As you all know too well, personal space can be very important, and self-regulation and social interactions very difficult, for individuals with ASD. Kate is a three-year-old with ASD, whose mother was nervous for their upcoming 2 1/2 hour flight. Stuck with little room to move and forced to be in close proximity to strangers, her mother was sure Kate was bound to have a difficult time.
When a man sat down next to Kate on the plane, she immediately gravitated towards him and began to call him “Daddy”. Calling this stranger “Daddy” was not a mistake for Kate; her mother explains that Kate uses this term when she feels safe, and she felt she could trust this man. For the remainder of the flight, he interacted with Kate and she had no challenging behaviors.
What seemed like an innocent interaction with a sweet little girl probably didn’t seem like a big deal to this stranger, but for Kate, she was able to engage in social interaction and eye contact for an extended period of time. This kind stranger created an opportunity for Kate to practice essential skills for living a good life.