My Son Did a Great Job at Airport Security. But This Guard Did Not.


My son, DC, loves to travel. He loves hotel rooms. He even loves to fly.

DC has flown quite a bit, but this will be his longest flight so far. Security is always a bit overwhelming for him, but he gets through it. As many times as he has flown before, he never had to go through the body scan until our trip in October to North Carolina’s Mountain of OZ.

There were a few times over the years when the security lines were not very busy and I wanted him to go through so I could explain it to him without holding up the line. But as soon as I mentioned “autism,” they whisked him though the walk-through before I had the chance to finish my sentence. That was fine, but I really wanted him to do it once in case there was ever a time that we weren’t given the choice. Of course I do explain it all to him while we’re in line and make him watch what everyone else is doing, just in case. But no amount of explaining can take the place of doing.

Heading home from the Charlotte airport — it happened. He had to go through the body scan. As always, I explained and showed him what he had to do while waiting in line. DC’s dad, Doug, went through first and waited on the other side. I was behind DC. The security people saw us giving him instructions and the woman let me get up close so I can show him exactly what to do. He put his feet on the foot prints and raised his arms and waited for them to tell him he was finished. He did a great job.

He turned to walk out of the body scan when the guard on the other side (near where Doug waited) grabbed DC with absolutely no notice and without saying a word and searched him! It happened too fast for either of us to react. DC was now screaming, “Not all right! Not all right!” while I was trying to get through the scan to get to him. Both security guards saw us giving him directions. I told the woman he has autism. I thought that they “got it.” There was no way they couldn’t see that maybe they should approach with care or at least say something to him before he was grabbed and patted down.

I finally made it to the other side and DC was still yelling and really could not function. He couldn’t get his shoes and other items off of the conveyor belt. He just continued to yell, fists in the air: “Not all right!” Now all of the other security people in the area were watching as I tried to calm him down. I prayed that none of them would say anything or try to approach him and make matters worse. This went on for a good long while. I had him sit down and tried to explain to him that he did everything correctly. The man should not have grabbed him without letting him know first. This was not his fault and he had every right to be upset. Eventually he did calm down and there were no aftershocks on the flight home.

People do at times overlook him completely and direct their questions to me instead of talking to him. I always repeat the question to him and make sure he gives the person the answer himself. I mentioned earlier that I thought that there was no way on earth that the security guards did not understand even before I explained that DC has autism. Now as I think about it, I wonder if they actually did understand and decided that due to his autism, they did not really need to talk to DC directly at all.

And that is a problem.

A version of this post originally appeared on Taking It a Step at a Time – Autism.

CLARIFICATION: The image used on this story is from Thinkstock Photos. Vickie C.‘s son is an adult with autism. Hi, Mighty community. We sincerely apologize for the confusion. As Vickie C. explained in her own comment, “They did not search a child or make a child go through the body scan. They also did not treat my adult son with respect.”

The Mighty wants to hear more about your travel experiences as parents of children with special needs. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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