Mom thanks 'hero' stranger who laid down with her autistic son to calm him during a meltdown
via Better to Be Different / Facebook

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…"

True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

Keep Reading Show less

This article originally appeared on 06.16.15


A lot of parents are tired of being told how technology is screwing up their kids.

Moms and dads of the digital age are well aware of the growing competition for their children's attention, and they're bombarded at each turn of the page or click of the mouse with both cutting-edge ideas and newfound worries for raising great kids.

Keep Reading Show less