The Launch of Silenced Witnesses Volume II: The Parents Story
From The Roman to The Wakefield Inquisition

Eight Year Old with Autism on Terror List: Detained at Airport.

Airport securityBy Sabeeha Rehman

My 8 year old grandson Omar, who is on the autism spectrum, was pulled out at the airport and investigated as a terror suspect - his name being similar to that on the watch list.  He was enroute to Disney World with his parents and siblings.  He was held for an hour and it was only when his date of birth (2001) did not match that of the person's on the watch list, who we understand was in his twenties, and after several huddled meetings and phone calls, was he and his family allowed to board the plane.  He was agitated while being held for an hour, and sat there stimming, but they had to go through their procedures, before they could rule him out as a terrorist. Had his father not been with him during the one hour detention - he too was detained and then cleared - I dread to think of the damage that would have done to Omar.
 
He is 8!  He has autism! 
 
I have brought this to the attention to a reporter at the New York Times, and want to raise this as an issue with our networks, before more children like Omar are subjected to this treatment.
 
Sabeeha Rehman is the grandmother of an 8 year-old child with autism, and President and co-founder of the New York Metro Chapter of the National Autism Association.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

emily'smom

Having previously worked for the airlines at the airport I am not surprised..the TSA does not know how to handle a crying child with autism who doesn't understand why they have to give someone else their belongings and take off their shoes!??!Whenever I traveled with my daughter, who is now 11, we would have the inevitable meltdown before we even reached the gate. She would run back and forth through the Magnatometer banging the sides and supervisors were always called in. In the airline training classes we always covered the "Americans with Disabilities Act" because it was sooooo important they not get fined. Once, when we were flying before take-off, I was told her crying was a distraction to the other passengers and if I couldn't stop her I would have to get off the plane. As a mother I said "you don't put babies who are crying off the plane-do you?"...as an airline employee, I said as per the ADA (American with Disabilities Act) she is not a safety or security issue and so you cannot deplane her unless you want to be fined. We flew. As an aside, it is now a revolving door at the airports, they pay their workers very little and train them even less.

PS

And you wonder why the rest of the world laughs at the USA.

just a Mother

It is time that Police and Security get some training how to handle autistic children or citizens,before somebody gets hurt. Things
got out of hand since 9/11.It is time to
bring back common sense and make some positive changes.An autistic eight year old child should NOT be separated from his parents.My son would have a panic attack and would be traumatized if he would be treated by yelling or aggressive words and actions.Changes are necessary or
travel to USA will decline.I would think 10 times to take my son to the USA,even do
he is not on any list and he is a Canadian citizen.Our children deserve better treatment like this.

Nicole

Wow, will the shameful practices to and against our children ever end? I remember when my son was younger and we had to wait in the long lines to board the aircraft. I called in advance to see if we could board early since my son was small (many airlines let small children board first, but not the one I flew a lot) and the answer was always no. I tried to explain to the workers on the ground that he had autism and boarding early would be helpful for him. No, again. I watched the elderly in wheelchairs get to board and always thought if my son was in a wheelchair maybe they would understand (thank God he was not). Instead we waited in the long line while everyone boarded and found spots for their carry on luggage while I grabbed the hand of a screaming, sick, anxiety ridden, stimming two year old so he wouldn't wander.

I can't even imagine being separated from my son for an hour so he could be detained and questioned regarding a terror list.

Where has our common sense and compassion gone? We are more worried about offending and profiling adults than further harming sick children.

Tom

I'm ashamed and sad to hear this. Where has this great country come to? I dare not say but it seems that the TSA while not being able to keep us safe (just imagine because they didn't stay on their post all of terminal C had to be evacuated) is now trying to take it out on our poor and helpless children.

I fly quite a bit internationally. Ohter countries keep their air traffic safe without harassing their citizen. The TSA is a true disgrace.

bensmyson

Kathleen maybe you misunderstood me. I was talking about the TSA security agents, you know the government employees that make more money that park rangers, law enforcement officers, even some architects according to http://www.usajobs.gov All of whom have to have some formal education and training. The pay range for a TSA Security Officer, that BTW does not even have to have a high school diploma, a GED, or any equivalent, is 29,131.00 - 43,697.00 USD /year. They have to be able to lift 70 pounds, walk 2 miles, speak and understand English and they can't have a blood pressure reading of more than 140/90.

Not disparaging people with GEDs, after being thrown out of every high school I went to, I obtained my GED (took a test)and later went on to UNC and Duke (didnt hurt to make a 1460 on my SATs and like to play football).

Julia C.

They did this to an EIGHT-YEAR-OLD????!!! What the HELL is wrong with these people???!!!

GG

I'm so sorry to hear about a child being traumatized. It was totally unnecessary.

My husband had been working on a museum installation in Las Vegas the week that 9/11 happened. We travelled there for the exhibition and were unable to move from floor to floor in the hotel without showing passes. My husband is actually Argentine, but his name is unique enough that some can't guess his origins.

That wasn't so bad; the joke at my husband's firm was that all the architects from Iraq and Iran were being pulled over as suspected gang-bangers in LA and the Latinos were being profiled as terrorists. They couldn't even get their racist profiling right. Then it wasn't so funny as stories of renditions started cropping up.

After that, I was routinely pulled out of line in airport security and searched for merely being with my husband. This went on for years, even after our kids were born.

To some degree I understood the need for caution, but it surpassed all common sense. At one point, we were retained behind the scanners, forced to strip down a double stroller, and our vaccine-injured toddlers wandered off on the other side into the crowd, all while security officials yelled at us to keep "those kids" under control.

This coupled with the numbers of children booted off airplanes for tantrums is a real problem, especially for those with injured children. I think we should demand some way to pre-register with security to avoid fiascos. Maybe throwing a bit of common sense into the system would spread.

As a side note, I thought it was really interesting that Homeland Security is taking over the old St. Elizabeth's hospital compound in Washington D.C. St. Elizabeth's was a notorious mental hospital, headquarters of the "father of lobotomy", Walter Freeman, and a center for eugenic policy.

As an agency, they've been all over the place: promoting swine flu shots instead of stopping Christmas bombers, etc. TSA has been accused of always "fighting the last war".

kathleen

Wow, Bensmyson, I am a college graduate, but I know plenty of wonderful people who have their GED. What happened to this little boy and his family sounds ridiculous. And I would have to wonder exactly how such a stupid situation played out. But I don't think hurling insults at persons who have a GED makes anything better. You never know the path people have in life. I have a dear friend that just recently obtained her GED. Your blessing is that I doubt you have lived anyhting as horrific as she has. As terrible as autism can be, it pales in comparison to the pain of her life. And there is nothing beneath, below, less than....about her GED and the quality of person that she is.

bensmyson

"Why did checking his birth year against the birth year of the terror suspect take an hour?"

I suppose that's because these proud GED diploma, badge wearing, ignoramuses who couldn't pour piss out of a boot with the instructions stamped on the bottom of the heel haven't quite mastered the mystical art of addition and subtraction, much less how to type, point and click.

Over the past three years, 81,793 frustrated travelers have formally asked that they be struck from the watch list through the Department of Homeland Security; more than 25,000 of their cases are still pending.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/nyregion/14watchlist.html

Penny

Change, schmange. The "change" that we were sold prior to the election was implied to be POSITIVE change. Not seein' it. Why did checking his birth year against the birth year of the terror suspect take an hour?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)