Clarification, The Mighty and Airport Security


A little over a week ago as I was preparing for a trip to Paris and London, I wrote a post about the preparations and the issue we had with my son during a security check on one of our recent trips. The original post, “Off we go….. almost” can be read here.

At the same time, the Mighty was asking for travel, airline and airport stories. I submitted a portion of the story I had just written about DC and the TSA Agent at the Charlotte Airport back in October. I did not submit a photo because really, what kind of photo would I have to go with that story? The Mighty replied and said that the photo would not be a problem – they would just use clip art.

The Mighty article posted the following day, with the title My Son Did a Great Job at Airport Security. But This Guard Did Not. The clip art they used was one of a little boy holding his passport looking up at a TSA Agent. At the time I thought nothing of it. I know they use clip art. I assumed most people knew that the Mighty often uses clip art.

But then…… I started reading some of the comments! People were outraged that the TSA would send a child through the body scan. It was only then that I realized that the photo used was misleading people into thinking that a small child was forced to go through the body scan AND then grabbed and patted down.

This was partially my fault as well. I am used to writing for MY readers, all of whom know that DC is an adult. The stories I submit to the Mighty are usually excerpts or edited down versions of an original story I have already posted. It does not occur to me to add additional detail. (It will certainly occur to me going forward).

I did feel the need to reply to the comments that were there and explain that my son is an adult. The Mighty, in turn saw my comments and immediately updated the photo and wrote a clarification

The Mighty Hi, Mighty community. We used a stock image for Vickie C.’s photo; her son is an adult with autism. 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.”

and an apology to me. I know this was not intentional on their part as I said earlier,  I really didn’t think anything of it until I read the comments. The facebook post photo would not update but the clarification was there.

Having said all of that, even after the clarification, my point that my child (Adult son) was treated like a non-person seemed to be lost in the body scan outrage.  My point: I first was confused by their treatment of him knowing he has Autism, actually confused by their treatment of him under any circumstances. After thinking about it and realizing that the fact that he has autism probably was the reason they did not even bother to speak to him or tell him what was going to happen is just plain wrong. This is a problem.

Since the article was posted I have received a few tips regarding airport security and accommodations. I will share them at the end of this post in the event they might come in handy to anyone that may be reading.

I don’t generally look for accommodations for DC. I do always want him to try before looking for an accommodation. If it is something that I know he cannot or will not be able to do, then yes, of course I will check out alternatives. If he is capable to doing it, I want him to do it. Accommodations are not available everywhere, they should be but they are not, so if he can, he will. The only accommodation he needed in this case was enough time for the process to be explained to him without getting too much direction from anyone other than myself – too much direction would only confuse the issue. We had that time, he did well, he listened and went through with no problem.

The treatment on the other side of the scan was totally uncalled for. Putting aside the wrongness of it for a moment, this kind of treatment can actually cause a problem where none would have existed. What if DC lashed out in fear? When he is confronted by a dog (he is afraid of dogs) his first instinct is to kick. What would have happened if, in fear he decided to kick or push or run? DC has never been violent, he has never hurt anyone but one does not know how he will react if frightened. He is a big strong boy. What would have happened then? I don’t want to think about it.

So I’d like to apologize for any miscommunication, but my point was not that DC had to go through the body scan at all. My point was that there was no reason for the treatment he received. The treatment he received could have escalated the situation into something far worse. NO ONE should be grabbed and patted down without a word or an explanation, no matter what age.

Below are some of the tips I received that you might find useful:

Check out The Arc of the US Wings for Autism program that gives families the opportunity to practice at the airport and trains TSA staff about people with disabilities.

The Arc | Wings for Autism

Is Wings for Autism coming to your city? Keep checking the schedule as more dates are announced…

and TSA Cares:

 Vickie, just read this post and while we haven’t had this exact scenario, separation for us (during the checks) are traumatic. We have had great success using TSA Cares and making prearrangements. We are met by a supervisor, who has a description of our situation and needs / concerns ahead of time. The supervisor escorts us through and stays with us until released after check point. We’ve even had some take us to our gate and ask what else they can do. (Can you say personal escorts with clout.)

I’ve even had a friend use TSA Cares to have his special needs child travel by himself. That boy is not much different than my son and parents were able to go to the gate with this child, and the meeting parent at other end met him at the receiving gate. They were completely satisfied and happy as well and love TSA Cares. It may be a well kept secret but we’ll worth our efforts and money well spent by our government.
We use it every time we fly.

(Please excuse the more-than-average amount of typos – I wasn’t intending to write anything today and this was written very quickly while talking on the phone and looking at proofs – multi-taking is also not one of my strengths)