Autistic 7-Year-Old Hops On Solo Flight With $10 And A Note, What Happened Next Melted Some People
If there’s one thing the world needs more of, it’s unexpected friendships.
In a now-viral Facebook post, a mother has shared a heartwarming text from a stranger who befriended her autistic son at a time he most needed a buddy.
Little Landon, 7, was set to fly from Las Vegas to Oregon last Thursday to visit his dad.
It would also be his first-ever plane ride by himself. His mother, Alexa Bjornson, was anxious he might have a tough time coping and worried he might be a bother to his seatmates.
Landon has high-functioning autism, a condition that has been likened to Asperger’s Syndrome and is characterized by potential emotional sensitivity, obsessively repetitive behavior, and social difficulties.
Hoping to do the right thing, his mother decided to pack him a note that he could present to the passenger sitting beside him on the Southwest Airlines flight.
The handwritten note described her son’s condition and explained that he might get nervous during the flight. She warned that Landon may repeatedly ask questions, namely, “Are we there yet?”
Most of all, she hoped her words might beseech a kindly soul to keep an eye out for him, and help Landon feel safe and comfortable.
Bjandon hoped she might inspire a stranger into seeing the ‘challenge’ as a do-good opportunity.
She also tucked a $10 bill into the note as a gesture of thanks and to compensate any bother.
Turns out, she had nothing to worry about!
With a stroke of luck, the stranger that Landon wound up sitting next to was none other than a man called Ben Pedraza.
After the plane landed, Bjornson said she was surprised by an unexpected text message.
“Alexa, my name is Ben,” it started. It turned out that Ben didn’t need the $10, because he and Landon had gotten on like a house on fire!
Ben announced that the youngster had been “a great travel buddy”. The pair of new friends had played games and swapped jokes during the journey.
“We had a good time and played a few rounds of rock-paper-scissors. He’s a great kid and you’re a lucky mom.”
Bjornson even received a cheery selfie of the two new pals.
Ben said that, while he doesn’t always talk at length to the people he sits next to, it was easy to chat to Landon.
They even bonded over some heart-to-heart, more serious topics.
“One thing Landon shared that resonated with me is that he’s sometimes bullied”, said Ben. “I think more needs to be discussed and done to thwart this behavior by other children and adults.”
Bjornson was deeply touched by the stranger’s sincerity in looking out for her hijo when she couldn’t be there.
“I am so grateful to this individual, and that there are still kind people in the world who make a difference like I try myself to do”, she wrote in her initial Facebook post.
Naturally, the internet exploded with gooey joy.
The initial Facebook post that Bjornson shared has racked up 319,000 likes and 15,000 comments, and has been shared 142,000 shares times.
News of the unexpected friendship has continued to inspire social media users from around the world.
People are freaking out over this seemingly small deed. Shows you how much peole are craving some good news!
Most have applauded Ben’s kindness!
While a couple of comments have questioned Bjornson’s decision to put her son on the plane by himself, others have rushed to her defense and argued that flight attendants are made aware of any children traveling solo.
Many users have called the story out for what it is – a total tear-jerker.
Ok, yea, I’m definitely crying.
Overall, the resounding sentiment is:
Traveling with autism isn’t always easy.
Many people these days take their wanderlust fancies for granted. However, for individuals and families affected by autism, traveling can pose a scary challenge.
Something as seemingly simple as taking a plane to another city can represent a series of intimidating experiences, unfamiliar noises, and disrupted routines.
There have even been a couple of alarming incidents where airlines have been markedly unsympathetic to the cause.
In 2015, a family was kicked off a United Airlines flight because of their 15-year-old autistic daughter. A more recent case last year saw an autistic teen being forcibly removed from an Emirates flight to Australia, despite the family warning the airline in advance.
There’s clearly a long way to go before travel is fully inclusive, however, some have argued the world is slowly changing to better accommodate special needs in this field.
At the end of the day, all of us can certainly all take a leaf out of Ben’s book in looking out for each other, whatever they may be going through.
After all, there’s not always an explanation note.
In Bjornson’s words, “it is a very humbling experience and I just hope that it raises awareness that if you see children having a hard time — or not — that just a kind gesture can change the outlook in their lives.”
Now – who said the Internet’s all doom-and-gloom? Faith in humanity restored (for now).