Dear Mom Kicked Off The United Airlines Flight

Dear Momma,

I am so, so sorry.

I understand, 100%, 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.

I have often wondered how long it will be before we are escorted from a flight. We fly because of 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, sayingYou 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…”

If I had to guess, this is exactly what you were also thinking, prior to asking the attendant for help.

I should’ve…

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, and 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 attempting 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 for 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, no meltdown is ever, ever your fault – and this one was 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 me and my son!)

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52 Comments

  1. Thank you Shawna! My heart has been breaking for her since I heard about this. I can’t imagine how hard this was. I’ve been praying for her. I’m so glad she’s gone public with this. She is fighting a big fight for all of us.

    1. I know, Amy. If you have been in this position before (or even close), you can’t help but just feel bad about the whole thing, I think.
      Love,
      Shawna

  2. I am with you…we try our best to anticipate meltdowns but sometimes we are caught off guard and scramble to try and temper it. Do those who say should’ve always try to anticipate everything that happens? I know some who check places out just to plan ahead. It’s a lot of work but even our best laid plans can go awry due to any number of reasons and it’s hard. I am ashamed that this happened and feel for the Mom and child. It’s a condition we live with all the time. We try to do the best by exposing them to life so they can learn, they should not be shut away or shunned! Some things abate with maturity but not all…we are trying to expose you to the best they can be but again things can happen that we could not anticipate but I know we do try!

    1. I just think it is so wildly unfair to immediately assume that her momma should’ve prevented it. There have been so many occasions where I stressed out and tried to ultra-prepare for any and all possibilities. Sometimes it works, sometimes, it doesn’t.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
      Shawna

      1. Not once has Donna Beegle ever remotely accepted any responsibility for what has happened on that airplane. Everything – even in interviews is everybody’s fault but her own. She never states I just plainly forgot a hot meal I just wish the kindness of others would have helped. She instead states that the airline would not give her a hot meal until much bickering and offering to pay. And saying her child scratches as almost a threat like I told you so. Responsibility is a two way street and she accepts none and hides behind the disability her child has to face every single day. I am not saying that the airline is completely innocent but her account of the situation is far from fair and accurate. Now she wants thousands of dollars… makes you wonder. But of course you will take her word on everything. And if you want empathy then if she had done everything to prepare or had picked up hot food during her layover… then I think there might have been more empathetic hearts instead of a lot of people just providing more excuses then she did to the flight crew.

        1. I agree with you . .they were experienced with flying and first class would have provided the hot meal the girl desired.

          1. Really? A family with a special needs child must spend 4 times as much for a first class seat to have staff be helpful and kind. You people have got to be kidding. First of all, most families can’t afford first class. In fact why bother spending on first class when all you get is a little more room and a hot meal. I remember when hot meals were the norm for everyone traveling. Secondly, I don’t care what kind of world we live in post 9/11. Flying is part of tourism which is part of hospitality. Hospitality!!! Do we need to define that? The mom is right. This little thing about kindness is actually a “class” issue. If you have a special needs child, you are already paying for services up the wazoo. If you don’t have the money, the county is REQUIRED by law to help you. This is the tip of the iceberg of selfishness and materialism that is prevalent in this country. The SELF righteous indignation of people who think they are ENTITLED to not be bothered with those around them…to not be touched in any way by the reality of life as long as they have the money to pay. I can’t even read all the comments about this. It absolutely sickens me that people can be so self absorbed and ignorant and uncompassionate.

          2. Esther,

            Unfortunately, while I feel for the mother here, you’re incorrect. Air travel is transportation, not hospitality and certainly not a “class” issue. You wouldn’t expect a cab driver, or bus driver to provide a hot meal would you? Back in the day, airline travel was special and they could do such things, but now they’re basically “cattle cars” to get people from A to B. We travel with special needs kids as well and have never had any issues getting meals or accommodations when we asked ahead of time. Sad as it is to say, the airline is in no way required to provide you anything except safe transit from your origin to your destination. That’s it. Anything else is a perk that we used to get for free, but lately we’ve been having to pay for more and more of those perks. And to your statement about the self-righteous and entitled, it could easily be turned back on your argument with regard to those who expect special treatment because they’re travelling with special needs kids so they should get thing that others don’t. I’ve experience MANY of those people on airlines, at malls, theme parks etc. If I recall from the story, the airline DID provide a hot meal correct? Bottom line is that they didn’t have to. Did they over-react? I believe they did, but that decision is not ours to make and I don’t think anyone on this site was actually there, so we just have one side of the argument.

