Although many parents are forced to do it, the idea of sending children on flights by themselves is pretty nervewracking. The nerves are only heightened when the child has a disability as well. That’s exactly how Alexa Bjornson was feeling when she had to send her son Landon, who has autism, on a solo flight to visit his father in Portland. She decided to write a note for the stranger who would be sitting beside him. The person who read the note, a stranger named Ben, happened to be an amazing person, and the chance meeting between Landon and Ben lead to a lot of good vibes being spread across the Internet.
Plenty Of Nerves
When Landon was diagnosed with autism, he was nonverbal and was struggling with developmental and behavioral setbacks. With loads of therapy, love, and time, the 10-year-old now has a very manageable, high-functioning form of autism. Although he has made a lot of progress, his mother, Alexa, was still extremely worried about how he would cope with flying without her. Strange environments are often a trigger for autism symptoms, and there are a variety of things about flying, such as loud noises and extreme heights, that can be stressful for anyone, especially children.
All parents experience a certain level of anxiety when they will be separated from their children for a lengthy time period. Alexa was also worried that Landon’s seatmate might just seem him as being an annoying or misbehaving child. She wanted to make sure that the person sitting beside him would understand why he may be acting differently, and she hoped that the person would be understanding. As a last-minute solution to the problems she had been fretting over for weeks, Alexa decided to write a note to whoever the stranger that would sit beside Landon might be.
Writing The Note
In her note, Alexa explained that Landon is a wonderful child who happens to have autism. She felt it was important to let the person know about his illness because autism is an invisible disease that can present itself it very visible ways. She explained that, due to his illness, Landon may be especially anxious, and that he might ask repetitive questions. She included the detail that Landon is known to ask “Are we there yet?” during long trips. This is not done to be annoying. It is Landon’s way of coping with all of the anxiety that is caused by a trip.
Although kindness and understanding should be given generously and for free, Alexa also included a $10 bill inside the note as thanks for any troubles than Landon’s seatmate could potentially go through in treating him with a little empathy. After instructing Landon to keep the note sealed and hand it to the person who sits beside him, Alexa sent him on his flight and hoped for the best.
Receiving The Response
Alexa never expected to receive a response from her note. When Landon was well into his flight, his mother received a text message from an unusual number. The text included a picture of a man named Ben smiling on the plane next to her son. The note read:
“Alexa, My name is Ben. I was Landon’s seat neighbor for his flight to Portland. He did ask if we were there yet several times but he was a great travel buddy. 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. I appreciate the $10 but it wasn’t necessary. I donated it to Autism-Society.org in honor of Landon. Have a great day!”
Kind people who are willing to go out of their way to make other people feel good still exist in this world. Alexa posted the entire story, including Ben’s text, on Facebook, and it has opened up a conversation about what the public can due to make travel easier for people with autism.
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