How a United Airlines crew handled an autistic 4-yr-old's meltdown is pure human excellence

When Lori Gabriel boarded a United Airlines flight from San Diego to Houston with her partner and his 4-year-old son, Braysen, she didn't expect the scene that was about to unfold.

Braysen, who is autistic, usually loves to fly. But shortly before takeoff, he wanted to take off his seatbelt and sit on the floor.

"It was impossible to restrain him," Gabriel told CNN. "He was fighting both me and his father. It took the both of us to try to get him back to his chair and get his seat belt back on. He started kicking, screaming and hitting."

"That's when a flight attendant came over and told us the flight couldn't take off until he's seated," she said. "I told her the boy has autism, we're trying, give us a minute."


The flight attendant walked away as the couple continued to try to get Braysen calmed down and buckled. When the flight attendant returned with two other crew members, they asked how they could help the family. "Then they sprang into action," Gabriel said.

RELATED: This mom's viral story of strangers' kindness illustrates how it truly 'takes a village.'

They allowed Braysen to sit on Gabriel's lap with his father holding onto him. And once the seatbelt sign was turned off, they let Braysen lie on the floor in the aisle.

"When he's overstimulated, the vibration makes him feel better," Gabriel said.

Braysen moved around the cabin, visiting people in first class for a while. "Braysen seemed happy there, so we didn't want to move him," Gabriel told CNN. The boy started kicking a man's seat, and Gabriel apologized. "I told the man 'I'm sorry,' but he said he didn't mind, he introduced himself to Braysen and gave him high fives. He said, 'He can kick my chair, I don't care.'"

"Everybody in first class was kind to him, asking his name, showing him pictures on their phones, letting him sit whenever he wanted," Gabriel continued. "The flight attendants kept asking if we needed anything, making sure everybody was taken care of."

Gabriel shared photos from the flight on Facebook:

One of the photos shows a note written on a torn out magazine page, which an off-duty flight attendant handed to Gabriel at the end of the flight. It reads:

"I commend you for your strength. Do not EVER let anyone make you feel as though you are an inconvenience or a burden. He is a blessing. God bless your patience, your support, your love, and your strength. Continue to be superwoman. And know you and your family are loved & supported. - United Family"

RELATED: A 4th-grader explains to class what having autism is like. The teacher was stunned by their reaction.

After Gabriel tweeted the story with a shout out to United, the airlines tweeted back:

Gabriel was brought to tears by the overwhelming kindness of the crew and passengers on the flight.

"For the first time, people have been very understanding and helpful about Braysen's autism," she said. "It's very promising, we don't have to care about what other people think because there are people who are caring, who understand. It gives me a lot of hope for the future."

With so many stories of people complaining about babies or children on flights, how heartwarming is it to see a story of a whole flight being kind and flexible with a small child with special needs?

Way to go, United Flight 2210. Thank you for showing us what inclusivity, kindness, and compassion look like in action.

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