Flying solo can be stressful for anyone. Now imagine you’re 7-years-old and doing it for the very first time. That was the case for Landon Bjornson, a young boy from Las Vegas who was traveling to visit his father in Oregon.
Landon has high-functioning autism, which can make even short trips difficult for him. However left with no choice, his mother, Alexa Bjornson, packed his bag and gave him a note to give the passenger seated next to him. The note explained that Landon has autism, would be making the trip alone, and that he may frequently ask “are we there yet?” She also included $10 for whoever was next to Landon for helping him to feel safe and comfortable.
“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,” Bjornson told news station KATU.
Fortunately for Landon and his mother, the person occupying the adjacent seat didn’t need any incentive to ensure the young traveler had an enjoyable flight. Ben Pedraza, Landon’s cabin companion, said their time together was full of laughter, sending his mom this message as they landed in Portland:
Alexa was floored. “My heart just dropped.” She posted the note on Facebook along with a message of gratitude. “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.”
The post soon went viral, with stations all over the country sharing the juvenile’s joyous journey and the photo of the Landon and Ben on their flight.
“We were cracking jokes, and after a while, he asked me to quit making dad jokes,” Pedraza later told KATU. As for the $10, Pedraza says he donated it to the Autism Society in Landon’s name.
Along with praise for his good deed, the viral story has also landed Pedraza several requests asking if he’s single. His response: “I’m off the market for sure, definitely, but I’m flattered,” adding he hopes the attention stays on autism awareness, and not his actions.
For tips on traveling with autistic children, check out the resources page from the Marcus Autism Center.