Clicking through the internet a few months ago, I stumbled upon a story about an Autistic girl who was kicked off a United Airlines flight. I cringed! You see, we were planning a trip that would involve 4 separate flights, each with a different crew and my very anxious, getting-bigger-than-his-mommy Autistic son. It had been a while since we had flown, and I was hopeful that this time would be better than the last but after reading the story of what would be my worst nightmare, I wondered if the tolerance of the flying public had finally snapped.
There was nothing we could do but hope for the best and plan for the worst… And plan, we did!
As is true with many individuals with Autism, our son has an obsession. The one topic that he can never get enough of…. and for him is is Delta Airlines…. Now, mind you, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is excited to get on an airplane. He just thinks that if you do so, it should be on Delta! For a few years now he has been collecting anything he can that says Delta on it. Our wonderful friends and family always bring or send him whatever loot they can get off a flight, from wings to cookies… even napkins… A flight attendant friend once sent him a box of goodies that kept him happy for weeks….
So of course we booked our flights with Delta.
I need to stop this little tale for a second and tell you that, having been a part of the special needs community for most of my life, I have observed a few things. And one of those things is this:
There is a lot of entitlement that goes on in the hearts and minds of some of us….
This belief that, because my life has this extraordinary challenge attached to it, I deserve my fair share of special treatment. There is some truth in this… cause, I am not gonna lie…. We need a little extra help! But that does not give us the right to be demanding or ungrateful for those who must go the extra mile on our behalf.
So we planned! First I planned out all the food and special treats that Jonah would need over the course of those 4 flights… Nobody wants to sit next to a hungry kid! We made sure there was toys, games & videos to help hold his interest.
Next we turned our attention to those who would be serving us on the flights. We made up this little note card, attached it to a candy bar and passed them out to the entire crew on every flight.
The response from this little act of appreciation was absolutely amazing!!!
I am happy to tell you that there are some amazing men and women jetting all over the skies and when you take a moment to truly appreciate their service, they will go above and beyond the call of duty! Such was our experience.
We didn’t fly first class, but I felt like a celebrity on those flights. Each person working the flight took the time to find us and thank us for the goodies. They then proceeded to check on us on a regular basis to see if we needed anything. Each of them took a moment to acknowledge Jonah and bring him special stuff to make his flight more fun. On every flight, he was invited to the Cockpit by the Captain and on the last leg of our journey, Captain Tim Garvin finally succeeded in getting Jonah to agree. You see, our kid was still a little nervous but the kindness of the flight crew won him over.
Why am I sharing this story with you? Because I want to share that there are really wonderful strangers in the world and when we treat them with kindness and appreciation, they will often respond in the most wonderful way.
A few weeks after we came home from our trip, the postman left a package on our doorstep. I wasn’t expecting anything so I opened it with great curiosity. In it, I found the most amazing gift for our Son. Captain Garvin, who had already exceeded his duty in his kindness to Jonah, was not done yet.
Inside the box was a real, honest to goodness, Delta Captain’s Hat! The beaming joy that sprung to this boy’s face was priceless.
So if you find that the world is not quite meeting your expectations when it comes to your child with Special Needs, try a different approach. Kindness and Gratitude has given us much more than an entitled attitude ever has.
A very special THANK YOU to the wonderful people of Delta Airlines for their extraordinary service and understanding they showed to one little Autistic boy who will forever be their biggest fan!!!