Our son was diagnosed almost 6 years ago with autism – do you remember? Autism is a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive behaviors and poor social skills. Our son, in particular, has a great deal of anxiety about time (being on time, being first to school, timers, etc.). He also does not always respond when spoken to, gets easily flustered by changes in his schedule, and sometimes needs a great deal of sensory stimulation. Autism does not “go away”, and there is no cure. Just because you have not seen him have a meltdown in a long while, does not mean that he has not had a meltdown in a long while. Remember, please, that you live three states away, and have only seen him for one week out of the last 52.
I understand that driving so far to pick him up for your irregular visitation time is a bother. I realize that you think you have plenty of better ways of spending your time, and that having an independent son who could fly by himself on an airplane would be very helpful to you.
Unfortunately, your son is not independent enough to fly by himself on an airplane, and may never be.
Can I ask you to take a moment just to think about what you are proposing? Think about all of the things that happen when a neurotypical person like yourself has ever flown a plane. They may include
- security screening where you have to take off clothing, put very specific items in bins, and follow very implicit directions (or you end up in a small poorly lit room in the bowels of the airport being asked about all and sundry)
- navigating an airport, and trying to decipher screens, maps, and just where those bathrooms are and if you have time or not to use one
- waiting in lines, very near other people
- waiting at a gate, occupying yourself for the two hours you now have because you are supposed to arrive so early for your flight
- following very implicit directions about when to board the flight and what to do with your belongings once you get on the flight
- following very implicit directions about staying seated and belted, and understanding all of the social rules about switching seats, using the bathroom, and handing over trash
- occupying yourself, often without electronics, for the duration of the flight
And that list is what happens when there are no flight delays or cancellations, no problems whatsoever.
Now imagine your son who has autism, attempting that by himself.
I realize that with children, much of this is ameliorated by staff members who do much to aid the child through the process. But The Boy is not a typical child, and I very much doubt that any staff person they would assign to him would have any insight into his disorder or possible outcomes stemming from it. And if we are trying to predict when The Boy would be independent enough to do all of this, it could well be after he reaches an age where the airlines are willing to assist him like that.
So, in short, it’s not going to happen any time soon. And I have a sneaking suspicion this is all moot anyway, because you would have to pay for the plane ticket, and that’s not bloody likely either.