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‘A great travel buddy.’ 7-year-old with autism finds perfect seatmate for solo flight

Alexa Bjornson sent a note with her 7-year-old son, Landon, on his first solo airline flight to fill in his future seatmate, but the passenger’s kind reply has gone viral.
Alexa Bjornson sent a note with her 7-year-old son, Landon, on his first solo airline flight to fill in his future seatmate, but the passenger’s kind reply has gone viral. Screengrab from KATU video

Mom Alexa Bjornson worried that her 7-year-old son, Landon, who has autism, might be too much for his seatmate on the boy’s first solo airplane flight, she wrote on Facebook.

So the Las Vegas woman wrote a note to whoever ended up sitting next to Landon as he flew to Portland, Oregon, to visit his dad, the Facebook post continues.

“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 KATU.

The letter informed his as-yet-unknown seatmate that Landon has high functioning autism “so he might be nervous and ask you ‘are we there yet’ a lot, and please just make him feel safe and comfortable,” her Facebook post reads.

And she tucked a $10 bill into the note to compensate the person for any inconvenience. But the reply Bjornson received from Ben Pedraza, Landon’s seatmate on the flight, surprised her.

“He did ask if we were there yet several times but he was a great travel buddy,” Pedraza wrote, enclosing a photo of himself and Landon on the plane. “We had a great time and played a few rounds of rock-paper-scissors. He’s a great kid and you’re a lucky mom.”

Pedraza wrote that he appreciated the $10 but donated it to the Autism Society in Landon’s honor as it “wasn’t necessary.”

“We were cracking jokes, and after a while, he asked me to quit making dad jokes,” Pedraza told KATU.

“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,” Bjornson wrote on Facebook.

Since her Facebook post went viral, with more than 35,000 likes and 14,000 shares, Pedraza says he’s even gotten inquiries from women wondering if he’s single, KATU reported.

“I’m off the market for sure, definitely, but I’m flattered,” he told the station.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. Here are some of the signs and symptoms associated with autism.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
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