Monday, July 7, 2008

An Open Letter to the Airline Industry from an Aspergian’s (Autistic Child) Mom,

Let me begin by saying my child is not the enemy. Please try not to treat him like one.

My child has the same rights and should be allowed to ride in a plane, your plane, just as the gentleman snoring loudly in seat 3B is right now. Yes, I understand that he’s screaming bloody murder right now. He’s frightened. The pressure in the cabin is affecting his sensibilities. The people talking loudly to each other; the sounds that the plane is making are affecting him. Please don’t keep stopping by and checking his seatbelt every 10 seconds. I can’t help but notice that you didn’t seem to care about the other screaming child in the back of the plane.

Oh? It’s a newborn? Well, can I ask why the double standard? How is it okay for that parent to escape scrutiny, yet you keep harassing me? My child should “know better”, you say? Hmmmmm. I don’t think you understand.

Allow me to explain. Also, allow me to clarify.

Just like that newborn, my son struggles to verbalize his discomfort in social situations. His understanding of this situation in his mind is identical to that newborn back there. I have taken the time and great effort to make sure we have things to make him as comfortable as possible for the duration of this trip, but even I can’t ultimately control his reactions. As his parent, I do my best, just as you strive to do, each day in your job. Sometimes I miss the mark. Trust me, it is definitely not intentional. I did not awaken this morning thinking “How can I piss off everyone my son comes in contact with?” I have much bigger fish to fry.

In the not so distant past, it was customary for a passenger when booking a flight to tell the person who booked the reservation what special needs they might have, if any. This needs to start making a comeback. I am more than happy to let the staff know our situation, and if necessary, things we can do as a team to make this trip as enjoyable for everyone. It may mean enduring some moments that are not so comfortable for a period of time, but the end result might turn out to be not so bad. The best part is you have an opportunity for a learning moment to take place. We can all stand to learn something, wouldn’t you agree?

The worst thing you can do is make me or my family feel like we have done something wrong or inconvenienced you in some way. On every flight (or just about) I’m certain that there is a screaming child or an obnoxiously drunk adult or that one person who can’t wait until the sign is turned off to move about the cabin. I don’t always see a police escort waiting for them at the airline terminal, so why single me out? It’s because autism is such a hot topic, isn’t it? Or, is it your lack of training and understanding of the situation? Please help me to understand.

My family is not your enemy. Please try not to treat us like one.

Lets’ try to work together to keep those skies as friendly as we can. I’m game if you are.

Sincerely, CrazedMommy

Shash and her family fly the not-so-friendly skies rather frequently. They have the miles to prove it. She has two amazing boys, one with Asperger's, a form of high-functioning autism, and in her copious amounts of spare time is a Teaching Assistant in a special needs classroom at an elementary school. Read more about her life and family at Diary of a Crazed Mommy. This is her first post here at Autism Sucks.


  1. Oh, this post is wonderful. You are right that your family deserves the same respect everyone else does, and YES, there's a double standard! Keep advocating for your family, I'm fairly certain that you're right about it being a lack of training on the part of the airline staff that makes them so insensitive. Hang in there :-)

  2. Thanks Kate!

    The more we talk about it, the more things can change!

    (and I LOVE to talk!)


  3. YOU know I just about never post on these things but what the hell - there's always one stone in the pond >> but as an sepcial educator, a parent of a LD child, the sibling of an "asie" - okay I'll bite... Yeah I understand ... yeah I'm sympathetic ... but let me tell you how many of my parents take the train to florida from maine to disney - just to avaoid this very thing (they dont want to have to deal with it) but more important so their "asie" child will be more comfortable - So if your getting on a plane, and u know ur child is going to have a tough time - know off the back you are too going to have a tough time and in more ways than one. You are going to have every person looking at you with rolled eyes, exsaperation and sometimes pure hate. What can I tell you?? Deal ... U've lived up to your end of the deal as a good mom ... okay .... your son is living up to his end of the deal by being difficult - okay - what autistic kid on a flight won't be.... now except the rest of the peole on the flight are going to live up to their deal and not be happy....

    But don't take it personal - it is what it is - now for me - the same way I'll go to that drunk chick in first (and i have) to let her know shes being over the top - or wake that guy next to me for snoring really loud next to me (and i have) is the same way I'll go to YOU to complain your kid is too loud and yes inconveniencing me - it's not personal - The same way your son is objecting to being on a flight (very blusterous) is the same way each person is entitled too also. So unless you are going to tape his mouth wrists hands and feet for the duration of the flight - i dont see why you think it's "fair" for everyone else too as well??

    But hey - remember his schedule, a wrist watch, the snacks, the portable dvd and mp3 player(with head phones)and good luck - and of course happy flying!!

    LR From NY


add your voice to the conversation!
(spam will be cheerfully and swiftly deleted)