image of woman who got kicked off a plane with her son on the autism spectrum

Dear Mom Who Was Kicked Off the United Airlines Flight

2
2

Dear Momma,

I am so, so sorry.

I understand, 100 percent, how this happened. I fly frequently with my son, and frequently, I have to manage meltdowns — in the airport, waiting for the plane to take off, mid-flight, and while we wait for the crowd to deplane.

I know it was already stressful.

I know the flight attendant, not understanding how critical that hot meal was, must have made you feel a panic only a momma of child on the brink of a meltdown can understand.

I can only imagine the shame and indignation, mixed with fear and a whole lotta anger that came along with the emergency landing and a police escort from the plane — even though your daughter was already calm, and you thought you were on track to Just. Get. Home.

Woman being interviewed on the news.
Photo source: KOIN

I have often wondered how long it will be before we are escorted from a flight. We fly frequently due to our custody agreement, and it is always stressful.

My son, as he gets older, could potentially do some harm, I think. The truth is, it would likely be to himself or me, but the potential is still there.

I am not even sure what I would expect the airline to do in a situation where my son becomes out of control.

I am writing this to you, however, not because of what happened.

I am writing this because I am reading the responses to the articles circulating about you, and my heart is breaking.

On one side, you have moms just like me, saying this is “terrible,” “awful” and “that poor woman.”

On the other side, though, there is a much larger, much louder group, saying “You should’ve.”

You should’ve known better.”

“You should’ve made arrangements ahead of time with the airline for a hot meal.”

“You should’ve brought food on the flight and kept it warm.”

“You should’ve taken a train.”

“You should’ve planned ahead.”

“You should’ve…”

I think this is exactly what you were thinking, prior to asking the attendant for help. We always blame ourselves. In the 24/7 reality that is autism, we are accustomed to the demands of always being one step ahead, always anticipating, always planning, always trying to avoid what is just sometimes inevitable.

I want to say this as LOUD AS I POSSIBLY CAN…

You were on your way back from a family vacation. You deserve a medal for even trying to attempt that. I hope it was amazing!

You were encountering a significant, three-hour time change. We can barely handle Daylight Savings around here. If your daughter is anything like my son, the time changes mean all bets are off as far as anticipating eating habits and behavior.

Maybe you ate right before the flight and thought you could make it to your destination without another meal.

Maybe you were up half the night — because autism doesn’t sleep well in unfamiliar surroundings — and just didn’t think it through.

Maybe you were just plain done — like every mom I have every known, autism or not — who is headed home with her children after a family vacation.

No matter what, please know this: no meltdown is ever, ever your fault, and this one is no exception.

We do the best we can, and sometimes, it is just not enough to avoid the meltdown.

No matter what, you are not alone. There are mommas all over reading your story and cringing because we know it could just as easily be us.

Thank you for speaking up.

Thank you for not being silenced by the shame, and the feelings of failure.

Thank you for sharing a difficult, but important reality for so many of us.

I am so glad you did.

And I will be championing you all the way.

Love, Shawna (on behalf of my son and me!)

Woman smiling, touching her son's hair.

Related Story: Police Escort Teen With Autism and Her Family Off a Plane

This post originally appeared on Not the Former Things.

2
2

RELATED VIDEOS

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Police Escort Teen With Autism and Her Family Off a Plane

On May 5, Donna Beegle and her husband, son and daughter were on a flight home. They were returning to Tigard, Oregon, after a vacation at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. The family had flown from Orlando to Houston, Texas, where they caught a United Airlines connecting flight into Portland, Oregon, KOIN reported.

About an hour into their second flight, Beegle noticed her 15-year-old daughter, Juliette, seemed uncomfortable. Juliette has nonverbal autism and Beegle said she could quickly tell Juliette’s frustration meant she was hungry. When she asked a flight attendant if she could purchase her daughter a hot meal from first class, she was told she could not. She explained her daughter’s needs and said Juliette could have a meltdown if she couldn’t eat something. At that point, Juliette received a meal and quickly relaxed again.

