When you are a parent to a child on the autistic spectrum, the struggles are endless, but the love you get from the child is accordingly satisfying. One of the major struggles parents of autistic children endure is the society’s treatment of autism. People often don’t know how to act around people that are different from them, and so more often than not the result is that children and adults on the autistic spectrum suffer from social exclusion.
This story is here to show you that luckily there are some people out there who know how to treat children with autism with the patience they require, and how in return they receive endless gratitude and love (not only from the parents, but the children as well). When this mom put her autistic seven-year-old on a plane with a kind note explaining his special circumstances, she never expected how the story would end.
Landon’s unexpected story
Alexa Bjornson’s seven-year-old son Landon was scheduled to take a plane by himself to visit his father in Portland. His mother, naturally, wasn’t enthusiastic about this arrangement, but it was inevitable.
Reluctantly, she had to get on board with the plan. Her main concern was how people would react to her son’s social interaction, which is a field particularly challenging for children and adults on the autistic spectrum.
Flying alone for the first time
A child flying by himself for the first time is always frightening, both for the kid and for his parents. But a parent to an autistic child has that much more reason to be concerned.
Though people are usually willing to help confused children flying by themselves, especially flight attendants and other airport officials, when the child is autistic it affects the situation. This is partly since they struggle more than others to understand their surroundings.
Alexa prepared her son for this experience and explained all the steps involved in boarding a plane by himself, but it was in vain; the two were still worried out of their minds.
After the story was published by Alexa and later covered by local media, Landon was asked how he felt towards the flight. He admitted that he was excited to see his dad, but he also felt nervous.
Despite her thorough preparation, Alexa knew that many factors are out of her control – and that’s the most nerve-wracking feeling a mother (or anyone, really) can have.
One of the factors that were out of her control was how people around Landon would treat him. She didn’t want him to be a burden for anyone on the plane, but she wanted her kid to be treated with patience.
A mother’s love
Understanding social situations and communicating with their environment is especially challenging for kids on the autistic spectrum.
Alexa knew her son well, and she knew he had a habit of asking multiple times throughout a drive “are we there yet?” While she saw it as an endearing habit, not everyone would agree with her.
People’s reaction to Landon
Alexa’s main concern then was how the person sharing a seat with Landon on the plane would react to him, and whether they will understand his situation.
She worried that people who aren’t accustomed with autism wouldn’t know how to deal with him, in case he gets scared throughout the flight and needs to be calmed down.
Alexa, acting as any mother would, started going through the list of all the things that could go wrong in her mind. For example, what if the plane hit a turbulence?
She imagined the worst possible case and figured she must do something to make sure people treat her son with patience and respect, and if the worst happens, he’ll have someone looking after him there.
You can’t rely on luck
But what was she to do besides going on the plane with him? She wanted to believe that people were kind at heart, and that if they knew of Landon’s special circumstances, there’s no reason why they wouldn’t act accordingly.
And if you can’t trust people’s kindness (because let’s be honest, sometimes you can’t), she knew that having some compensation is always worth people’s trouble.
Her plan was to write a note to Landon’s seatmate, kindly explaining that he is a functioning kid on the autistic spectrum, asking for his understanding and nothing more.
It started, “to my neighbor, from my mom.” She gave the note to her son before boarding the plane and instructed him to give it to his seatmate.
Asking for understanding
Alexa attached a $10 bill to the letter to show her kind intentions. She also hoped that if her words weren’t enough to do the trick, money would be a good incentive.
She didn’t ask for much, only that the person sitting next to her son would act with kindness and patience with him. She wanted to make sure he understands Landon’s situation to avoid any misunderstandings or miscommunication between them.
Worried like hell
According to his mother, Landon has high functioning autism, which means he can do anything that other kids can, except that he sometimes struggles with social or emotional situations, and has trouble maintaining eye contact.
The only thing Alexa really worried about was how Landon and his seatmate would get along. She was secretly afraid he might find him annoying.
