Stranger's kindness to a child with autism teaches a lesson in compassion
[Feb 6, 2022: Ellen Schmidt]
In need of a heartwarming story? We've got one for you.
Natalie Fernando, a mom in Southend, England, was out for a stroll on the boardwalk of her seaside town with her 5-year-old son, Rudy, who was diagnosed with autism at 2 years old. Rudy has global development delay, speech and language difficulties, sensory processing disorder, and learning difficulties.
Sharing on her Facebook page, Better to be Different, Fernando writes, "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 favorite 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."
Soon, Rudy was having a full-on meltdown, lying face down on the ground while screaming and crying. It was a scene no mother ever wants to experience, especially in public. While onlookers scoffed at Rudy's breakdown, Fernando did her best to keep it together.
That's when Ian Shelley, a runner training for a 250-mile race, stopped to ask Fernando if everything was okay. Shelley decided to lay on the ground with Rudy to talk to him. Fernando captured the photo and after posting on Facebook, the moment of kindness quickly went viral.
In the now viral Facebook post, Fernando writes, "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, his response was, 'That's cool. I'll lay down with him.'"
She continues, "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."
In response to the other looks she received while Rudy was upset, Fernando implores her audience, "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."
Ian Shelley posing for a photgraph with a much calmer Rudy. (CREDIT: Better to Be Different/Facebook)
Wise words from this mama, and a moment of kindness to emulate from a stranger who is now a hero and a friend.
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Note: Materials provided above by Ellen Schmidt. Content may be edited for style and length.
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