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Autism Exclusions... or Not?

The following is the latest in a sudden "bubble" of stories about autism and access to spaces: churches, schools, and now airplanes. I have kept only the major sections of the story and suggest reading the ABC report.
Autistic Boy and Mom Kicked Off Plane
Mother Says Flight Crew Should Have Been More Understanding
June 25, 2008 — 
There were no weapons on board or concerns about terrorism, but an American Eagle flight about to take off from the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., airport was turned back to its gate on Monday to remove two passengers. 
The culprits? An upset, autistic toddler and his mother. 
By all accounts, two-year-old Jarret Farrell wasn't a happy traveler. But his mother, Janice Farrell, who said she tried everything to calm her son, believes there was no reason for the airline to kick them off the plane.
Okay, so far the headline and the story make a clear case for not removing the child and his mother. But, is this the entire story?
Farrell said that a pilot came into to the cabin and told Jarret, "You have to get in your seat, young man." 
Farrell said she started crying then, which just exacerbated Jarret's behavior. 
"He just melted down. He saw me getting upset. He was upset. He was on the floor rolling around," Farrell told WTVD. 
That's when the pilot turned the plane around and headed back to the terminal, where Farrell and her son were escorted off the plane.
I am really torn, as I am when I read most of these stories. Clearly the situation was tense and the plane was already preparing to taxi towards take off. At that moment, you must have everyone seated and secured. Maybe the airline employees could have been super, super patient, but as anyone flying knows -- when you get to take off, you need to get airborne. Immediately. Too often, we sit in planes waiting and waiting and waiting. You get a green light, you need to roll.

You cannot take flight with a child in the aisles. It is not safe, period.

So I wonder, what was the whole story? Who is recalling events properly? Honestly, it might not matter. Once the child is out of his seat, nothing else matters. You cannot take flight and you can't park on the runway while the mother calms the child. You either take clearance and go, or you are stuck returning to the gate.

If the staff were wrong, that needs to be addressed, but there is also no way that plane could leave the ground once the child was out of his seat. What a mess.

Parents need to realize, and I know this sounds like I do not understand, the safety and comfort of all passengers, including this child, must be considered. Most parents of autistic children realize, there are times when you cannot do much to stop a meltdown. If you are in a store, a library, or even a movie, you can easily walk out and let time pass. You cannot walk out of a plane.

I have no idea what the best approach is. I deal with autistic individuals and have my own extreme sensitivities. I know there are days when I cannot ride the train or bus. I simply cannot tolerate them. However, a plane ticket is expensive and you cannot merely wait for a good time to board. This is a really tough situation.


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