Kate is a three-year-old girl on the autism spectrum. Personal space is important, and self-regulation and social interactions are difficult for Kate, so her mother was prepared for the worst as they boarded their 2 1/2 hour flight. Kate, stuck on a plane with little room to move and forced to be in close proximity to strangers, was bound to have a difficult time.

When a man sat down next to her on the plane, she immediately gravitated towards him. She felt safe and wanted to talk to him, even calling him “Daddy” (which her mother explains is a term she used not because she was confused, but because she felt she could trust this stranger). Little did he know that how he chose to respond was just what she needed, and thanks to this kind man, Kate had no challenging behaviors during the flight and was able to practice social interaction and eye contact for an extended period of time. It may not have seemed like a big deal to him, but to Kate and her mother it meant the world.

We all have a choice about how to respond to situations that are presented to us. This man chose well, and I hope this story inspires you to pause and think next time a trying situation presents itself. Just know that either way, the outcome is in your hands.

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