A mum has praised a ‘hero’ stranger who helped stop her autistic son from having an hour-long meltdown by taking time to talk to him.
Natalie Fernando was walking along the seafront in Southend, Essex, with five-year-old Rudy when he became agitated at the thought of having to turn back and refused by lying on the floor.
While other passersby tutted and frowned at what they believed was a child having a tantrum the caring man stopped to ask if all was OK.
When Natalie explained her son’s condition and ‘a host of other challenges making this part of the walk difficult’, the man, who she later discovered was called Ian, lay down on the floor with the boy and chatted to them.
His actions worked as Rudy got on his feet and Ian walked them both back to their car, Manchester Evening News reports.
In a heartfelt post about the incident on her Better to be Different Facebook page, Natalie said Ian’s actions ‘saved me today from either a meltdown lasting up to an hour or more or the alternative which is usually a bit of a beating from my boy who totally loses himself when he has a meltdown and can become very aggressive’.
She said: “This man, a total stranger took time out of his day to just chat and ask if I was OK.
“This man, a total stranger was my hero this morning and after laying with Roo then walked Rudy and I all the way back to our car.
“I wish there were more of this man around and I am beyond thankful.”
In the post, which has been shared thousands of times, Natalie, who also has a 14-year-old daughter Eden and two stepdaughters Eva and Layla, explains how Rudy ‘loves to walk but 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, this will often lead to a meltdown, one which I can normally handle but on the back of two weeks out of school, today was too much for him and me,” she said.
“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.
“He then proceeded to chat with us whilst walking back to the car. I am so thankful to this chap Ian, I will not forget his kindness.
“It’s said a lot at the moment, ‘in a world where you can be anything be kind’, words are easy, these actions are not always so easy. This man is living the words and I couldn’t be more grateful.
“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. 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.”
Speaking to Manchester Family, Natalie, 44, said she’s used to getting comments and stares when out with her son.
She said: “It got so bad at one point I didn’t go out for months.
“We’ve had plenty of comments saying he should be kept at home, people in outdoor spaces like National Trust parks telling us to shut him up, shoppers in supermarkets staring and commenting under their breath, you’d be surprised how mean people can be about a little boy, but to them they just assume he’s badly behaved.
“I would’ve welcomed all of them to chat with me about Rudy and what and why he’s doing what he is, but too often people are too quick to judge without the facts.
“Restaurants are the hardest so we only go places where we know the people. Rudy has a unique ability if you give him the chance to charm you and if we go to regular places they get to know him and that then works for us.
“It would be easy to say just don’t go, but our little Roo has to live in this world so we can’t shut him away, we have to take him and teach him how to experience and how to manage so he can enjoy life.”
Natalie, who lives in Essex, has been surprised by the massive response to her post, but is pleased that it’s helping to raise awareness.
She said: “I’ve been so surprised by the response, blown away and totally overwhelmed. My main objective is to raise awareness which is why I have the page and to help other parents of SEN not feel alone and I really had no idea that this post would have this reactions, it’s amazing, I’m so happy to have this opportunity to help others understand what’s really going on.”