Jun 29, 2008

Keep Your Projectile Child Off My Child's Flight. Please?

After weighing the extraordinarily high risk of getting thumped on my often less-than-adorable head, I've been mulling the story over for several days. In my wise older age, I'm learning to blog with delay--lest my 'you stupid Stacey, now I've gotta sprinkle 'the dust' on you tonight' fairy visits. Which always leaves me to cringe as I read what I wrote in the wee hours of that very morning. So this time, I waited.

About the American Airlines incident with the autistic child. I've read the blogs, heard the shock in the indignant mommies as they came together to discuss this. And I empathize--I haven't got anything against autistic children and I consider myself reasonable. In fact, I readily admit I know little to nothing about autism, and know that could change quickly as my children approach the age they will settle down and start families. I know I'm not immune, I really do.

But in going from news article to news article, one thing keeps running through my mind and I still can't shake it, so I'll just say it. The carry on? The one the mother begrudgingly finally allowed to be properly stowed overhead? The kid that wouldn't stay buckled in his seat belt and refused to sit still long enough to take off? As a mother who just last week put her 16 year old son on an airplane to fly halfway across America to visit friends, and will pray again this week that he returns in a few days safely, I take great offense with this mother. I happen to love my child dearly too--and would not take kindly to finding out the airline didn't do it's job to KEEP PROJECTILE BAGS AND CHILDREN FROM FLYING ACROSS THE PLANE ON TAKEOFF FROM SERIOUSLY INJURING MY CHILD.

There! I said it, I believe it, and I will not take it back!

On a less life-threatening note, but a very valid one nonetheless, Cody had a 40 minute layover in Detroit. In that time, he had to get off the plane, find someone to verify where he needed to be, get directions, and walk the 5000 gates down to where he would walk up just in time to whip out his ticket, ID, and board the flight to his destination. No time left to spare (on my way to better days...no time left to spare...I found myself some wings!--replaces the music I'd usually insert her). I'm not sure it's right to expect everyone to sit patiently on the runway and wait for your kid's meltdown to subside before it was clear to secure items/child before takeoff. It's not about ignorance, intolerance, meanie-ness, lack of compassion and or understanding. I'm not like that.

There are many facets to this story, and this is one I wanted to throw out there. Because I'm not okay with vilifying the airline for following procedure when my kid could be inadvertently at risk. There! I said it, that felt mighty fine!


D... said...

I'm of 2 minds on this. And, to be honest, I've only heard one side of the story, the one where AA is mean. I need to read more articles. I work with children who have autism so I understand their idiosyncrasies, as much as anyone not raising a child with autism can understand. The airlines couldn't risk many for the sake of one. It just doesn't work that way. And, if he isn't buckled in, it's not safe for him either. Also, yes, I'd rather MY child be safe. I'm selfish that way. ;)

As for Cody, wow! I'm proud of him! Sounds like he handled himself quite well at the airport. And I know he'll return safely home to ya'll.

artisticdiva said...

Hey Stacey, What reply to what hello are you talking about in your PS on my blog? Memory farts this week :)

Hey, I want to see you again, soon. What is your week like?


Tammy said...

I heard about that. I have 2 autistic nephews, one 4 and one 9, and there in no way I would take them on an airplane. Do I agree with what happened, no I think the situation could have been better handled by both the airline and the mother of the child. I think the mother should have informed the airline that her child was autistic and I'm sure they would have made accomodations for her. On the other hand if it was my sister that this happened too, I would have been upset by it. It's one of those hard things to call, but the safety of everyone on the airplane is a priority and if the child is not able to be on an airplane then flying isn't the best option.

Wow man I talked a lot didn't I! LOL
Hugs, Tammy

Mrs. C said...

I have two autistic kids so I'm more on the airline-being-a-meanie side. After hours of waiting here and there, the kid needed a minute to get his brain on straight. You need to think of autism as being a disability in terms of adjusting to new people, places and routines. I've seen Elf totally FLIP but if you give him five minutes without getting into his face or escalating things like the airline did he calms down.

Five minutes seems like a lot of time, but when you consider I've seen SEVEN OR EIGHT oxygen-tethered people in their wheelchairs all expecting personal assistance from flight attendants in order to get onto ONE airplane, you can put it into perspective. (How do they evacuate these people? Not to be heartless, but I'm not waiting in line behind them if the plane's about to blow.)

I'm thinking if the autistic kid who needs five minutes can't fly, better kick Granny to the curb if she's taking too long getting her heiny seated on the plane. Places to go and things to do ya know, and if we're in that much of a hurry, no one but able-bodied people between 18 and 40 better fly.

It would have been better to have let the mom and family on first and they'd have plenty of time to get over stuff while the 7 grannies are being loaded. Just sayin'.

That being said, it would have to take something big for me to fly with everyone without help. But sometimes big stuff happens, so I'd hope for a little grace from these people if I had to go on the plane.

Stacey said...

I appreciate so much that we can have this discussion--if we don't, then how would we ever get to an understanding?

I also appreciate and respect your opinions, and thank you for them....Mrs. C, I hear what you are saying (I happen to adore older people and not sure I'm comfortable with your descriptives, even though they were used to make a point).

