Hope for Family Travelers on Planes

Kate. Photo by Shanell Mouland.

Kate.

The Internet has been abuzz this week with praise for a tear-jerking essay from Shanell Mouland, the woman behind Go Team Kate.

The story was titled, “Dear ‘Daddy’ in Seat 16C,” and was published Jan. 9. In it, Mouland recounts an anecdote from a recent flight with her 3-year-old daughter, Kate, who has autism. Details of the story are irrelevant here (honestly, I encourage you to gather some tissues and read the piece yourself). The bottom line: The dude who sat next to Kate was just a really good human being.

Over the course of the multi-hour flight, the guy smiled at the child. He engaged her. He let her touch his computer. He even played turtles with her. And at no point did he make it seem as if Kate or Shanell were annoying him or invading his personal space. He was just a good guy.

I loved the story for a number of reasons.

First, as a parent, it’s uplifting to hear about a stranger going out of his way to be kind to someone else’s kid. Second, as a supporter of the autism community (I’ve done work for AbilityPath), it’s wonderful to read about someone treating a child on the Spectrum with the kind of patience and respect these children deserve.

Finally, as a blogger, I love the bigger picture. At a time when airlines get kudos for segregating family travelers and passengers seem to enjoy ganging up on those of us who travel with kids, this story was a welcome breath of fresh air, a feel-good example of the reality that there still are some people who fly the “friendly” skies.

The piece left me feeling hopeful that maybe, just maybe, the prevailing attitudes about family travelers on airplanes can soften and change.

We just need more people like the Daddy in 16C. And we need to hear more stories like his.

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