Flying With Autism

Midway through American Airlines Flight 101 from Heathrow to JFK, shortly after our microwaved meatball dinners were tossed out like frisbees, the flight attendant asked my son Ian if he wanted another beverage. He intently played his Tetris game on the backseat video console without replying or glancing her way.

Missing most of that exchange, I looked over in time to hear the flight attendant loudly exclaim, “Well, how RUDE is that?” She glared at me.

I recited the textbook response I give whenever Ian does something that inadvertently annoys strangers: “My son has autism, so we try to be understanding.”

More here.

4 thoughts on “Flying With Autism

  1. A dreadful experience that I know casts a gloom over an experience. I’m glad the attendant told you she had learned something and apologized, though I do agree with you that there are systemic, institutional issues that it is not your sole responsibility to address.

    I have been trying to expand my thinking about learning differences, disabilities, and accommodation — they are issues in which I come form a point of privilege, especially in my parenting experience.


    1. Having a grandson with Aspergers Syndrome and being a retired Elementary teacher, I could relate with your experience. I’ve gotten through some of those embarrassing situations, and I know the shame and embarrassment of being judged by others.
      I don’t know how old your son is, but I want to reassure you that life gets somewhat easier.
      Sure, you still worry, but our grandson has learned how to cope very well.
      If you want to learn more, email me.


  2. Sheesh, I’m sorry that happened to you and your son—and that it happens so regularly.

    I guess I’m glad that you are doing what you can to change the world, but no one should have to ugly-cry over this. But maybe the article you wrote will reach a lot more people, and will accelerate change.

    I think you are a really great parent—For what it’s worth, I wish you had been my parent.


  3. Good essay.
    My pet peeve in life is people who are the courtesy police. You know, sometimes people have a lot going on and can’t respond with courtesy all the time. There’s no need to make everything 10 times worse by being an asshole about it.


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