Understanding Autism


The recent controversial decision by a U.S. airline pilot to make an emergency landing to remove a  family because their 15-year-old was being disruptive, points to the lack of understanding there can be around autism. Obviously in  this case, the crew were unprepared for this teenager's behaviours and took the decision on flight safety grounds. Some planning and organisation before the teenager boarded could have eased the situation.

Many behavioural issues with people with autism are simply stress-related and their inability to cope with what others think are everyday situations. If we can give prior consideration to such things as the physical environment (business, noisiness, hot, dark etc), well-being (hunger, thirst, tiredness etc), the person's mood and thoughts, and psychological state (anxieties, fears), the behaviours might not occur at all. Asking the question "WHY is this behaviour occurring?" and showing understanding are good first steps to intervention.

In the case of the 15-year-old teenager, I wonder if some of the sensory experiences around her going on a flight, such as the engine noise, cabin lighting, confined space, food offerings etc, were considered? Perhaps appropriate food could have been brought on board the flight, beforehand.

A recent quote from Bright Tots (www.brighttots.com) is apt:"Once you accept that a child with autism experiences the world in a completely different way to you, you will be open to understand how that perspective is even more amazing than yours."