May 12, 2015

image taken from YouTube
image taken from YouTube

When I read the article about the teenage girl with autism, who got kicked off a plane, I had to check to see if what I was reading was actually real. Seriously, a fifteen-year-old girl was escorted from a plane, by police because she made the pilot feel uneasy? I was completely speechless.

However I was not alone in being shocked. Two tweets that I read were as follows:

Achieve Beyond

15 year old girl with #autism kicked off of a plane. We need #autismawareness to ensure that this never happens



Advocate Jennifer O’Toole shared on her Facebook Timeline: Asperkids

Can you guess which airline I won’t be flying? Shame.

I sat and watched the below news report from KOIN6, who interviewed Dr Donna Beegle, mother to 15-year-old Juliette, with a lump in my throat. I truly felt for this mother, for this family who were callously treated this way. They were humiliated and in my opinion treated like criminals.

Dr Donna Beegle has told that she will be filing a discrimination lawsuit after the family were escorted from the plane by police after an emergency landing.

Why did this have to happen? Juliette became upset when she did not want her packed lunch. Her parents, knowing that a meltdown was on its way, asked if their daughter could eat a first class hot meal, as they knew this would resolve the situation. Juliette finds it difficult to express her needs and to communicate, her parents of course know her extremely well.

 “I know her, when she gets overhungry or overthirsty, she really struggles because she can’t tell us and she gets really frustrated.”

image taken from Facebook
image taken from Facebook

After first refusing, Juliette was given her hot meal and she settled and started to watch a movie, something that was observed by paramedics who were on-board and who were checking that everything was okay.

“Paramedics came on board and eventually made their way to where the Beegles were sitting. They asked if everything was fine, and the Beegles said yes.

“They could see Juliette was sitting there watching her show,”

So everything was resolved, so I don’t quite understand why she was asked to leave. Is it, as Dr Beegle stated in her interview with KOIN6, that her daughter was asked to leave the plane because of the fear of autism? I think she has hit the nail firmly on the head, that is exactly why. This is clearly shown by the remarks of one fellow passenger who was interviewed about the incident. Marilyn Hedlund told that she agreed with the decision that was made, to remove the teenager from the plane.

However you only have to read her comments to realize that she has no understanding about autism and that she too is fearful because of the unknown. She told:

“What if she got crazy and got up and opened an exit door at 36,000 feet?”

A fifteen-year-old girl who was sat next to her father in the middle seat? Seriously?

However not all passengers felt this way, indeed Dr Beegle asked the police on board to take statements from passengers, and one officer told her;  ‘You have a lot of people on your side saying this was not an issue.’

One such passenger was Chris Hall, who filmed what happened. He supports the family and thinks that the airline completely over reacted.

I applaud the dignity of this family, for telling the world what happened. By doing so they convey that it is not okay to treat a young teenage girl with autism this way, that it is not okay to haul a family from a plane with a police escort, just because autism is not understood.

It is not acceptable to use the cloak of fear as an explanation for your actions.


David Mccormack and Christopher Brennan on the Mail Online: It’s fear of autism’: Fellow passenger says she SUPPORTS plane decision to kick off little girl and family as United refuse to apologize and mother calls for action

About the author 

Jo Worgan

Jo Worgan is a published author, writer and blogger. She has a degree in English Literature. She writes about life with her youngest son who is on the autistic spectrum. Jo tweets (@mummyworgan) and is also a freelance columnist for the Lancaster Guardian. ‘My Life with Tom, Living With Autism‘ is her second book and a culmination of her blog posts, and available on Kindle now, along with her first book, Life on the Spectrum. The Preschool years.

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