        2. I agree. First class seating would have been a better option than flying coach and expecting special accommodation.

        3. She did not get on the plane forgetting a hot meal. She tried to feed her a hot meal at the layover, but she refused to eat (common with autistic children). She brought snacks on probably hoping that would hold her over on the flight. Moms of autistic children do what they need to. Who wants to have a temper tantruming child sitting next to them? Nobody, including parents of non-autistic children. Just a little empathy and love was all that was needed in this situation. They treated it like a terrorist incident, but you cannot diffuse a terrorist with care and attention.

  3. I only read a few comments after the article, and I couldn’t believe what people were saying!! So disappointing that so many rush to judge instead of being understanding.

    1. Thanks Allison. It can be so, so stressful anyway, trying to travel and manage all the possibilities. To see so many people blaming the mom made me feel sick.
      This seriously could be us one day. I am not sure how I will handle it, but I do know that sometimes, no amount of preparation matters.
      Thank you for your comment and sweet words.
      Shawna

  4. As someone who has had the honor of seeing Dr. Beegle present several times on Generational Poverty, I must say, your reply could not have been more perfect and more eloquent. I hope one day you have the opportunity to meet her in person!

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah. I only know because I have been in her shoes so many times. Thank you for your kind words.

  5. I am truly inspired by your reply to the awful comments on facebook. At first I was upset about them and wanted to reply to all but what good is that. I think replying in a manner that encourages this lady and her daughter is far more rewarding than dealig with comments from people that have probably never encountered a situation like this, might have never seen an austistic child in their families or just plainly know no better. Thank you for replying in such a polite and inspiring manner. May you, your son and your family always be blessed. Stay faithful in God for he will judge, it is not our job, all we can do is pray that one day these people have more compassion for others.

    Thank you,

    Ceci

    1. Ceci, Thank you so much for the encouragement. This one felt so personal to me and I am sure to many mommas who have been in her shoes. I wanted her to know that she may be getting a ton of backlash, but that some of us see her, know her and are supporting her (and her daughter too!).

      Love,
      Shawna

  6. I am sorry to hear about what your family had to go through on the plane. I have mixed feelings about it as my child also has autism. (now 18). The reason I have mixed feelings is because of your daughter’s age. I know we both understand with autism and meltdowns it knows no age. However, for safety of others the plane has to have guidelines. I know my son wouldn’t hurt anyone. Yet when he’s in a meltdown. sometimes it’s questionable.
    When they did a med change on my son. He had his worst meltdown and ended up getting handcuffed and brought to the hospital. Of course I was upset and didn’t need to think that needed to be done. But for officers (or in your case flight staff). who didn’t know him. they did what they needed, with what they knew.
    I guess I hear people compare to your case to as if it was a child, but she isn’t a little child (physically). I know when my son went into meltdowns when he was little even. He was extremely strong. I hope they get the training they need. but even with autism there has to be a guideline. (which sounds like your daughter was just fine). but there still needs to be a guideline. not just say they have autism so they can get a way with it. I am not saying that is what you are doing. As I don’t believe that at all. But when you do speak to the airlines. I hope that you will let that part be known as well.
    I wish you and your family the best.

    1. I think it is just so hard to know how best to handle this – I do not feel equipped to speak into what happened with the airline. I wrote this as a response to all the comments blaming the mom for it happening in the first place. That really hit home for me.
      Thank you so much for your honest a kind words.
      Shawna

  7. Very well stated. Every parent is a hero, especially when blessed with special needs children. We have twin boys 7 yrs old both with autism. I am very proud autism dad who has raised them side by side and hand in hand with my wife since day one. I am so blessed to be their dad and to have the amazing parental bond that many dads wish for.