Half an hour later, Juliette was watching a video in her window seat when an overhead announcement told the passengers they were making an emergency landing in Salt Lake City due to a passenger with “behavior issues,” ABC News reported. Paramedics boarded the plane and asked Beegle if everything was OK. Quickly thereafter, police officers came onboard and told the family they had to exit the plane.

Police officers escort Juliette and her family off the plan in the video below, taken by a passenger:

The officers told Beegle the captain had said he was uncomfortable continuing the flight with Juliette onboard, ABC reported. Beegle then stood up and asked if anyone on the plane felt threatened by her daughter, and no one indicated that they did. Jodi Smith, another passenger on the plane who was sitting three rows behind Beegle and her family, says she thought the situation did not merit an emergency landing.

“That was just ridiculous… she was calm, she had done nothing,” Smith told ABC News. “That was the epitome of discrimination. I have never in all my years of flying seen anything like this.”

When KOIN reached out to United Airlines for comment, a spokesperson issued the following statement:

After working to accommodate Dr. Beegle and her daughter during the flight, the crew made the best decision for the safety and comfort of all of our customers and elected to divert to Salt Lake City after the situation became disruptive. We rebooked the customers on a different carrier, and the flight continued to Portland.

Beegle told KOIN she believes her family was asked to leave the plane because of “a fear of autism.” She contacted a lawyer and intends to file a lawsuit.

“I get the ignorance,” she told KOIN in the video below, “but it has to change.”

Learn more about the family’s story in the video below.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

20 Things I've Learned Since My Son's Autism Diagnosis

10k
10k

1. A lack of sleep makes everything seem worse than it actually is.

2. It is possible for one person to talk for four hours straight about snakes, or aquariums, or cats. Trust me.

3. People can be really, really mean.

4. People can be really, really kind.

5. Just when I think I can’t do another day, my son does something amazing and changes my entire perspective.

6. Sometimes doctors know exactly what we need. Sometimes they don’t. Either way, only go to a doctor that sees you as a valuable partner in your child’s health and progress.

7. My son’s abilities are far more impressive than I ever dreamed possible. I have been stunned more times than I can count. Like when I realized that he has, without even really trying, learned the scientific name for every single fish at the aquarium and every single plant at the gardens. It’s like glimpsing something sacred, something completely beyond me.

8. There is a reason for the behavior. There is always a reason for the behavior (and that reason has never once been to just annoy me).

9. Stimming is a thing. I had no idea.

10. Fixations serve a purpose. They are a valuable way for our children to connect with the world. And, our kids are often wicked smart because of them.

11. Most of my grief is my own, not my son’s. Letting go of all the expectations I have about being his mother is one of the most difficult parts of all of this. My son does not share these expectations – not even a little. So the problem most often is me. Not him.

12. Pick your battles. I will say it again. Pick. Your. Battles. I try to just work on one thing at a time, until it is a habit, and then move on to the next. Trying to do all the things at the same time does not help anyone, and just causes stress for every single person in our house.

13. Being a student of my child has helped me learn more than any book, therapist or website. Differences in brain function can be really hard to understand for the neuro-typical momma. The more I pay attention to how my son thinks and responds, the more I begin to understand.

14. Autism makes my life weird sometimes. For example, I found myself in an aquarium store every single day last week. Every single day, for at least an hour a visit. It feels like a bizarre way to spend our time, but this is us, living our life well.

15. You will figure out the unique things that work for your child. Lycra sheets work for mine. A quiet space, with lots of blankets in the closet, works for another little girl I know. You will find things that help, even when it feels like nothing can.

16. You will never feel like you are doing it completely right.

17. You will have days where it feels completely natural.

18. Other mommas are like a fresh drink of water. Find them, either in person or online. Ask them questions. Let them assure you that you are not the only one.

19. Prayer is always answered. Maybe not in the way I thought it would be, but prayer is always answered.

20. The way may feel when you first hear the word “autism” associated with your baby is awful. But I have learned that there is good and bad, beauty and ugliness, joy and messiness – all wrapped up in that one little word. If I have learned anything, it is to make peace with it. My son would not be my son without it. And I love my son. Exactly as he is – including the one little word that has completely changed our lives.

