Going on a plane ride, or any trip in general, with a child is always a touch-and-go type situation in which as a parent, it can be easy or a completely disaster. Especially when your child has autism and is known to easily have meltdowns being around so many people, and when people don’t understand your child and make snap judgments without fully understanding the situation.
Kate is a three year old that has autism and whose mom received attention after writing a blog post entitled “Dear Daddy” to a man that sat next to them on a flight. Although the man was clearly not Kate’s father, she was making an indirect statement as to how she felt the man was safe for her. Shanell, her mother, was worried that this plane ride would end in disaster like so many others had. Kate tends to get overwhelmed on plane rides, wanting to get off and just being uncomfortable which results in screaming fits and tantrums that to other people simply seem annoying, and not the expression of discomfort by an autistic child.
Kate bonded with the man that sat next to she and her mother on the flight from Florida to Philadelphia. The flight was two and a half hours, and the man that ended up next to them was an unlikely hero to this “tired autism mom.” They were on Flight 1850 and “Daddy” sat in 16C. His name is Eric, but that is all that is known about the man that touched this mother so deeply. Eric walked up to Shannell and Kate with a briefcase and documents that seemed extremely important, wearing a jacket that attracted Kate to rub it because it felt soft against her fingers. Instead of getting uncomfortable and acting as if he was inconvenienced, Eric took interest in little Kate and sat and talked with her. They talked for almost the entire flight, with short breaks where Kate would play with her dolls and become preoccupied with her toys. Eric seemed to be completely unperturbed by the fact that this three year old stranger was calling him “Daddy” and was so interested in interacting with him. His simple act of kindness made the plane ride a successful one.
Kate did begin to get upset towards the end of the flight, wanting to be unbuckled and wanting the plane to be “opened” so that they could get off. Eric even then tried to talk to Kate, attempting to break her tantrum by distracting her with her toys. This had limited success, but he showed patience that never wavered even when Kate stayed upset. At the end of the flight he even let Kate and her mom get off in front of him, where Kate was finally calmed once off the airplane.
A very simple act of kindness, and a decision of a stranger made all the difference in the world to this mother as well as her child. We could all take a little advice from this interaction and work on our patience. We never know how much someone could be struggling and how much it could mean to someone.
Watch the video below!