As a parent, your child’s first flight alone can be nerve-racking. For Alexa Bjornson, her 7-year-old son Landon’s first solo flight from Las Vegas to Portland was that bit extra stressful. He has autism and she was unsure how Bjornson’s seat mates would interact with him on his flight.
Bjornson told KATU, “I thought, how do I make it so whoever’s sitting next to him won’t look at him as a burden but more of like, I can help this kiddo get through the day.” In order to ensure that Bjornson’s neighbor on the flight would be helpful and patient with him, his mother packed games, snacks, and a note with money to his impending seat mate.
Bjornson’s was quickly comforted when she received a text message from Ben Pedraza, his neighbor, at the conclusion of the flight, assuring her that their flight was great. Pedraza wrote, “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.” They cracked a lot of jokes and Pedraza was happy to be there for Bjornson throughout his first flight, which he described as being very busy. Pedraza tells KATU, “We were cracking jokes and after a while he asked me to quit making dad jokes.”
Bjornson was filled with appreciation that her son was assigned a seat next to such a kind man. She shared their story on a Facebook post that went viral, stating, “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 as well.” To top off this act of kindness, Pedraza tells Bjornson via text message that he has donated the ten dollars she gave him to the Autism Society in honor of Landon. Pedraza hopes that through this small act, others will continue to spread autism awareness.
For those traveling with individuals with autism, it can be stressful. However, there are various ways to plan ahead to ensure that the flight goes smoothly. Marcus Autism Center has more information on tips for traveling with individuals with autism, such as planning ahead through seat arrangements, packing the essentials, and asking for assistance through the airlines’ services.