6-Year-Old Refused Seat on Plane Because of Autism

qantas airline

Parents of special needs kids have it rough in ways other parents can only imagine. Even everyday things like going to the grocery store, finishing homework, or taking a vacation can require more time, planning, and calling up patience you didn't know you had. Need proof? A mom claims Qantas Airways wouldn't let her 6-year-old son fly alone to visit his father -- because he has autism and ADHD.


Here's what allegedly went down.

Gizelle Laurente couldn't afford a plane ticket to accompany her son, Jacob, from Darwin to Brisbane to vist his father for Easter weekend. So she bought Jacob his own ticket, spoke to his pediatrician, and even arranged for him to take a higher dose of his ADHD medication so he would remain calm during the flight.

Qantas, like other airlines, has a special program for unaccompanied minors that keeps them supervised and safe from the time they check in at the airport until they're met by a guardian at their destination. They're used to dealing with kids.

More from The Stir: 10 Biggest Myths About Autism From Moms Who Know

Laurente claims that when a pilot came to meet Jacob at the boarding gate, she relayed his conditions and what she'd done to prepare him for the flight. Apparently, that's when he informed her that Jacob couldn't fly alone.

"I explained that I couldn't afford a ticket and he said, 'Well, I'm sorry your son can't board'," Laurente told The Daily Mail. "I was heartbroken for him. I just started crying."

gizelle laurente and son

She later took to Facebook to complain. (Maybe one of only two things social media is good for: calling out corporations when they're acting unfairly.) A Qantas rep explained that they required Jacob's medical forms to be submitted several days before the flight, not at check-in, and their medical team needed more info about Jacob's condtion... But the end result was a happy one: Today, Jacob flew (alone) to see his dad for Easter.

These days, everyone is understandably hypervigilant about plane safety. No one can fault Qantas for being cautious. (Although if airlines would lower their fares already, Laurente could have simply traveled with her son and this wouldn't have been an issue.)

Still, my heart goes out to this special needs mom. I'm sure there are some days that everything feels like a battle and well, this was certainly one of them.

If you have a special needs child, what hassles have you encountered when you fly?

Image via qantas/Instagram and Facebook



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