Delta flight attendant called ‘hero’ for calming boy with autism

The mom warned the Delta flight attendant.

Sometimes her son can be aggressive. Xayvior Johnson, 5, has autism and he may gouge eyes, and for whatever reason — when he’d been fine on the trip to Washington D.C. — he was not fine now. In fact, he was having a “meltdown,” said his mom Sonja Redding.

But here comes Delta flight attendant Amanda Amburgy out of her jump seat and asking to hold him. Amburgy scooped up Xayvior and carried him down the plane aisle like no big deal. 

“This hero gave us a bit of sanity back in a chaotic moment,” Redding wrote on her Facebook page. “When they came back, Xayvior was much more calm and he just loved on his new friend so happily!” . 

At the time, she didn’t even know the flight attendant’s name. But she got photos. And they attest to just how how happy and calm Amburgy’s tour of the plane made Xayvior.

A trip for a rare genetic disease

Redding, her husband, son and 8-year-old daughter were flying home to Omaha, Neb. from Washington D.C. The family had been visiting the National Institutes of Health to participate in study that could help them learn more about current research, treatments and possible cures for a rare genetic disorder that both her children share. 

Methylmalonic Acidemia or MMA is a rare genetic disease that is serious and can be life-threatening. People with MMA have problems breaking down and using certain amino acids and fatty acids from food. By participating in the study, Redding hoped to better understand the disorder and learn about possible treatments or cures.

Xayvior may have become upset on the return flight home because they sat so close to the planes engines, Redding guessed. But the mom said she felt judged and helpless when her son lost control.

‘This is this family’s normal’

“It felt like everyone on the entire plane was looking at us and annoyed by my sons outburst,” she wrote on Facebook. “It can feel very frustrating and isolating when others just don’t understand that he is not just a kid with no discipline, but rather a child with special needs who doesn’t know how to control his responses to things.” 

The Delta flight attendant said what she saw was a boy who “may have some trouble communicating his feelings.”

Amburgy told her side of the story to the Delta news service.  

“I showed him the blue lights that were illuminated over the overhead bins on our way up to the front — he really liked those. I showed him all the other people on board and he quietly looked all around,” she said.

Amburgy was surprised by the positive response when she saw the Facebook post and said she hopes it shifts people’s travel mindset. “People don’t always understand that their normal isn’t everyone else’s normal,” she said. “This is this family’s normal.”

‘An aura of love and compassion’

The mom and the Delta flight attendant finally connected over Facebook Messenger. 

Redding asked that her post be shared by family and friends and it reached Delta and then Amburgy.

“I had absolutely no idea it would ever actually reach her. And I had no idea it would go so far and become viral, it’s really incredible,” Redding told USA TODAY of the post that has 2,700 reactions and more than 500 shares. “..And I explained in further detail my kids’ rare disease. I also explained to her how people normally respond to Xayvior and how it’s not usually very nice, which is why this touched my heart so much. I also told her I hope she gets a raise.”

Now more than two weeks after returning home, Redding still marvels at exactly how easily Amburgy calmed her son and how he seemed to fall in love with her in minutes. But she thinks she know why.

“I think she just emits an aura of love and compassion, and Xayvior really responded well to that.”

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