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.



  1. I am a 51-year old with ADHD/Asperger’s. Simply by being made aware of other’s perception will motivate you to encourage your son to develop a system that assists him in navigating these treacherous situations. YOU have the power to change as well, rather than expecting society to change. You’ll find the world won’t change for him, rather the opposite in fact. After receiving my diagnosis, I made *very* particular efforts to STOP, recognize others (make eye contact, try to control my bouncy Aspy walk, etc. etc.) Good luck fighting the world, you’ll have more success leading with positive reinforcement rather than tearing down others!


  2. Thank you for sharing your experience. We have a 17 year old with autism. His biggest challenge is language. It does feel disheartening when he tries to be friendly and he is ignored. We all need more love and understanding.


  3. I have an 18 year old sin on the spectrum. He’s a golfer and almost weekly when we play I must explain why he won’t shake hands when first meeting someone or talk to them if we are hooked up with other players. Most will nod and take it in, but there are those occasions where he, or I, or both are belittled for his behavior. In those cases I tell them to play on and that my will play on our own. Life’s too short and he’s too good of a kid to have to deal with people like that. Thanks for sharing your story.


    • Could the flight attendant have a disorder too?
      “Meatballs tossed at us” and “stalking” are negative ways to portray a woman who deals with a lot as well. Those phrases put an unneeded negative feel to this post.


  4. I appreciate your article on HP. I also appreciate your acknowledgement of those that are more severely affected by autism than your son, like mine. We may have son’s that are differently affected, but we are united in the call for the public to be more understanding. One day that will happen, but I fear it won’t be in my lifetime. Thank you for sharing your story with the world. I’m not sure how you stay out of the comments over there, but I’m doing my best to defend against ignorance on full display.


  5. Nothing more then a long winded facebook post. Your getting bashed on yahoo too. Suggestions; more situational awareness, speak up for your kid that can’t, and delete facebook permanently.

    Liked by 1 person

    • John, you must be a special kind of scum to come here and bash the mother of a disabled child. Why don’t you post your full name you coward?


  6. My son has Tourette Syndrome, OCD and ADHD. He got so many looks and negative comments that we used to say Tourette’s wasn’t his problem it was everyone else’s. Keep doing what you’re doing. My son is now 29. The unconditional love and support pays off. He’s an amazing man with an awesome career.


  7. Thanks, I enjoyed your post very much. Gratuitous nastiness is becoming a national trait, and we all make mistakes. I hope this experience won’t keep you and your family from flying. I’m going to take my son on a one hour, direct flight on Spirit. I figure he and I won’t be the worst thing our fellow travelers will be dealing with.


  8. Our youngest of 6 is a 23 year old with autism. As in your article, he is toward the ‘high functioning’ end of the spectrum. That said it’s still terrifying to go outside our normal routine. He’s polite in public but has very little patience, especially when ‘typicals’ fail to pick up on his hard won social cues. Even his older siblings lose their patience with him. Your article in the Huffington Post is one I will be forwarding near and far! Thank you.


  9. How is it that half the kids have some sort of Autism these days? When I was growing up there was not place for this kind of attitude towards others, especially strangers. No excuses for poor education and bad manners. Being rude was exactly what it was: begin rude.
    Educating a child is hard work and I’m sure that it is much more convenient to hide behind a phantomatic “illness” instead of admitting poor parenting skills.


  10. My wife and I run a charity that defends bullied children and helps rebuild lives. We have seen a large increase in autistic children and their families needing assistance which tugs my heart.
    As I’m a bit of a verbal fighter, I might suggest next time you tell her that you wish her parents had done a better job (1) educating her about children with differences, (2) understanding/empathy, and (3) acceptance.
    Keep strong for your son!


    • Thanks, Tom, for advice and encouragement. And thanks for all the work that you and your wife do for kids who have been bullied. Such important work!


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