    THANKS Craig

  8. Thank you. I did reply to some of those horrible posts like “they should be put on the “no-fly list.” Or this one, “at 15, she is old enough to wait.” The ignorance is palpable, the lack of compassion, empathy, or understanding is actually frightening! I was a witness to family being refused boarding on a plane because of their autistic daughter’s behaviors and this after a 2 hour delay and another 1/2 standing in a line outside in the freezing cold under a metal roof covered walkway! Hell, I was ready to have a meltdown at that point! With 1 in 50, can you imagine the future? From all the comments it seems too many think the autistic should stay home, never venture from their homes, and God forbid do not inconvenience them or make them the slightest bit uncomfortable! Karma is the best I can wish for at this point!

    1. It’s all so sad. I think this is why we need to try to lovingly, but persistently share the reality of what this is like for our kids. It’s so hard to know, if you have never been there.
      Thank you for your words.
      Shawna

  9. Thank you, Shawna. The comments on these news articles are heartbreaking and they make me fear for my son when he is independent, if he is. So much judgement, fear, and hatred focused on people who are just struggling to maintain. I think Donna Beegle is an amazing woman and I hope United Airlines issues a public apology and that they win a lawsuit that provides enough money to pay for her daughter to receive additional therapies.

    1. I think it would be amazing if UA just went to her, apologized and said teach us what to do. Tell us about autism and sensory issues and flying. Help us redefine our policies.
      And then, I also think it would be kinda cool for UA to pay for her daughters therapies… 🙂

      1. The flight attendant went above and beyond to assist this child, including breaking the rules by providing her a meal. The family purchased economy seats, and there are no free meals in economy (those days are long gone). There are no extra meals on board domestic flights, and providing the young lady a meal meant someone gave up their meal for her.
        United actively participates and supports programs to assist those with autism and sensory issues in flying. They are aware of special needs passengers and records are documented with their individual situations. Was a special meal requested at the time of reservations?
        My family includes a 10 year old with autism and Celiac; and a 3 year old Type 1 Diabetic (they are brothers). It is exhausting trying to meet their needs, but they are MY family, and the responsibility falls on me to be tuned into them, their moods, their blood sugar counts, their hunger, etc., It is my job to meet their needs and to watch out for them.
        The captain did the right thing, and his word is final in the air. He is tasked with protecting ALL the people on board. If one person is presenting a POTENTIALLY hazardous situation to themself or others he needs to get the plane down and get the problem resolved.
        Sometimes we get into our own scenario and forget to see other sides.
        I feel unique in this situation, I know Autism, Celiac, and Type 1 behaviors and needs; and I also had a career at United Airlines. I can see a bigger picture here.

        1. Thank you for your comment. It seems like there are too many people who want others to walk in their shoes, but can’t do that same thing for others.
          I watched this mother on TV say that she told the flight attendant that her daughter needed a warm meal. When the flight attendant said that was not policy, the mother said that her daughter would have s meltdown and when she starts scratching and having a fit, THEN maybe you’ll want to help me.
          The mom is responsible for getting her daughter home. The pilot is responsible for the safe passage of hundreds. The mother tried to get help for the daughter with a veiled threat. THAT is the reason for their removal. The mother made her sound violent to get what she wanted.
          Yes, the child was calm when escorted off the plane, but it is the potential for problems that the mother created that caused the problem.
          And, let’s not forget the litigious nature in the country. Let’s say they could not accommodate the girl, but continued with the flight. Let’s say the girl had a fit and hurt someone by scratching them, as the mother said she would. NOW the airline is being sued because the mother told them if the potential danger and they did nothing to prevent that danger from manifesting itself on another passenger.
          Seems like they’re damned if they do and they’re samned if they don’t.

  10. Thank you. I mean that. I was not doing it out loud but I was thinking “She should have ….”

    I don’t have a child with autism, I have a child with diabetes ( well she’s a grown up now). Nothing the same about them. But I do have to prep like a Sherpa for just about everything we ever did. Food. Back up food. Some more back up food. Juice (which I’d buy past security. sure you can apply for special carrying rules but ugh … who has time for that. I’ll just pay $45667 for a juice instead). Glucose tabs in case the food goes bad. Insulin. Back up insulin. Needles and other needles in case those needles don’t work. and so on … so I found myself saying “well, she says they travel all the time. Why does she not know how to be over prepared?” (Although I still did not get why they’d need to escort her off for that. Kind of like why would they penalize Tom Brady twice what a wife beater gets. Oops wrong thread)….

