Carly Fleischmann, an autistic nonverbal teenager, was made to put away her iPad, her only form of communication, during an American Airlines flight, reports Babble.com.

Carly was diagnosed at the age of two with autism and an oral motor condition that prevented her from speaking. Doctors told Carly’s parents that she would never surpass the intellectual capacity of a small child. Now at age 17, Carly has proven these professionals wrong. After years of intensive therapy, Carly has figured out her own form of communication by typing on her computer and iPad. She’s now an author with over 42,000 Facebook fans and 26,000 Twitter followers. She has her own parenting advice website, and she is a passionate advocate for autism.

When boarding a recent American Airlines flight, Carly was told to put her iPad away, which has never happened to this frequent flyer before. Carly was distraught; she wrote the following on her Facebook page: “My iPad to me is like a voice. Can you imagine being on the airplane and being asked not to talk for over 25 minutes?” Carly then wrote an open letter to American Airlines, encouraging them to “move with the times” and understand that more autistic people are flying than ever before, and that the use of an iPad is not necessarily “just for fun.”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) currently requires that passengers turn off electronic devices during take-off and landing. Last March, however, the FAA said it would re-evaluate its stance on e-readers and tablets, due to the fact that no testing has been done to approve the use of these devices. (Emphasis ours. —Ed.)

It is unsure whether electronic devices like cell phones and iPads really do interfere with airplane equipment and aviation radio frequencies. Many devices, however, can be switched to “Airplane Mode,” which disables their radio signal, therefore making them safer to use.

For children and adults with autism, like Carly, iPads have become increasingly important tools. As Babble.com offers, not permitting Carly to have her iPad is like telling a person with hearing aids that they can’t have them, or telling a person with a service dog they can’t board the plane.

If an iPad can be switched to “Airplane Mode,” and assuming the iPad is someone’s only form of communication, is it still okay to insist that it be put away? Or, are airlines like American Airlines being overly cautious?