Mother of Autistic Girl Reconnects with Kind Stranger from Plane

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If this story doesn't bring a tear to your eye... well, you may need new eyes.

On January 6, Shanell Mouland sat in the window seat of a flight from Florida to Philadelphia. By her side was her three-year old daughter, Kate, who suffers from Autism, and by her side, in the aisle, was a stranger in a business suit.

In an open letter (titled "Dear 'Daddy' in Seat 16C") soon after the trip, Mouland wrote that she was initially scared her child would "pour water all over" this man's "multi-million dollar contracts," but was then amazed to be proven wrong.

Very, very, very, very wrong.

The man ended up being exceedingly kind and patient with Kate, not even correcting the toddler when she called him "Daddy."

"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," Mouland wrote, directly addressing her fellow passenger.

"You engaged Kate in conversation and you asked her questions about her turtles. She could never really answer your questions but she was so enamored by you that she keep eye contact and joint attention on the items you were asking her about.  I watched and smiled. I made a few polite offers to distract her, but you would have none of it."

Toward the end of the flight, little Kate reached her limit, according to her mom, and screamed about getting off the plane. But the man never changed his attitude.

"Thank you," Mouland concluded in her letter. "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 man has since been identified as Eric Kunkel, a married father of one from New Jersey.

When contacted by Yahoo Shine, he said of the experience:

"I travel a lot for work, and Kate was, by far, the most well-behaved kid I've sat next to. Shanelle is also an incredible parent - she didn't apologize for Kate and she shouldn't have - but she was very attentive to her."

A few days after the flight, Kunkel's stepson actually found Mouland's blog post and told his stepfather. Kunkel then befriended Mouland on Facebook and the two remain in touch.

"I assumed that a man in a business suit wouldn't be patient with Kate," Mouland says. "And I'm so fortunate to have been proved wrong."

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