    Then I read this. And I remembered something my sage daughter with diabetes told a group of parents once.

    Someone asked her: what is the most important tool someone can carry to help treat your diabetes? She thought about it for a while. I wondered what she would say. An insulin pump? The new technology that helps you see blood sugars remotely??? And then she said it. The tool that works best and is needed more often:

    “Compassion.”

    Duh. I forgot to use compassion with this mom. Maybe she was exhausted. Maybe she forgot something. Maybe she did not forget it but it went bad. Who knows. I do know that your blog helped me remember to use that tool.

    So thank you. I mean it!

  11. United Airlines participates in Wings For All, a program for special needs children/adults to acquaint them with the entire flying experience. The special needs person can be accompanied by a parent/friend/partner on this practice trip. They go through the entire procedure from airport arrival to checkin/baggage checkin, security, gate area, boarding, safety announcements, etc., and then they deboard, and experience arrival activities. It has been a great help in learning more about the flying experience. United works with The Arc of Northern Virginia (ONE of many locations/groups) in this program.

    I also have a grandson with Autism who is also Celiac (10 yrs old) and his little brother (3) is a Type 1 Diabetic, so we have an understanding of special needs children and the extra preparations/precautions, etc., that are part of our daily lives.

  12. This was such an incredibly beautiful response letter in support of this family. They happen to be friends of ours so I know how things are. My two daughters are blessed to know her. It has shaped their respect and awareness of anyone with special needs.

  13. I hesitate to say anything because I appreciate the empathy expressed in this post and I agree with you at your disappointment over the barrage of unsympathetic and overly critical statements by many who are unaware of the particulars in this situation or the challenge of having autistic children; though in our present society this unfortunately was/is not all that surprising. 🙁 If I may, I would just like to provide an insight and word of caution from the other perspective that may help families who find themselves in tense circumstances while traveling on a commercial airline, whether or not the children have disabilities. As a flight attendant, our primary concern is the safety of all passengers on board our aircraft and we are particularly sensitive to any words or actions that are in any way threatening to the safety of ourselves or others onboard. That being said, it is obviously also important to exercise good judgment and assess each particular situation individually. Not being there when it happened I can’t account for the thoughts or actions of the crew involved, but she did admit to having threatened that her daughter could have a meltdown that could cause her to scratch others (at least according to the article I read). Is it possible that this mother, in the already stressful atmosphere of an enclosed space full of strangers–and let’s be honest, TOO close together since ‘leg room’ has become essentially nonexistent in the push for profitability–perhaps made a poor choice of wording in an effort to express the desperation of her situation? I would say that not only is it possible, but in my personal opinion very probable… Obviously she was not attempting to use her daughter as a weapon to inflict harm on others; the whole point is that that’s what she was trying to avoid. So, regardless of anything else she “should have” or could have done to avoid this escalation, the one thing I would say is, be careful to never express any requests/demands in the form of a threat. We deal with far too many passengers who feel entitled to perks and special treatment (and more often these are passengers without legitimate special needs mind you…), but when a passenger tries to override the authority of the flight crew or force their will and does so with a threat of any kind, there is a new level of tension created that adds fuel to the fire. Air travel has become in some ways generally uncomfortable and unpleasant, sad to say… As flight attendants, we wear many hats (ie juggle many responsibilities), are frequently disrespected, and are always outnumbered. For the record, I am not placing all the blame on her poor word choice because a conscientious individual would ask further questions to assess whether or not there was a credible threat… I’m just adding my two cents that it pays to be cautious and thoughtful about the way we express ourselves (from both sides, as I often pause before responding in tense situations to be careful that my comments are sensitive and professional, but I’m not gonna lie and pretend that it’s not difficult to do this when passengers are being aggressive, angry or forceful). Sounds like a misunderstanding that unfortunately spiraled way out of control… Hoping that at least the awareness caused by the publicity of this incident will make people think and strive to avoid similar instances in the future. Thank you for your thoughtful response.

