Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Excess Baggage

For anyone who has children, I’m sure you are all aware of the difficulties you have when travelling. It starts from the moment you decide to go on your first trip with your newly acquired baby.

A simple short break turns into a massive logistics exercise. What used to be a small suitcase thrown into your cavernous empty boot space becomes an exercise from the Krypton factor on how to accommodate a suitcase, travel cot, pram system and baby tool-chest full of nappy rash cream with twenty seven spare huggies (just in case you get stranded in some place that might not have a supermarket)

That’s of course before you factor in the sterilising system, complete with six bottles and enough powdered (or expressed) milk to feed sextuplets, the baby play gym and half a dozen different educational toys from the Early Learning Centre.

I’m not even going to mention how ridiculous we looked at the airport with all that in tow. In fact, every year we go away – I secretly sympathise with the ‘first timers’ knowing full well by next year they will have learned their lesson.

It’s been several years since we contended with all that, I’m glad to say. However our trips have not become any easier with an autistic son. We are the butt of many stares and ill judged, sometimes ignorant comments from our fellow travellers.

A 9 year old with the remnants of a yellow baby blanket, wearing green ear defenders, lying on the floor screaming and kicking the suitcase because he’s just decided he doesn’t want to go to Disneyland today – tends to draw some attention.

The well meaning passenger control person, making funny faces and noises that could genuinely help ‘normal’ children come out of a tantrum – just infuriating him further as they are told to **** off by said 9 year old.

The tutt, tutt brigade almost in unison. “You’d never catch my child behaving like that” as my wife gets punched in the arm.

This is just one example of a meltdown that can sometimes occur when someone with autism loses control. They are in a state of distress, they are physically unable to cope with whatever has upset them and they resort to communicating in a way that is socially unacceptable. At these times their already diminished processing and reasoning skills become diluted and they need to work through this release until their anxiety falls back to a lower level and they are able to return to a calmer state.

Afterwards, they may feel very emotional at the realisation they have behaved in an uncontrolled way. They may be embarrassed, confused and upset.

When your child is four and this happens in the supermarket, people are generally much more understanding. You’ll always get the old bat in the corner who offers advice that a good slap is what the kid needs, but on the whole people accept a younger child’s tantrum.

The only thing I wish to add is that if you see behaviour of this type in an older child or adult for that matter, it’s most likely for a reason; they probably have some condition and are unable to control themselves rather than being deliberately disruptive.(Unless they are obviously drunken rugby fans, who should of course know better)

We can all be too quick to judge, and I am guilty of that myself.

The first time parents will travel lighter next year but we will likely have the same yellow baby blanket, ear defenders and meltdown potential. I’ll understand if you don’t want to sit in the row behind us!

Actually, he’s always been great on the plane – apart from when he re-enacts crashes with the models we usually buy him from the in-flight store, but again that’s another story, ....and the old lady did recover.

If you liked this post you may like to visit Dear shopper staring at my child having a meltdown in the grocery store a post by flappiness is


  1. My daughter is disabled--she has no diagnosis but is "autism-like." She gets very upset when her routine is disturbed.

    People can be really intrusive and judgmental. Once, in the store, a lady said to me, "Isn't she a little old to be wearing diapers?" Yeesh.

    This is a great site!

  2. Thank you :-) appreciate your comments!

  3. Yes, the old lady on the plane story really should be told. lol Nice post. I'm going to link to it following my "Shopper" post.

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