I also believe more grace needs to be given, anyone who thinks otherwise doesn't know me at all. I'm willing to give grace when needed and I'm humbled when I need to be. I readily admit I do not have an autistic child, can't even imagine. But this was far more than a five minute get seated and situated event...and there's where I leave you behind. Like I said, my son had no time to spare before his connection--he would have missed his connection either way on this flight and that wouldn't have been okay with me. Who's to say one person's situation is more valuable than another's? That's my point. If this child is not capable of flying just yet, bless his heart I'm sorry for him, he didn't do anything wrong. His mother, on the other hand, should have known this and should have 1) stowed the bag rather than arguing with the flight attendant, whereupon the child was agitated 2)not taken him on a flight in the first place assuming, of course, there was time to do so ICE.

We all expect grace for ourselves, but do we honestly give compassion and grace everytime we run into a difficult situation? I know I don't, I try to, but I fall short.

Gayle said...

Hmmm, now I have to go read about this. Somehow I miss everything!

kailani said...

I've only read bits and pieces of this but being a Mom and a flight attendant, I can see both sides of the story.

That being said, I would have to side with the airlines only because safety of the passengers must come first. If that child refused to be seated, he's a risk to himself, his mother, and to everyone around him. Take offs and landings are THE MOST crucial parts of the flight. If my child didn't want to get strapped in, I personally would take myself off the flight.

Jenny 865-53oh9 said...

I have dealt with this myself, flying from St. Louis to India with Hulkman. He has mild autism, so I made sure to tell the check in desk before each flight that he might need to be seated before the rush. They never blinked an eye. They had us get on early and had us seated, with drinks in our hands before they allowed anyone else on board. He was comfortable, and made for a great transition into each flight.

Especially Heather said...

I totally completely 100% agree with everything Mrs C said, and then some.

Stacey this isn't solely directed at you, so please do not take it that way, but you know I have an autistic daughter and this is my passion. I have also seen very normal 2 year olds have a melt down in the isle on the plane on the runaway, and the flight attendants did everything in their power to help the mother and her child. EVERYTHING. I have seen handicapped individuals get A+ stellar treatment from the airlines, yet my daughter is looked at as "unruly and wild", yet she has a very recognized and publicized disability. 1 in every 150 American children has autism

You said this:
"Who's to say one person's situation is more valuable than another's?"

I disagree somewhat. I believe that any handicapped child or individual, whether they have autism, down syndrome, anything, deserves more care and more compassion. They did not ask to be this way, and they certainly didn't ask to be discriminated against by an airline who admitted that it should have never happened in the first place.

My daughter is my number one priority, and her RIGHTS as a disabled individual are my number one responsibility. I'm selfish that way.

I also think that everyone is missing a major point here. Autism is different for every child. Different things set them off, and they can set them off at ANY GIVEN TIME. This mother deserves some grace too. She obviously didn't know that her son would "go off" or she would have done something to prevent it. She admitted that. And I feel her heart, as an mother of an autistic child. It disgusts me that the pilot, over the loud speaker (according to ABC Eyewitness news) "made an announcement that there was a woman and her child on the plane and the child is uncontrollable"... that just disgusts me. HE HAS A DISABILITY. And with that, I will step off my soap box

Hugs and love Stacey, Thank you for sharing your heart openly and honestly, but if I could just point out one thing:

Insert "Autistic child" into the title of this post and put yourself in the shoes of a mother of an autistic child. I know you didn't mean to offend me, but I will be honest, the title of this post cuts deep.


Stacey said...

Heather, wow that was quite a post..and packed with information. I'll try to respond intelligently, being before 9am and all!

I appreciate your situation, I'm aware of it, as I am with many of my friends' situations. And Heather, I am sorry the title of your post offended you, it wasn't meant to. But, after careful consideration, I'm going to stand by it. I didn't write this on the fly, I considered it, I checked it all out, then I wrote (and I think I'm somewhat intelligent, at least that's what all the tests said).

I didn't write this focusing on autism, Heather, and I can't be made to feel guilty that I didn't. It's about the mother and her refusal to stow her bag. It's about the agitation she demonstrated (also attested to by other passengers)when urged to do so just long enough for takeoff, which contributed to this little boy's anxiety. SHE did not handle the situation well at all, Heather, and for that, I don't feel other people on this plane should be put in danger. Further, if this child was unable to remain buckled upon crucial takeoff, then they had no choice BUT turn that plane around, it was dangerous for all the others, whose lives may not be touched with autism, but are JUST AS IMPORTANT. The moment I start believing my child's life isn't as special as another's, that'll be the moment they need to lock me up for good.

If anyone who read this thinks for a second that I don't have empathy, that I wouldn't pick up and carry your child on my shoulders across the country if need be, then that would be someone who clearly doesn't know me at all. Because if you needed that, ask, I'll be there.

It's not about your child's right to fly, not about your child's need for special attention, but it's about my child's right and need to remain safe. Period. Mom needed to handle it differently.

I'm sorry for anyone who deals with autism, and I'm sorry I offended you, but an autistic child who cannot remain buckled in poses danger to my child, my husband, my friend, and I believe the airline made the right decision. And I respect your belief that they did not.