    1. Flygirl2, I am a 28 year flight attendant, and your letter is spot on, brava! The author here doesn’t seem to respond to anything except people who agree with her, but I am happy you wrote such an eloquent letter to showcase the ‘other’ side. Thank you!

  14. I read this woman’s own account of what happened and it’s very clear that her daughter was not the issue with the airline- the mother was the issue. By her OWN written account, she continually badgered the crew for a First Class meal. Then she made a threat that her daughter was going to have a meltdown and become violent if they didn’t give it to her. That’s called blackmail. On top of that, she then tried to incite the other passengers on the aircraft to rise up in protest against the crew. Do you know how easy it is to incite the anger of a group of people and how dangerous that is on an aircraft? Did you also know that United Airlines has been at the forefront of training it’s employees in autism awareness and has a special program that does “practice runs” for families of children with austism a few weeks before their actual flight so that they can enjoy traveling like the rest of us? I have four children who have all had special needs, from Noonan Syndrome to Epilepsy and some other issues in between, and I can’t for the life of me understand how anyone can have sympathy for a woman who is USING her disabled daughter to try to cover up her own bad behavior. I certainly hope the airline doesn’t apologize to her. She should be apologizing to them and to all the people she inconvenienced, as well as have to pay the tens of thousands of dollars it must have cost for the diversion.

    I read this woman’s own account of what happened and it’s very clear that her daughter was not the issue with the airline- the mother was the issue. By her OWN written account, she continually badgered the crew for a First Class meal. Then she made a threat that her daughter was going to have a meltdown and become violent if they didn’t give it to her. That’s called blackmail. On top of that, she then tried to incite the other passengers on the aircraft to rise up in protest against the crew. Do you know how easy it is to incite the anger of a group of people and how dangerous that is on an aircraft? Did you also know that United Airlines has been at the forefront of training it’s employees in autism awareness and is involved in a special program called Wings For All that does “rehearsal runs” for families of children with austism so that they can enjoy traveling like the rest of us? I have four children who have all had special needs, from Noonan Syndrome to Epilepsy and some other issues in between, and I can’t for the life of me understand how anyone can have sympathy for a woman who is USING her disabled daughter to try to cover up her own bad behavior.

  15. I had a very stressful and challenging day with my Lil guy. Just wanted to say thank you your letter uplifted me. Carla

  16. I didnt realize people were posting on facebook about this. I Have been too busy getting upset with the horrible comments being written about her and anyone like me who tries to speak up. These comments are from a yahoo story. Everything you say is exactly how I feel. I sometimes think no one understands and since all those comments on yahoo are pretty much all bad saying things like your kid your problem, how dare we inflict our defective kid on the rest of the world etc, I felt so sad like I was right no one understands. Then I came across this post and I realize those people are not the majority. Most people have compassion and although I don’t encounter many the ones I do make up for everyone else. Thank you for your letter and I’m going to stop looking at my yahoo comments. Thank you again

  17. See this is why people are pissed off At this woman trying to hide behind her child’s disability. You say that she shouldn’t blame herself and I ask why not? She states that her daughter refused to eat prior to the flight so common sense would tell you she knew that she would get hungry and knows she won’t eat cold food so let’s just ignore the fact that she could have made arrangements before she boarded the flight or hell even asked them to heat up the chicken sandwich that they gave her. Nope let’s just make threats of violence on a airplane to make up for my incompetence and then play the helpless victim when we get kicked off for it. honestly the worst part of this whole story is that most of the people who read it are poor mom what hardship you had to endure for being such an awful person instead of showing concern for the actual victim which is the daughter for having such an awful person for a parent. Seriously how can you call yourself a parent of a special needs child and be so grossly unprepared.

    1. Would people be so forgiving if she forgot her daughter’s insulin? Or her inhaler?
      How about diapers for an infant? Also, if this was about a dad, would people be as sympathetic?

      Just asking as I am curious.

      I do not understand how parents of special needs children, especially those who are experienced travelers, do not plan as much as they possibly can. You have the option to request accommodation for special needs when you book your flight. Why wasn’t a hot meal requested then? Why wasn’t a cup of noodles, rice, or macaroni and cheese packed with the snacks? They only require hot water. Even if all these were somehow forgotten, you didn’t consider a to go meal in a thermal bag? What about the requested chips?

