Autistic Son Left Behind at Foreign Airport While Family Flies Home After Exotic Vacation

June 9, 2019 Updated: June 9, 2019

A British mother recounted to Wales Online the shock of realizing her sick autistic son had been left behind at a Greek airport with no passport while she and her two other children traveled safely back in the UK from an exotic vacation.

The news outlet reported that on June 4, Nicola Purdy and two of her children—Alex, 12, and Darcie, 11—returned to Cardiff from a holiday on the Greek island of Crete.

As the trio were collecting their luggage at the carousel at Cardiff Airport, Purdy was horrified to find her autistic son, 24-year-old Jack, had been left behind in Greece, according to Wales Online.

She told the outlet that when the family arrived at Heraklion International Airport to catch a flight back home, Jack complained of flu-like symptoms, including headache and vomiting.

A doctor at the airport took Jack away in a wheelchair. Purdy told Wales Online someone promised her autistic son would be helped onto the plane.

“But the doctor came and took him and his boarding pass and said they would put him on the flight in priority seating,” she said, according to the report.

“I noticed he was not in his allocated seat, but we were right at the back. I thought he was sat further down the front, there was no reason he would not be on that flight,” she added.

“I was perfectly oblivious and we arrived at Cardiff and went to get the luggage. We waited a while, and there was nobody left in arrivals or departures and I thought, where is my son?”

Purdy said that after it dawned on her that Jack was nowhere to be found, she enlisted the help of airport security, the police, and the British Consulate to locate her autistic son.

“He must have been thinking we had all abandoned him … It was awful,” she told the news outlet.

Purdy said that instead of being helped to board the plane, her son had instead been taken to a hospital. After receiving medical attention, he was released and made his own way back to the airport.

A TUI manager accompanied Jack back to the UK and a taxi brought him home. Purdy had booked the vacation with the TUI tour agency.

Jack’s mother says she now wants compensation from TUI for the nerve-wracking experience.

“I believe TUI should compensate us and ensure it does not happen to anybody else,” she said.

A TUI UK spokesman told Wales Online: “We are sorry to hear that Mrs Purdy’s son was taken ill in the airport lounge before his flight.

“Once we were made aware that he had returned from hospital and was still at the airport we fully supported them by arranging both a flight back to the UK and onward travel home, covering the entire cost.

“We were in direct contact with Mrs Purdy to keep her updated with the situation and have tried to make further contact following their return to the UK.”

The story met with mostly sympathetic reactions after it was posted on the Wales Online Facebook page.

Alexia Saunders wrote: “This is awful, just can’t believe anyone would leave any ill family member out of their sight whilst abroad, not only board without him, shouldn’t have let the plane take off without speaking to a cabin crew member and shown where her son was sat. Then to travel 4 HOURS without walking down the isle to check on him. As if this isn’t all bad enough, he then gets escorted by a TUI rep on his journey home and she doesn’t even go to the airport to greet him with relief, she stays at home and allows him to land, go through arrivals and get in a taxi and travel the onward journey to Swansea alone. UNBELIEVABLE !!!”

Julie Howie wrote: “Why would you leave your child and a child with autism to boot? What if they need consent for a medical procedure? Why did you not check up on him for hours?”

Teacher Gives Autistic Boy ‘Most Annoying’ Award

An elementary school in Indiana has apologized after an autistic fifth-grade student was given an award for being “most annoying.”

Rick Castejon, the boy’s father, said he was stunned when the special education teacher presented his son with the unexpected trophy inscribed with the words “Most Annoying Male.”

Castejon told The Times of Northwest Indiana that his son was given the award during a ceremony a luncheon at a local restaurant for the Bailly Preparatory Academy in May. The event was attended by students, numerous parents, and the school principal.

“We were blindsided. We just weren’t expecting it,” Castejon told the publication. “As a principal or teacher, you should never let this happen to any student.”

“We were blindsided. We just weren’t expecting it,” Castejon told The Times of Northwest Indiana. “As a principal or teacher, you should never let this happen to any student.”

Castejon said he tried to leave the trophy behind but was approached by his son’s teacher, who reminded him to not forget to bring it home, while acting as if it was a joke, the newspaper reported.

He told the news outlet that his son, who is non-verbal, would sometimes rock back and forth and is prone to becoming emotional.

He said the school calls him “all the time” over how to handle his son.

“A special needs education teacher should know how to handle these things,” Castejon told the media outlet.

Castejon contacted school administrators, who apologized and said they would take action, including the possibility of suspension and termination.

In a statement to the Times, Peter Morikis, an emergency manager with the Gary Community School Corporation, said that the corporation does not “condone this type of behavior and will continue to put the safety and well-being of our students first.”

“We acknowledge the potential impact that an experience like this could have on a child’s mental well-being, self-esteem and overall level of comfortability in a learning environment going forward,” Morikis stated.

Castejon told the news outlet he was satisfied with the school’s response.

Janita Kan and Richard Szabo contributed to this report.

Follow Tom on Twitter: @OZImekTOM