Natalie Fernando, 44, was walking down the seafront at Southend-on-Sea in Essex, England with her five-year-old son Rudy when he refused to turn around after she asked him. Rudy has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and it's common for people with it to have difficulty being redirected, especially if they are enjoying an activity.
"My son loves to walk, but he hates to turn around and walk back, we usually try to walk in a circuit to avoid this but on his favourite walk with the boats we have no choice but to turn back," Natalie wrote on her blog's Facebook page, "Better to Be Different."
This caused Rudy to lay down on the ground and throw a meltdown. Natalie apologized to passersby for his loud noises, but she still received judgemental stares.
It's common for Rudy's meltdowns to last for an hour or more and he can become very aggressive.
But a man named Ian, who was walking down the seafront with a two-year-old in a stroller, saw Rudy and came to the rescue.
"This man, my hero this morning saw my son on the floor and like any other person would assume that he was having a tantrum, he asked my little Roo what his name was and when I explained he didn't really understand and that he is autistic and has a host of other challenges making this part of the walk difficult he said, that's cool I'll lay down with him," Natalie wrote.
After Ian got down on Rudy's level and started a conversation, it distracted him from his meltdown and he began to calm down. Soon, Rudy was back on his feet and ready to go home.
"He then proceeded to chat with us whilst walking back to the car," Natalie wrote. "I am so thankful to this chap Ian, I will not forget his kindness. In a world where you can be anything be kind."
Ian was smart to know to get down on Rudy's level and to be empathetic. Children with ASD aren't having meltdowns to be defiant. "Children with autism aren't crying, wailing, or flailing to get at us somehow," Healthline says.
"They're crying because it's what their bodies need to do in that moment to release tension and emotion from feeling overwhelmed with emotions or sensory stimulations," the article continues.
Ian should also be commended because, at a time when most people ignored the meltdown or were judgemental, he stepped up and tried to help.
Natalie says she welcomes all the help she can get when her child melts down in public. "If you see a parent struggling, maybe take the time to say, 'Are you OK?' don't judge the parenting, try not to judge the child, just be kind," she said on Facebook.
"We're all walking our own path and navigating the journey the best we can, sometimes it takes a moment of kindness from a complete stranger to completely change your day," she added.
She ended the post by thanking the man we should all strive to be more like. "Thanks Ian from Southend Sea Front, you truly are a kind man…"
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