      This isn’t a case of first time traveler and only one option available. This is, by her own admission, someone who travels with her child frequently who had several available options. It doesn’t look like she or her husband, planned very well. And with special needs kids….you simply have to. And yes, I have 2 children with special needs. My daughter has severe asthma and allergies. My son is high functioning autistic, has kidney function issues and diabetic.We
      have to plan every detail on a trip.

      If Juliette’s parents were unprepared, how can the flight crew know her needs? I think many are being unfair. They had no way of knowing what Juliette needed. They could only go on what her mother said, and her mother said she “will try to scratch.” Herself, others….doesn’t matter. Every real or perceived threat must be taken seriously. And Juliette’s mom forced their hand on that. Have so many forgetten 9/11???

      So many of the comments on Facebook sicken me on both sides. There is no need to attack Juliette. None of this is her fault. It angers me that people do. But the people who are screaming “Ignorant!!!” When anyone brings up what I did above….you are doing nobody any favors. You are painting parents of children with autism in a negative light. Please educate, not attack those who are not viewing Mom and Dad with rose colored glasses because of our kids.

      Please note, I am not trying to attack Donna or her husband. I am hoping that good will come of this somehow. We are our children’s advocates, but we cannot expect the world to know exactly how to handle our kids when sometimes we are not sure. I suspect that the flight crew wasn’t the friendliest, and sensitivity training may be needed, but walk in their shoes as well as Donna’s.

  18. Seriously, I am at a loss here. I am so sorry for what these parents went through. All the “I should have done’s,” does not seem like it will stop a lawsuit however. Airlines are in the transportation business. A to B safely…that is it, and this they do consistently and with little appreciation until something goes wrong, and they land in the Hudson River. What airlines are not however, are hotels, restaurants, hospitals, churches, retail establishments or drugstores. Crews are not doctors, therapists, waiters, priests, or police officers. They do the best they can with the training and resources provided, and trying to determine the “special needs” of hundreds of different people in their care on a daily basis is simply not possible. If you are caring for someone who has life’s challenges, then it is you who are responsible for seeing everything possible is done before you undertake a journey. Unfortunately, air travel is not for everyone, and other more user friendly methods of transportation would be advised. Suing the airline and blaming others for your own mistakes smacks of entitlement.

  19. Dear mother kicked off the plane

    I am infuriated by what they did to you and your family. As a mother of an autistic son I can’t imagine your anger and pain. You handled yourself better than I would have done. Shame shame shame on the ignorance of United Airlines for what they did to you. There are plenty of choices for airlines and trust me I’ll never fly with them again after this. Good luck with your lawsuit.

    1. I understand Mama is a 1k flyer, meaning she flew over 100,000 miles last year. 1ks are are valued by the airline and rewarded well. They are given many many other perks, as well as complimentary upgrades to First class if there is an open seat. They are the highest level of Mileage Plus members at United, and receive the most perks of all the Premier members. These people also know how the airline works, what it does and doesn’t offer. Many know the system better than the employees.
      United participates in “Wings for all” — a program developed to assist special needs children in the air travel experience. GREAT PROGRAM with great results! It helps families have vacations by taking some of the stress of flying out.
      Being a grandma to a precious 9 yr old grandson who lives next door and has Autism AND Celiac; I understand meltdowns, etc., and the special needs of these children. I also know how airlines work, their concerns for the safety of EVERY passenger. Since 9/11 things people used to consider humorous or lightly said remarks are no longer considered jokes and every comment is considered serious. .

