Shanell Mouland, New Brunswick, Canada – is a teacher, writer and mother to Kate, 3 who has autism
We recently stumbled across Shanell’s heart-warming blog on Huffington Post, ‘Dear ‘Daddy’ in Seat 16C’ which tells the story of how a businessman sat next to Kate and engaged with her on a flight. The story has since gone viral.
Kate was sat in the middle seat:
“I sat Kate, my 3-year-old who has autism, in the middle seat knowing full well that there would be a stranger sitting next to her for the duration of this flight. I had to make a quick decision and based on her obsession with opening and closing the window shade, I figured she might be less of a distraction if she sat in the middle.”
Shanell explains how she watched people board the plane, secretly hoping for a Grandmother figure to sit next to her daughter when her heart sank on seeing a businessman approach and sit in the seat next to Kate.
“Then you walked up and sat down with your briefcase and your important documents and I had a vision of Kate pouring her water all over your multi-million dollar contracts, or house deeds, or whatever it was you held.”
Shanell explains of how Kate started to rub the man’s arm but instead of him ignoring her he smiled. She tells of how Kate referred to the man as ‘Daddy’ and that this showed she trusted him.
“You could have shifted uncomfortably in your seat. You could have ignored her. You could have given me that “smile” that I despise because it means; “manage your child please.” You did none of that. You engaged Kate in conversation and you asked her questions about her turtles.”
What is incredibly touching about this post as a parent of an autistic child, is that the child was acknowledged, and happily so. Shanell as a parent was not made to feel awkward or embarrassed with how Kate interacted with the stranger, she was not made to feel that her child was being a ‘nuisance’. Kate was treated just like any other little girl her age.
Chanell shows this in describing their dialogue:
“Kate: (Upon noticing you had an iPad) Is dis Daddy’s puduter?
You: This is my iPad. Would you like to see it?
Kate: To me?????? (I know she thought you were offering it to her to keep)
Me: Look with your eyes, Kate. That is not yours.
Kate: Dat’s nice!”
You: (Upon noticing that Kate had an iPad) I like your computer, too. It has a nice purple case.
Kate: Daddy wanna be a bad guy? (She offered shredder to you and that, my friend, is high praise)
This kindness of this gentleman was once again reiterated when Shanell explained that Kate had reached her limit.
“Not long before we landed Kate had reached her limit. She screamed to have her seatbelt off, she screamed for me to open the plane door and she cried repeating, “Plane is cwosed (closed)” over and over. You tried to redirect her attention to her toys. She was already too far gone at this point, but the fact that you tried to help your new little friend made me emotional.”
Shanell wrote the blog post to thank the gentleman for his kindness and to let other parents who have autistic children know that there are indeed caring and helpful people ‘out there’.
Shanell eloquently ends her blog by saying:
“So, thank you. Thank you for not making me repeat those awful apologetic sentences that I so often say in public. Thank you for entertaining Kate so much that she had her most successful plane ride, yet. And, thank you for putting your papers away and playing turtles with our girl.”
The original blog post can be found here