She explained how the man stopped her son from having an hour-long meltdown by taking time out to talk to the youngster.
A grateful mother's words of praise for a "total stranger" is spreading an important message about basic courtesies one could show struggling parents instead of judging them. Natalie Fernando, who shares "the highs and lows of life with [her] autistic son Rudy" on the Facebook page Better to be Different, recently recounted a heartwarming interaction she had with a "hero" stranger while walking along the seafront with the 5-year-old. In a post that has been shared over 27k times in just two days, Fernando explained how the man—who she later discovered was called Ian—helped stop Rudy from having an hour-long meltdown by taking time to talk to him.
"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 wrote. "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 [me] all the way back to our car. I wish there were more of this man around and I am beyond thankful."
Fernando, who—according to Manchester Evening News—also has a 14-year-old daughter Eden and two stepdaughters Eva and Layla, explained that although Rudy loves to go on walks, 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 2 weeks out of school today was too much for him and me," she wrote.
She revealed that while a couple with a 2-year-old in a pram, tutted, stared, and frowned at them, "this man, my hero this morning, saw my son on the floor and [...] asked my little Roo what his name was. 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," Fernando added. "Thanks, Ian from Southend Sea Front, you truly are a kind man."
Speaking to reporters about the incident, Fernando revealed that she's used to getting comments and stares when out with her son. In fact, "it got so bad at one point I didn't go out for months," she said. "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."