Air travel can be a stressful experience for just about anyone. But for 26-year-old Russell Lehmann, a flight delay or cancellation isn’t just a small inconvenience. He was diagnosed with autism at age 12, and unexpected changes can cause him to have a meltdown — when sensory overload causes him to lose control and break down crying.

That’s what happened when he tried to catch a flight from Reno, Nevada to Cincinnati. At StoryCorps, Russell sat down with David Apkarian, an airline employee, to remember that difficult day.


Russell is a poet and advocate for autism awareness who regularly speaks about his experiences on the autism spectrum. Learn more about him and his work here.

Originally aired September 22, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Bottom photo: Russell Lehmann and David Apkarian on the day of Russell’s meltdown, June 3, 2017. Courtesy of Russell Lehmann.