Autism.

I never thought it possible, but somehow, rather than fighting it, I have learned to welcome it. I have learned to know it.

And I have even learned to embrace it.

What would you add to this list?

boy sitting in doctor office

 

This post originally appeared on Not the Former Things.

10k
10k
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

When My Dates Would Ask Why I Teach 'Those' Kids

256
256

When I started dating again after my divorce, one question could ensure no second date.

Why do you teach those kids?

To be fair to the guys, it’s a legitimate question to ask when your date walks in with a limp and a giant bruise and explains that there was a substitute teaching assistant today who didn’t know we don’t sing the morning song and in trying to protect the substitute, she ended up with a limp and a bruise.

It wasn’t the question I had the problem with. I had a problem with the way it was asked. Those kids. You know the ones. The behavior ones. The ones with autism. The ones who get mad and hit because a person accidently messed up their morning routine. Why do you teach those kids? Said as if there was a problem with the kids and me in turn for teaching them.

I’d sigh. Sip my water. Wait for my friend to call and tell me that I had some vague emergency. I’d apologize and leave.

Once, I made it all the way to a sixth date with a guy when he announced that he wouldn’t let his wife teach those kids. At this point in the date, my car had a flat, my cat needed to go to the emergency vet and I think my grandmother was coming down with something. I really need to go check on her, sorry.

When I was done with dating in general, my teaching assistant said I should go on just one more date. Promise, she said. I have a really good feeling about this guy, she said. So after several days of texting, he asked me out.

“Why did you choose to teach those kids?” he asked, showing me a picture of his son. His son is disabled. He was not asking why those kids. He was asking me about why I made that choice.

So I said:

I get to hear kids labeled “nonverbal” speak words for the first time.

I’m there when they finally make eye contact and spontaneously request Goldfish.

I feel complete and total joy when one of my students says hi and interacts with another student in the hallway.

And the feeling you get when your student is finally, completely and totally potty-trained, well nothing tops that.

He smiled at me. And I smiled at him. We’ve been together ever since.

Fast forward a few years and I’d moved from an elementary autism unit to a secondary one. The kids were bigger than me. The kids were stronger than me. I did not know if I could teach those kids, and I was mad at myself for thinking it. I came home upset and crying after a particularly hard day.

He looked at me and said, “Why do you teach those kids?”

I answered, “Because if I don’t do it then someone else is doing it, and I cannot bear to think of someone who doesn’t love them as much as I do being with them.”

Then he said, “And if I told you to just quit, that we’ll be OK. What would you do?”

“Work with kids with disabilities,” I said. “I’ve never wanted to do anything else.”

“And so,” he said, “why do you teach those kids?”

“Because I love them,” I answered. “Because this was one bad day and one bad day does not a year make.”

He hugged me and said, “You better suck it up, Buttercup. Sounds to me like you’re the perfect person for those kids.”

I smiled.

Autism is always teaching me lessons about myself and life. We’re all worthy and sometimes we just need to find the person willing to talk us through the meltdown. 

I teach those kids because for them, I am their person. 

The author with her family

The Mighty wants to read more stories about dating, whether it’s your favorite memory or a tough moment that taught you something. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

256
256
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

With Just 2 Words, My Son With Autism Let Me Know We’d Be OK

331
331

I remember my son TJ was still 2.

He’d been diagnosed with autism a few months before this day. He only said “Ba” for ball, “Da” for dog and “Ma” for no.

He was immersed in so many different therapies and programs — most of them taking place in our home.

I remember I was tired.

My son Peter was 1. I remember how I wanted to go for walks, to playgroups, to Mommy and Me classes. But I couldn’t. Our entire day was scheduled around these therapies.

I remember I was playing with Peter in the living room. TJ was upstairs in his room with Diana, our first Discreet Trial teacher. It’s a one-on-one therapy away from distractions where the teachers use a reward system to teach things like emotions, colors, letters — everything. Parents were not to be present during their work. I listened through the baby monitor so I was in touch with what he was working on.

