Friday, August 15, 2008

"Autism Moments" on an Airplane

I just read a great post on another blog about one mom's experiences traveling with her autistic son on an airplane. This brought tears to my eyes and down my face because I know some of what she feels.

This past weekend I traveled alone with my 2 kids to Chicago to visit family. The trip from DC to Chicago is not long (about an hour and a half), and I thought my son would be fine. He's been doing so well on the diet, and his tantrums have decreased. Why wouldn't he do well? He'll love being on a plane! wasn't quite what I thought it would be. He was fine for the first 1/2 hour or so and then just completely LOST it. He was extremely anxious and wanted to get off the plane. It started with a whisper, "Mom, let's goooooo!" and then turned into a scream, "Let's Get OFF This Plane!!!" I did everything I knew how to do but I could not calm him, and I could not keep him quiet.

Yes, we were THAT family. I was THAT mom. And he was THAT kid.

Some passengers tried to help. On the way to Chicago, as I had my son in the back of the plane where he could lie down on the floor to tantrum, a male passenger tried to engage him in conversation. He was very nice for trying (unfortunately it didn't work). On the way back home, nobody was helpful, but some moms in nearby seats gave me looks of "Oh I'm sorry."

The flight attendants were not necessarily helpful, but they didn't freak out from the situation. I'm guessing they've seen this before. On the way home, as I held my son on my lap (without the seatbelt), one flight attendant said, "Doesn't he have his own seat?" I responded, "Yes." And she said, "He's supposed to be in it." I looked at her and said, "I'm trying." And they left. But I did hear one of them say "Well, if she doesn't care about his safety..." (and I know she said it for me to hear).

Now, come on. What should I do? Put him in the seat by himself and go across the aisle to sit in my own seat? Would THAT make him safer? Would THAT make him calm down? Hell no! It would make things worse! Honestly, that comment hurt me deeply, as if I was somehow being a terrible mom.

Meanwhile, my son is ranting and raging and kicking the seat in front of him. He is scratching my chin, my cheeks, my neck. He is drawing blood (a week later I still have the scabs, see photo above). What more could I do?

I'm not sure what this means for our vacationing future. I do know that it makes me even more determined to figure out what is "going on" with my son (he does not have an autism diagnosis) and even more determined to help him. I know he doesn't MEAN to behave like this. And I know he feels badly about it. When a child is kissing you one moment then drawing blood the next, I don't think that is "naughty behavior." I think there is something else going on, and part of my trying to figure it all out is why I have this blog in the first place!

To all you who have experienced "autism moments" on an airplane, I salute you.

To read the post I'm referring to, click HERE.


Julee said...

Oh Dear,

I'm so sorry Tori! I haven't flown with Nathan yet, hmmm, I wonder how it would go. I hate it when people make those mean comments so that you can hear, it hurts.

Keep both feet on the ground for a while, will ya!

P.S. Great job again on this blog and Lend4Health! I've given a teeny amount to 2 loans and it's so fun!

My husband was really excited and bless by Logan Roger's story. It was cool to see that it was funded and then he got services THAT WEEK! So cool!

Kristina said...

goodness Tori
I have been there and done that. Believe it or not what helped Jordan was covering his head with his favorite blanketseemed to calm him down. Now we don't fly without it. It is worth a try.

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