Instead of Dirty Looks, a Kind Stranger Laid on the Ground to Calm Boy With Autism Amid His Meltdown

Heroic deeds come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them require bravery in the face of danger, others result from a simple random act of compassion.

Natalie Fernando was taking her 5-year-old autistic son Rudy (affectionately known as “Roo”) for a seaside walk when the little boy spiraled into a meltdown.

“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. 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,” Fernando explained on her Facebook page, Better to Be Different.

The promenade at Southend-on-Sea is a popular strolling spot in Essex, England. Knowing she and Rudy were drawing attention and that her son’s outburst might go on for an hour, Fernando was apologetic but she soon found herself subjected to the reproachful stares and comments of passersby.

That’s when a total stranger named Ian stopped to ask if she was okay. When Fernando explained what was going on, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do, he lay down on the ground close to Rudy and engaged him in conversation.

The calming maneuver quickly turned the situation around. After Rudy recovered his composure, Ian walked Roo and his mom back to their car.

“I wish there were more of this man around and I am beyond thankful,” Fernando said. “I will not forget his kindness… Thanks, Ian from Southend Sea Front, you truly are a kind man.”

In addition to her gratitude, Fernando hopes Ian’s unselfish behavior might inspire others to look deeper before making social judgments themselves.

“It’s said a lot at the moment, ‘In a world where you can be anything, be kind,’” she wrote. “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.”