I remember being busy with Peter that day, and I wasn’t being my super stealthy listening self. We were playing and giggling when TJ and Diana came down the stairs.

“Mom, TJ has something to say to you…”

Wha… what? My heart stopped. Something to say?

“Hi, Mom,” TJ said simply, with a smile.

Even today when I remember this moment, I’m overcome. Overcome with pride, with surprise, with joy.

Overcome with hope.

Now my TJ is 15, and Peter is 13. TJ talks all day, every day. We have many more good days than bad, for which I am so thankful.

But every now and then, if I get a case of poor me or if we’re having a tough day, I remember those two little words that gave me so, so much hope:

“Hi, Mom.”

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you.  I hope your day is filled with love, with joy, with surprise.

And with hope.

laurenjordan

This post originally appeared on I Don’t Have a Job.

331
331
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

The Job Offer Letter We Should Send All New Autism Parents

12
12

Dear Liz,

Congratulations on your successful appointment to the position of “Autism Parent.” We understand you may be confused by this appointment, as you never actually applied for the post in the first place. You may also be concerned that there are no contact details in this letter, so you cannot write, call or email us to turn the position down. Your concerns are to be expected and will lessen over time.

However, we would like to make clear right away that being an autism parent is a mandatory post with a lifetime contract. There is no option to refuse the job, negotiate terms and conditions or take a career break. It is a financially unpaid post with no paid sick leave. You may be able to job share your role with a partner or family members. You must make any such arrangements yourself.

Qualifications

As this is a training post, the only essential qualification required is to be parent of a child with autism.

Essential personal qualities and experience

None. Autism parents are not special people. You may look at your fellow autism parent colleagues and think, “Wow, they are amazing.” It is important to remember that they, like you, do not have the option to suddenly stop being an autism parent. They persevere, they laugh, they cry and they celebrate. They do the job because they have to. They become “special” because of the extensive on-the-job training they receive as part of being an autism parent (see below).

Desirable personal qualities

  • Ability to manage daily functioning on less than four hours of sleep
  • A taste for caffeine in all its wonderful forms

Training you will receive before taking up the post

None

On-the-job training

  • Managing sleep deprivation
  • Advocating for your child
  • Appreciating and celebrating small steps
  • Networking within a multidisciplinary team
  • Arguing constructively with professionals
  • Doctorate in acronyms (health and education)
  • Learning who your true friends are
  • Promoting awareness about autism
  • Learning about sensory differences
  • Extensive knowledge about how to complete various forms (e.g. benefits, schools, health packages, respite services and local authority forms)
  • Disinfecting
  • Cookery level 1 (fries, nuggets and associated sensory-neutral foodstuffs)
  • Doctorate in communication with your child. Optional topics include scripting, vocal stimming in context and the many meanings of a hand-flap
  • Ph.D. in loving and accepting your child for the wonderful individual he or she is
  • Fighting like a bear to protect your child and his or her interests
  • Coffee appreciation

Incentives and employee benefits

The more work you put in, the better the life chances will be for your child. There is no greater incentive than this.

We understand there is a lot to take in, and that it would be useful to have a short introductory period in order to familiarize yourself with the role and its challenges. Unfortunately, due to the fact that you’ve been doing this job without realizing it since the day your child was born, there will be no further induction to the role.

“Autism Parent” is an amazing job. It will challenge you and help you to grow in ways you cannot imagine right now. It will make you laugh and cry. It will involve making tough decisions, taking risks and climbing mountains. It will bring you new friendships. It will give you a unique bond and special relationship with your child.

We are pleased to have you as part of our team. Supportive forums to discuss your role and your progress in it can be found on Facebook, Pinterest, various blog sites and other social media outlets.

Yours sincerely,

Human Resources Manager
Autismland

A child looking at a fish tank.

This post originally appeared on Cat on a Trampoline.

12
12
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

7,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.