I was reading an article over at MSNBC.com yesterday, regarding a three year old who was thrown off an Alaska Air flight. To me, the fact that the airline acted improperly is just one facet of the problem in this case – it takes reading the entire page, including comments, to see what the larger issue is.
I’ll admit that I’m horrible sometimes about reading online news. I tend to read the article, get through the meat of it as quickly as possible, and get back to what I’m doing. (I’m generally reading news articles while I’m waiting for software to compile at work, a process that takes between one and fifteen minutes depending on the package.) When I saw the headline, I groaned to myself about ‘another child getting thrown off a flight’ and read it just to see what actually happened… and of course, yes, Alaska Air’s crew should have shown a little more compassion and understanding. (Though I agree with one poster – one wonders why the parents didn’t switch seats if they knew one got better results with the child than the other. OR, as my wife asked, why didn’t the dad have snacks or something to distract the child when the iPad was taken away?)
Yes, I dislike being on an airplane with screaming children. (Though, as my wife will point out – I don’t like to fly, and that’s due to issues wholly unrelated to this blog.) But it’s a fact of life of travelling with children – they are going to have the occasional meltdown when you put them in a confined space and restrict what they can do to entertain themselves for periods of time. I’ve taken solo trips with the Monster in the car, and spent a good hour and a half listening to him scream about how he wants Mommy. (“Mommy! Where you go?!”)
But then I got to the comments, and was appalled. I can only imagine what must have happened on this flight – it’s easy to imagine a situation where the child started to have his meltdown in coach class and the passengers around him started to complain to the flight crew. It would have been far, far easier for the crew to put the family off rather than have a surly bunch in the back of the plane for a flight cross-country, even if the child would have likely calmed down after a bit. The comments present yesterday were hateful little rants about how the dad is a poor parent, how the airline was absolutely right to put the family off, et cetera.
Now, we don’t travel often on public transportation with the Monster – as mentioned, I dislike flying and I don’t take terribly many vacations that aren’t driving distance. We’ve taken him on one airplane-based trip, and he was just fine. However, that was also a year and a half ago, when he wasn’t obsessed with electronic devices and was somewhat smaller than he is now, so he was easier to manage and distract with a couple of cheerios or the like. It’s not hard to put that all together and imagine him having the mother of all meltdowns on an airplane while on the tarmac or in the air.
Of course, it’s also worse because of the ASD. The wife’s already had issues with his behavior in public, and while she’s loathe to use “he’s autistic” as part of her explanations for his behavior, I haven’t seen that trying to explain to people that he’s autistic and doesn’t have the language skills for one to reason with him helps the situation.
I wish I knew how other parents with autistic kids dealt with these kind of things, how they feel when they read news like this, and the like…