Hero stranger: boy with autism's life-changing eight hour flight

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

A speech-language pathologist detailed her experience on an international flight where she helped a ten-year-old boy with autism, who is non-verbal, communicate with his dad.

Rachel Romero shared her story on Twitter.

She said she was seated next to the boy and his father who apologised to her in advance because his son "had severe non-verbal autism, and that this would likely be a difficult journey."

She said that she explained to the father that she was a SLP and is experienced in working with children who are non-verbal. She then went on to detail that the boy's challenging behaviour began before the  eight hour flight took off. Romero said the boy was screaming, hitting and grabbing for her things. "The father repeatedly apologised, but did little else."

Then Romero used her expertise to help.

"I tried to see if he was stimulable for a communication board. I started by pulling up some standard images for basic nouns on my computer but I could tell that screens really bothered him," Romero wrote on Twitter. "So I summoned my god-awful drawing skills and tried to create a (very!) low-tech board."

Communication is a basic human right

Romero drew symbols for things the ten-year-old was grabbing and the boy was responsive to it. She noted that by the end of the flight, his previous behaviours had "reduced quite a bit" and he was able to communicate with his dad using the symbol board.


"This was the human desire for communication, pure and simple. To connect with another person and share a thought," Romero ended the story. "Communication is a basic human right, and I was overjoyed to help someone find it. What a privilege and a gift."

Romero's story received a lot of recognition from Twitter, where it was liked more than 400,000 times.

A father replied to her Twitter thread and said, "You're my hero plain and simple."

"My son is high-functioning autistic and we've been blessed with people like yourself who made it their mission to see him improve," wrote the dad. "I thank God everyday for them so please know that you're valued and appreciated beyond words."

Others noted that the meeting must have been fate.

"You were meant to be there at that moment in their time. You were the answer to that father's prayer," wrote a Twitter user.

USA Today