  20. It would be nice if we heard more than just the side of this story than just the mother’s. But unfortunately flight crews are not allowed to do interviews with the media. So we are left to hear a one sided, presumably biased testimony. How do you know the crew didn’t offer to re heat the warm sandwich she was sold? How do you know the crew didn’t end up giving her their own crew meal to appease her demands and threats of violence? How do you know the crew didn’t actually offer a more suitable alternative than just food from first class? You don’t because you’ve only heard the moms side. She wanted salty chips…they sell Pringles. Of course the crew would have offered this. The story seems fishy. Sounds like this “platinum” flyer is use to getting upgraded to first and was not being reasonable in her demands. The plane is not a convenience store it’s a plane with limited resources. You say we shouldn’t expect the mom to should’ve this and should’ve that but you expect the crew to should’ve done this and should’ve done that. Maybe they DID! And it wasn’t good enough. Maybe she knows she was wrong and is embarrassed and is now trying to make herself seem like a victim. Or maybe the crew overreacted and wasn’t accommodating. Either way we don’t know the whole story. Period. And even if the crew did respond wrong, can we stop lumping all flight attendants together and an entire airline as “insensitive”? People are imperfect. It’s one case and a case that hasn’t been substantiated at that.

    1. Thank you Tracip!!!!! At last a voice of reason in the midst of an awful lot of one-sided assumptions and unfair generalizations. Of course, the blogger here won’t acknowledge or respond to your logic because, sadly, she clearly chooses to ignore any viewpoints that don’t agree with her own. You can bet that if anyone tried to categorize all children on the spectrum based on the behavior of one child, she’d be up in arms. I guess respecting the individuality and autonomy of others is something she only exercises when it’s convenient to her personal agenda.

  21. Shawna,

    I want to thank you so much for this beautiful piece of writing. I’m not the mother of an autistic child, but I’m the house manager of a care home for autistic adults. I have felt the embarrassment that comes with a meltdown in a public forum; the scolding looks, the horrified stares. I’m so saddened by the people commenting that “she should’ve”, and I wish I could make every one of them understand; understand the challenges that you face, the occasional violence you and your individual endure, the constant planning that usually doesn’t matter, because if a behavior is going to happen, there could be nothing that will stop it. I want you and the mother on the flight to understand that there are people that get it, that feel immense compassion for your daily struggles, that don’t judge you when your child doesn’t make it through the flight or the shopping trip or the dinner out without a meltdown. That we understand you, and we feel for you and we wish that we could give you a hug, and tell you that you’re doing a great job, in spite of what anyone else may think. You’re a beautiful person. <3

  22. Ok unless you have gotten and autistic child ready in the morning you do not know. You plan have breakfast big enough to tide you over till home or the next airport. Then your child refusses to eat or trows it away without telling you. Then of course they get hungry you see the worning signs and jump into action. Most dibetic kids are not going to throw there meds/food out the window or in the trash just because. Autistic kids do not learn from mistakes but from repeated catrshtifies. The event probally created a fear of flying. Last week I nearly xhad to call 911 at a trampaline place because he made himself sick threw up then had an axiety attach about throwing up and had a death grip on a trash can. He refussed to let go. With replacing some meds and talkng him down we finally got hot out.

  23. Funny you do not mention the airline tried for over an HOUR according to other passengers to remedy the situatution. Funny you do not mention that said hot meal made no difference according to other passengers. And most funny…..the other passengers who were interviewed said it was not the child who was disruptive, but in fact the mother. Apparently acorrding to witnesses who were on the plane-unlike all of us- the mother continued her rant even after getting the hot meal which had zero effect. They worked with this family for ONE HOUR….but hey they are bad guys…. Yeah right!

  24. Beautifully said. Upon seeing this story initially, my husband did the “what abouts. ..” “why couldn’t she. ..” “she should’ve. …” my response to him…”would you deny a diabetic a candy bar if they were having a medical issue because you didn’t feel they had planned ahead? … never! ” his entire demeanor changed he looked at me and said “you’re right, I get it”. If only it was that easy to educate others.

  25. Shawna,Thank you for this response.I am the father of 3 kids,2 of which are in the spectrum.My daughter is 22 and my twins are 10.When we go out to eat, which is not very often I might add,I worry about how my kids will act.I wonder if they will be able to handle the different routines that dining out entails. I have seen with my own eyes how people treat kids in the spectrum,I have been told by some restuaunts not to bring my children back just because they get a little loud.The servers run to the managers on duty and say they cannot handle my table,I continually remind my kids to use their inside voice but when you have employees telling other customers to yell at my kids and tell them to shut up,It makes me mad.These parents of so called normal kids need to walk a mile or two in our shoes.

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