears more real.

I don’t want to go too much into the issue of whether the airlines company was right or whether this was another case of autism discrimination.  I think much has been said against, or on the flipside, in defense of the actions of the airlines company and I would not be adding anything new to the discussion.

But I am appalled at the rabid and vicious reactions this issue has elicited from the population. Surprisingly, the greatest condemnations do not come from autism families, but from people who have little or no idea what autism is, or from those who consider autism as someone else’s problem. I’ve had to keep my tears in check while reading through all the comments posted in chicagotribune.com’s feature “Autistic Toddler Removed from Plane.”

The worst ones are those who feel that autistic children do not have a right to this world, “defective” children that they are. Many are simply too caught up with their personal comforts, thus revealing their own selfish views of the world. Here are some of the ones that tested my restraint and self-control.


“My momma always said that with kid meltdowns, parents only had 2 real choices – a sock or duct tape.
Duct tape, it’s the universal pick of flight attendants, pilots, and child-manipulated parents everywhere.”


“Reasons like this are why we shouldn’t let autistic people on planes. Sure some lady & her brat kid got kicked off, but what about all the other people on that plane who were delayed because of that terrible mother & her mentally retarded child. We’ve got to remember the greater good, people!”


a good smack and the promise of another would have no doubt resolved this.”


“Those among us who would like to behave as adults, and have control; both emotional and physical, of our children, should NOT be subject, to this kind of pluralistic editorial poppycock. I have rights and one of those rights is to travel with others who are capable of acting in a manner not associated with those who should perhaps be institutionalized.
“As a seasoned airline traveler who has seen every conceivable excuse from autism to drug addiction used to cover the truth about parents who don’t, won’t or cannot cope with their children…for whatever reason, I would like to say, PLEASE, allow me to travel and enjoy just as you wish to. The only difference between our philosophical positions is that you are in a small, sad minority, and no matter how much attention you cull, that will never change.”


“The mom should have told the brat, that if he does not calm down, the pilot was gonna throw him off the plane during flight. I’ve seen scare tactics used on kids and they work wonders. That kid stopped and wrapped his arms around his mother.”


“Enough is enough. I am sick and tired of parents of defective children who insist in them being treated as if they were normal. They are not normal. They cannot be mainstreamed. Get used to it. No amount of special treatment is going to make you feel good about your child. “


“I don’t think he was a safety risk. But I can’t stand screaming brats, autistic or not. And I don’t think that the rest of us ticket-paying customers should have to put up with this. If you have a problem child, STAY AT HOME. I don’t want you on my plane, on my bus, in my restaurant, at my movie, or in my shopping mall. GO HOME. STAY THERE. NEVER COME OUT for any reason. DIE THERE. GOOD RIDDANCE.”


“Do what I do & will continue to do (to other parents’ kids on airlines): smack their child & give the parents a look like they’re next. “


“TO STEPHANIE: “Some of you expressed understanding and empathy for the mum, but a lot of those folks, like me, have already had autism affect their lives on a permanent basis.”
“Exactly. And that’s why you are all so bitter. Your lives are permanently affected, so you take it out on the rest of us. It’s hard to feel sorry for someone like you when all you want to do is kick and scream and put a guilt trip on those who do not have children with autism. You underestimate everyone else’s level of compassion because your life isn’t what you had hoped it would be. Sorry, but we all have problems. Just because you have a child with autism, doesn’t mean that your life is any more special or important than ours. Get over yourself. I’m starting to think that autism is caused by a gene in self-absorbed, petty parents.”


I empathize with the mother and child concerned, as much as I also respect the airlines’ right to impose safety rules. Personally, I think that a little accommodation from the flight attendant (perhaps just even asking the mom how she can help is a start, instead of  handling the child herself) and also from the mother (she should have asked for a grace period of a few minutes and if the child was still uncooperative, then disembark from the plane without being asked to) would have gone a long way into resolving the issue. As human beings living on this same planet, as a community of people, courtesy and accommodation are visceral to living with each other in peace.

