From the reports I have heard, including the mother’s own statements, it didn’t need to go down like that. The way it was handled increased the stigma of those on the spectrum, and created fear where there wasn’t any previously.
I think Mom, already in high-anxiety-panic mode, and trying to avert a meltdown tried to get some help, and used a poorly phrased warning to encourage the unhelpful and apparently untrained flight staff to be proactive. Unfortunately, it may have sounded like a threat, and anyone who flies with any regularity knows that any possible threats are “handled” immediately, with questions only asked after the fact.
And let’s not even go there about her being unprepared. Autism moms are not machines, and there are times when we are caught unawares by our kiddos. It seems that she did the best she could with what she had at hand. And asked for some warmed up rice.
I think the flight staff who is trained in how to de-escalate situations utterly failed in this instance. Maybe Mom came off as “that” mom, the demanding one, and they responded with what many of us in the service industry do when customers start to get snippy and demanding. We slip into, “I’m sorry. That’s our policy,” because we can, and we take a secret glee in being unable to help someone who is so clearly trying to abuse the system. But they failed to recognize that this was not an unhappy and demanding customer, this was a mom making a plea for the sake of her daughter and the comfort of the other passengers. They failed to listen when she said her daughter was autistic. They failed to do their jobs and do what they could to diffuse the situation.
They brought her the rice and probably immediately went to the captain, reporting a threatening passenger because they could, and because that would teach her to be demanding and make threats on a plane.
And the captain, trusting his staff, made the call.
But even he failed to do his job and investigate any further before making that call.
The flight staff failed all of their customers. They failed to listen, they failed to be compassionate human beings, they failed to diffuse the situation. But more than that, they violated this young person’s rights.
So my personal take is that yes, this flight crew needs training about passengers with special needs, as well as training in disability rights. (Many flight crews do – I can tell you stories about the many, many flights I’ve taken with The Boy by myself.) But they also need to go back to square one and be retrained about their primary job in that airplane – de-escalating any potential situation.