Thursday, February 24, 2011


My goodness! I have a brand spanking new appreciation for you folks who write for a living and have editors and deadlines!
Today has been my day to be a faux author and see what it's all about.
We submitted my blog to the major news outlet and they wrote me back telling me it wasn't quite what they were looking for.
I rewrote it as more of a how to fly guide with kids on the spectrum. Nope, that wasn't it either.  They wanted a first person account of what it was like the first time Brian tantrumed on a plane.

This is what I sent them:

My 5 1/2 year old son Brian is on the Autism Spectrum. He was diagnosed with PDD-NOS when he was just 2 1/2 years old. Last week I got a phone call from Autism Speaks asking me if I wanted to be a part of a program called "Autism Explores" at Newark Airport. I didn't even hesitate. Just tell me where and when!

Brian's no stranger to flying and while he's really good now that wasn't always the case.
On his second flight he was over 2 and he had to sit in his own seat.
We were fine till I tried to put him in his car seat on the seat next to me.
He literally exploded with anger throwing the most amazing, intense desperate tantrum to get back into my lap and snuggle with me.

My heart was hammering out of my chest as I tried every single trick in the book to soothe this savage creature who was at this point holding the plane at the gate beacuse they couldn't push back without him being in his seat.

Between my husband and I we somehow got him into his seat and strapped in where he railed and thrashed like a fish out of water. Howling, screaming, throwing everything he could reach at me.

I was confused and crushed. Where had my great flier gone? What on EARTH was all that about?!

I couldn't even look at my fellow passengers or flight crew. I knew they all hated my family and while they didn't say anything I could feel the judgements and the anger and stress all around me. I didn't want to apologize for him beacuse it truly wasn't his fault. He was over stimulated and non verbal. I didn't think explaining it to them would help because we were seriously beyond anyone caring why it happened.

When we finally touched down in Orlando, I went to the bathroom and cried.

My husband and I discussed it and we decided that we (and those around us) were going to have to just suck it up and deal because comfort for Brian could only be found in repetition and in being familiar with the routine.

It took us about 30 flights of pure torture before one day out of the clear blue and for no rhyme or reason that I could see, Brian decided this was the flight he was to behave on and that was it. No looking back. It's to the point now where he doesn't even have to sit with me. He sits with his father and brother and I'm always in another aisle.

I'm a cautious optimistic and I still travel with my emergency bag of tricks (chips, goldfish, M&M's a favorite book and a new toy from the dollar store) because I know that we aren't so far removed from the tantrum flights and I know that they can return at any time and for no reason.

I was excited to be part of the program yesterday because we can't ever practice boarding a plane enough.

Getting through the airport with such a large group was very different and Brian showed signs of being close to a meltdown a couple of times, the biggest one when I disrupted his airport traditional routine of McDonald's after Security.  The promise of Chicken McNuggets and Fries is often the only thing that gets us through without drama.

He was mad at me as we waited for the plane grumbling about "Airports, and Nuggets and Fries" and I was afraid we were going to be taking a step backwards. I messed with his routine. Not only were we not traveling with his big brother and father, we had all these strange faces and police and TSA with us and then I went and took away his nuggets and fries!!!.

I held my breath as we boarded the plane and found our seats as I do with each flight. I  cheered him on as he found and buckled his seat belt himself. In return he shot me a look like I was off my rocker for being worried.

Yesterday's mock run was great for Brian who just keeps showing me how he's growing and maturing.  When we got home he ran to his big brother and told him proudly "I put on my seatbelt all by myself"

I'm so glad we got a chance to take part in such a very special and important program and I can't wait for our trip in 6 weeks to Disney World!!!

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