That being said, I think I have to speak my mind on the entitlements many feel we parents of autism use to “get our way” in the world. As a parent of a child with autism, I am very  aware of my son’s dependence on the kindness, tolerance, and compassion of others. As such, we have never used autism as an excuse to take advantage of others or refrain from obeying rules. Autism in our lives has not given us a sense of claim and privilege; on the contrary, we have learned to sublimate many of our own needs in favor of others’ comfort and wellbeing. We are always mindful and grateful for accommodations made for our son. And in the event that our son feels uncomfortable or overwhelmed or frightened, we are always first to remove him from these situations. The only real thing we ever ask for always is not to be judged.

Alphonse has missed much of life growing up, and this is partly because, I am ashamed to admit, we were always wary about disturbing others’ comfort and peace. And yet I ask now, if he remains locked from this world, and perhaps one day this too will happen to him- to be banned from church, to be rejected from school, to be kicked off a plane- what does this offer him but to entice him all the more to stay hidden and unbidden? Is your temporary convenience worth my son’s chances at a full and happy life?

Now, I am anxious about flying with my son. I know that there are many things that could have been done before, during, and after this sorry incident. And yes, I will keep all these in mind when I rethink our plans for Alphonse’s long-haul flight. Perhaps there are things we can control, and whatever they are, you who will share a flight with us in the future can be assured that we’ve worked on them to the full extent of our abilities as parents. Then again, perhaps, there are many more others that will surprise and befuddle us. Yet more than these, I am afraid of the hate, and wondering where this all comes from, I am most afraid of the answers. 

15 Responses to “Flight Risk”

  1. manggy June 27, 2008 at 1:07 pm #

    Very thoughtful and well-written post, Kittymama. I too see such hate-filled messages on unmoderated boards, and it took a lot of courage on your part to read them. I think if it were me after a while, I’d have shut out the site and all those people forever, reasoning that the people’s cruelty is too deeply ingrained and I can’t talk with them sensibly any longer. A cop-out. Some of those statements you quoted are just monstrous. Twisted. Unbelievable.

    I do hope for the best on your trip, if it pulls through. I wonder if you can precondition such things.

    I’m doing everything humanly possible to make it come through. 🙂 Imagine, we’ve been practicing putting on seatbelts for seven months! The last steps for preparation would include a simulation and maybe a domestic flight for practice. Other than that, I can only pray that things go well for us.
    I was bothered by the comments people left on the site (more negative than positive ones) but you’re right, you can’t talk reason and compassion to people who have none. Really unbelievable that in this day and age, we still haven’t found a way to coexist in peace. ~♥Kittymama

  2. FXSmom June 27, 2008 at 7:12 pm #

    It is unbelievable that people are still so evil. In a time when people are becoming more open minded there seems to be those who just can’t take it. They spill vileness from their mouths to shield the inadequacies they hold deep inside. Those horrible statements are just from people who are glad that it wasn’t them in that situation.

    Amen to that! 🙂 ~♥Kittymama

  3. Ness June 27, 2008 at 10:21 pm #

    KittyMama, thanks for sharing these. Some reactions are downright shocking. Hope your trip will be ok. How about short leg trips instead of one long haul?

    One of my friends did that, cutting her trip with her child into five or six stops, each with at least an overnight stay in a hotel nearest to the airport. I wish I could do that too but I worry about adjustment and acclimatization at each point; also, we would need at least a few days for that and already, I can imagine the costs would be sky high! 🙂 And the dollar is up to PhP45 again, yikes! ~♥Kittymama

  4. megamomph June 27, 2008 at 11:26 pm #

    I feel sorry for the people who responded as above. They probably have not felt any kindness towards them. Kawawa naman sila: trapped in their own self-centered worlds, thinking that the world exists only for them and their comfort.
    I’m not going to reason out with those people. What a waste of my time.
    In the meantime, do plan for your trip. I think you should go as long as you are ready, and don’t let what these mean people think or say change your plans.

    We are hoping to go before the year is over but Alex is asking to come, too, and requests for it on his summer break. I think it mostly depends on how prepared Alphonse is emotionally and of course, the availability of slots for the camp (they’re gone so fast!). Thanks for the reassurance, my friend! ~♥Kittymama

  5. leira June 28, 2008 at 1:29 pm #

    Hay naku don’t get me started-wala akong nasakyan na airplane na Autism Friendly. I didn’t expect to be treated any differently, just a little compassion, bata yung kasama ko. Syempre pagod sya sa flight but no, they don’t care. But the worse was really Northwest…Joshwa was having a fit- who wouldn’t after 18 hours of flying and sat down on the floor and so my mom was trying to tell the attendant about Joshwa and that he has autism didn’t show any compassion. She told my mom don’t let him sit on the floor again not now not ever!!!

