Stand Strong Against Public Discrimination

autism discrimination on travel

Parents should feel comfortable and safe when traveling anywhere in the world and have fun especially while on vacation. Dr. Donna Beegle of Tigard, Oregon who is a strong advocate for anti-poverty programs, took her fifteen year old autistic daughter Juliette on a family trip to Walt Disney.

On their way back on the flight during a layover she got hungry, like any child might, and became a little agitated. The mother was initially denied when she offered to pay for a hot meal, when the stewardess informed her that they were only available to first class passengers. After informing the flight attendant that her daughter may lash out if she is not fed, an exception was made and the child was provided with food.

The girl then ate and calmed down while watching a movie. Out of nowhere the crew announced that they were preparing for an emergency landing in Salt Lake City. The entire family was taken off the plane while a passenger was recording this entire incident with shock and disappointed of treatment.

No parent should ever feel this type of embarrassment or ridicule. Dr. Beegle is a world traveler flying to five countries and twenty four states and has never had an unsettling experience before. This is twisted case wherein special needs discrimination has been brought to light. We all understand that when there is a serious flight risk that is potentially dangerous to others, that the flight crew should always take precautions. But in this case, the mother and daughter should have not been treated with such disrespect.

As a mother, Dr. Beegle wants to make sure that no child with autism should ever experience something like this again. She will be suing the airline “not for money, but rather to ask that airline staff receive training.” In this case she’s doing what’s best for her and her family. 

Here is some helpful advice for parents to help them advocate publicly:

Parents traveling with autistic children should never feel prejudice, ignorance and mistreatment when their child is upset. An unfortunate incident like this may be avoided with positive training for future and current flight members. Parents with autistic children are like any other parent, in that they want to their children to have everything.

Positive re-enforcement, encouragement and having patience are keys elements to traveling in a smooth way. One of the most important things that every parent should remember is to bring a child’s favorite toys, movies, books or any type of creative toy that brings the child comfort from home. Parents should remember that children aren’t perfect but in the end, their experience when traveling away from home should be a positive one. May no child or parent have to experience this again by learning from this incident.