To the Mom Whose Autistic Daughter Was Kicked Off Plane

Dear Ms Beegle,

You don't know me, but I've been thinking about you ever since I read about your family's experience on that United flight. I wish I had been sitting in the aisle across from you when you tried to explain to the crew about Juliette -- about how she needed to eat something hot because when she's hungry, she gets distressed.

I imagine you probably started all courteous. It sounds a bit strange, but could you please just do this one kindness and get her some rice... I'll pay for it. Yes, I know you are 'just doing your job' and that if you gave this girl 'special treatment,' wouldn't everyone else will expect it, too?

And then, when that didn't work, you probably tried to level with the attendant, who may not know much about meltdowns, let alone autism. You see, if Juliette doesn't eat something substantial, she will escalate and may become aggressive... She may shout. She may scratch.

It's not a threat, I would jump in. The woman is merely stating a possibility. Call it a heads up. But clearly the possibility alone makes autistic people dangerous. We don't want anybody acting weird on planes because that may make some passengers uncomfortable. And since airlines are so very concerned about the 'safety and comfort of their passengers,' maybe it's best that people with autism don't fly in the first place because SOMETHING MIGHT HAPPEN...

At this point I wish I could have piped up, tried to save the situation somehow. Prevented the emergency landing, stopped the medics and police from boarding and escorting your family off the plane like would-be felons.

But I wasn't there. All I could do was read comments from other people who also weren't there. People who blamed you for the whole fiasco because no matter what goes wrong, it's always mom's fault. Got a child with autism? Mom must be frigid. Child may have a meltdown on a flight? Mom didn't discipline. The kid was hungry? Well, why on earth didn't mom pack snacks, or maybe she packed the wrong kind of snacks...

Most disheartening was the fact that many of the callous remarks came from fellow moms. Moms who should know that no amount of preparation and forethought can totally prevent shit from happening. Best laid plans and so forth. You shouldn't need to be a parent of a child with special needs to appreciate that. You shouldn't even need to be a parent.

Isn't it ironic that people with autism are said to lack empathy?

I don't know you. But I pray that you win your lawsuit, so that another family never has to go through what you did on that flight.

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