Meant to be
Luckily for her, she was wrong. It was a complete coincidence, but maybe it was meant to be, that Landon’s seatmate was the kindest and most compassionate man Alexa could hope for.
This was beyond Alexa’s hopes and expectations – little did she know that in this plane ride Landon would acquire a new friend for life.
A lovely surprise
Throughout the flight Alexa was biting her nails, waiting for her phone to ring with the announcement that her son arrived safely to his father.
She was utterly shocked to receive the text message from Ben, Landon’s seatmate and new friend. It read, “he’s a great kid and you’re a lucky mom.”
A special connection
Receiving this text message from a stranger was so unexpected, and yet the nicest thing Alexa has read in a while, perhaps even in her entire life. How do you react to something like that?
She received it with a selfie of Ben and Landon, where the two look like old-time buddies. To have her son not only interact with strangers but befriend them! Alexa knew this guy was special.
What a relief
Having learned that the passenger sharing a seat with her son not only respected her note and her child’s situation, but that he was such a good man warmed Alexa’s heart beyond words.
She was so grateful, she felt as if there was nothing she could do to thank this man enough. What she eventually did was post a public thank you note to share Ben’s kindness with the world.
From his side
Ben’s reaction to Alexa’s letter was not at all what she had expected. He said that he was touched by her words. He realized immediately that Landon is a great kid once you get familiar and friendly with him and make him feel safe.
Luckily for both Alexa and Landon, Ben was no stranger to this kind of situation, and he knew exactly how to handle it.
A real friendship
Ben recalled that it was one of the best flights of his life. The two played games throughout the flight, and he even practiced some of his stale old dad-jokes on Landon. The kid didn’t appreciate it, though.
After receiving Ben’s message, Alexa knew that he was safe. Ben’s words, and his selfie with Landon, seemed so genuine that she knew there was nothing to worry about.
A good deed creates ripples
After this story went viral, together with Ben’s text message where he informed Alexa about his intentions to donate the $10 that were attached to her note, it raised great awareness to the cause.
This is one of those times where the power of social media is used to create positive change. The story raised awareness to children with autism and the Autism Society, and thanks to the virality of the story, many people followed Ben’s suit and donated to the organization.
The inspiring act
That’s not the only side effect the virality of the post had. Turns out that women who read the post acquired about Ben’s relationship status.
During an interview for a local TV network, Ben was asked about his relationship status. Women are known to have a sweet spot for kind men, and this case is no different. Ben was practically considered a knight on a shining armor after his kind deed.
A national hero
Unfortunately for all the interested women (and there were many of them), Ben confirmed on the interview that he was flattered, but he’s off the market.
Ben didn’t want to steal the thunder of this story from Landon and Alexa, since he hoped this story would raise awareness for the important cause of Autistic society.
Positive news for a change
Alexa’s story of kindness and compassion is not something we’re used to seeing on the news. Usually it’s all bad news and heartbreaking stories, so when a story like this one pops up once in a while, it’s bound to create waves.
And that’s exactly what happened. Alexa posted the story to show her gratitude for Ben, but never expected it would get as viral as it did.
An unbelivable reaction
People’s comment to Alexa’s post were almost as heartwarming as the story itself. For example, someone wrote, “sometimes through all this noise a glimpse of humanity shines through. This is one of those moments.”
Another user said that this story restored her faith in humanity. When the social media is so often used for bad publicity and humiliating people, it’s nice to hear something positive for a change.
A happy ending
There are many ways in which this story could have ended, most of them not so positive and inspiring. With these possible outcomes in mind, some people online showed less understanding towards the mother that sent her child off alone on a plane.
You can choose to look on the bright side of how things ended, but people online tend to share everything on their minds without filtering it, and so some of the comments Alexa received weren’t so supportive.
An important message
But all well that ends well, and luckily for all the people involved, this story, that started with a note, ended in the best possible way.
Ben and Landon stayed friends after their shared plane ride, since their connection was so natural and genuine. But perhaps the best consequence of the story is the awareness that it raised of how to act in situations like this one, and hopefully more people would learn to act as Ben did.