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One mother was having a challenging moment with her autistic son when a stranger stepped in to save the day in the kindest way possible.

* Feature image includes photo by Xia Yang on Unsplash.

Most parents will probably agree one of the hardest things about being a mom or dad is the judgment that can sometimes come from other adults.

So when a stranger takes a moment to be empathetic and see whether they can lend a hand during a challenging situation, it can mean the world to a struggling parent.

Why a UK Child Had an Emotional Meltdown in Public

Psychotherapist Natalie Fernando found herself in just such a sensitive situation in 2021 when she was out for a walk with her autistic son, Rudy, in the UK. The strong woman and mother of four (two biological kids and two stepchildren) has always been open about the challenges of raising her blended family through her blog, Better to Be Different.

On this particular day, she and Rudy were taking one of his favorite walks by the water when it was time to turn around. Natalie was used to Rudy having meltdowns at that point because as much as he loves walking, the walk back part is a trigger for him. However, on this particular day, they had both reached their limits.

On the back of two weeks out of school, today was too much for him and me.

Natalie Fernando

“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 wrote on Facebook.

“Only minutes before, Rudy and I were being tutted at, stared at, and frowned at by a woman and a man with a two-year-old in a pram trying to sleep despite me apologizing for my son’s loud noises,” she also wrote. “Hence the walk along the seafront so I can let him express himself outdoors, short from gagging him I’m not sure of an alternative.”

How One Stranger Came to a Crying Autistic Child’s Rescue

Photo by Francisco Gonzalez on Unsplash

That’s when a stranger saw the struggling mom and her overwhelmed kid, and offered a different approach: empathy. He stopped his own walk and asked Rudy what his name was. When Natalie explained how he couldn’t really understand because he’s autistic, the man tried something unusual — and it worked.

“He said, ‘That’s cool I’ll lay down with him,’” Natalie recalled. “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,” she continued.

I’m 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.

Natalie Fernando

A Stranger’s Act of Kindness That Saved a Struggling Mother

Natalie was so touched by the actions of “Ian from Southend Sea Front,” she had to share the post, as it also explained to her followers why empathy and kindness were so heroic to her at that moment.

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“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 wrote. “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.

Sometimes it takes a moment of kindness from a complete stranger to completely change your day.

Natalie Fernando

“This man, a total stranger, 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 shared. “This man, a total stranger, took time out of his day to just chat and ask if I was OK… I wish there were more of this man around and I am beyond thankful.”

Practicing Empathy and Being Non-Judgemental Can Aid Struggling Parents

Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

Ian’s actions are a huge reminder of the importance of empathy, not just for children and struggling parents, but towards everyone in our lives. We never truly know what a person is going through, or what kinds of challenges they’re facing in their daily routines. Natalie was doing the best thing she could for her son during that walk, and she still felt judged by parents because he was too loud for the likes of others.

But maybe, those other parents were also annoyed because they had finally gotten their own kid to sleep and they just needed a break. There’s always more to a situation than meets the eye and trying to remember that and keep that in perspective the next time you see someone struggling may make a world of difference to them.

That could mean helping a struggling mom with her groceries and kids instead of quickly walking by her and her full arms. It could also mean showing some compassion to a customer service rep the next time you need to call in with your own problem. Or, it could just mean offering a cup of hot tea to a tired family member who has been cranky with you. The important thing is to try and look at a situation and think about how you would feel in their shoes, as well as how you would want others to treat you.

After all, as Jackie Chan once said in an incredible quote about kindness, “Sometimes it takes only one act of kindness and caring to change a person’s life.”

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