Woman soothes stranger with special needs on 8-hour flight

Facebook / Bentzion Groner

If you’ve ever flown with kids, you know it can be a difficult experience. When Rochel Groner heard a young boy screaming on an eight-hour transatlantic flight from Brussels to New York, she decided to lend a helping hand.

“It wasn’t a child asking for a toy or saying my ears are hurting. It didn’t sound like he was going to cry himself to sleep,” Groner told Southern Living. She thought to herself: “He’s upset. He’s non-verbal. He has special needs.”

Groner is a former elementary school teacher and, together with her husband Bentzion, she runs the Charlotte, North Carolina-based nonprofit Friendship Circle, which matches teen volunteers with children who have special needs such as autism. She used her experience working with special needs youth to calm the boy, who she estimated to be about 8 years old. Here’s a shot from her husband’s Facebook of Groner comforting the child.

When she approached the child, she discovered he did not speak English. He was seated next to his mother, who was dressed in traditional Muslim garb.

Groner says the language barrier did not prevent her from helping the boy. She gave him a hug and began to rock him, a technique she had found effective in her work with Friendship Circle. She also provided him with a neck pillow for comfort and support. She distracted him by tracing the outline of her hand on a nausea bag, which he eventually imitated. Hear Groner explain her story in the video below.

Groner cared for the boy for an hour or two, and the rest of the flight went off without a hitch.

Groner remains humble about her good deed and hopes that her story, which has since gone viral, will inspire others to be compassionate and helpful to strangers in need.

“Everybody’s been on a flight with a screaming child, and this is another way to defuse the situation,” she says. “Just ask: is there something I can do? Smile, don’t scowl,” she tells the Charlotte Observer.


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Kate Streit
Kate Streit lives in Chicago. She enjoys stand-up comedy, mystery novels, memoirs, summer and pumpkin spice anything. Visit Scripps News to see more of Kate's work.

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