    Naku, these are exactly some of the things I am afraid of. For one, Alphonse likes to jump. Imagine him jumping in an airplane full of people (we’re working on sitting quietly); I can almost faint in fright! Still, I am prepared to pursue this avenue for him. I just hope that all my preparations can serve as an effective counterpoint to the unexpected in Alphonse. ~♥Kittymama

  6. Casdok June 28, 2008 at 5:48 pm #

    I can understand your anxiety. But it sounds like a wonderful opportunity and experience.

    We think so too! We’re crossing our fingers (and toes) for this adventure! ~♥Kittymama

  7. mari July 1, 2008 at 6:40 pm #

    i’ve seen the child on tv with his parents. this indeed has caught the media hype.

    anyway, i think kicking the mom and the kid out of the plane is too OA on the part of continental. kids in general become fussy one way or the other. the mom, should’ve thought of ways to entertain her kid. we, moms, know our kids’s kiliti or weaknesses. also, inasmuch as the mom was prepared for her son’s fussiness, kids are and will always be full of surprises, regardless whether they’re autistic or not.

    I agree. Kids, autistic or not, will always be kids. It’s not surprising to hear them throw a tantrum or cry when they are overwhelmed, tired, hungry, frustrated. Yet so many people seem to forget that and are simply bent on their own personal comforts. I am just so surprised at all the hatred out there; is this child-directed or autism-directed or both? Very scary… ~♥Kittymama

  8. odette July 2, 2008 at 3:30 pm #

    i’m also bewildered now, why all that hatred especially the line *GOOD RIDDANCE*, just totally un-called for.

    i wish you the best though, and a safe travel for the whole family. have faith that alphonse will pass the long-flight test with flying colors, and most of all, that all of you would have a nice holiday at the same time.

    let’s just pray that all’s going to be well. with God, nothing is impossible. 🙂

  9. hyprsts July 3, 2008 at 2:25 am #

    Wow! The comments really blew me away. I want to feel bad for myself as an ASD parent but there will really be a lot of people out there who cannot understand (as much as they claim to be)….. I pray for them, sincerely….

    Have you ever thought of video conferencing? 😀 It’s the biggest thing now…..:-D

  10. julie July 3, 2008 at 4:16 am #

    Oh my. This is so sad, not just what happened to the mom and her child but with what others said about the incident.

    It takes a lot of patience and dry runs to do new things with these children. I hope you would be able to do these things and all with Alphonse.

    According to Pumbaa (maybe Timon), “It’s a jungle out there”

  11. Alexa Sienes August 4, 2008 at 10:46 am #

    This entry nearly made me cry out in frustration! They have no idea how it is to live with someone who has autism, and they think that they already have a right to judge people who do! It’s so unfair!!!! Why can’t they just feel for the mother and the kid? They are all just so absorbed in their own desires that they no longer get to empathize. My mom once said, “Special children are gifts from God” and from what the people are saying here, they clearly don’t realize that.

  12. Teressa Thompson December 22, 2010 at 4:55 am #

    Thank you for your post. My son is on the spectrum and has been flying UM for many years. He is now too old to do that any longer; they consider him an adult. Yikes! Even though I was afraid of what this change would mean, I have a happy story to tell about this airline and my son’s experience today. I’m posting it on my blog and would love to use your graphic.

    • Kittymama December 22, 2010 at 10:04 am #

      I just came from your blog and I am very happy Joey made it to Texas safely. 🙂 And of course, feel free to use the graphic. Many thanks for dropping by!


  1. teacherjulie.com » Daily Struggles - July 3, 2008

    […] There is one post, however that made me think how really difficult it is to do things that seem ordinary for us folks. Flying. […]

  2. The Right to Be | Okasaneko Chronicles - September 29, 2015

    […] him from these situations. The only real thing we ever ask for always is not to be judged. (from Flight Risk, 27 June […]

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