We all know that parenting is one of the most challenging jobs in the world.
And that’s parenting your average child with no learning or behavioral disabilities. Considering about 1 in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, more parents than we realize are facing the everyday challenges of raising a child with this “hidden disability”.
Most parents of children with autism say they wouldn’t have it any other way – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Autistic children can become easily overwhelmed, especially in their early years, and this can make it challenging to involve them in activities that most children love, from a trip to the shops to riding amusement park rides.
One mom in the UK knows to expect the unexpected at any given time with her son, Rudy, who is autistic.
Natalie Fernando was walking along the seafront at Southend-on-Sea when Rudy had a meltdown.
Perhaps Natalie could once feel the stares, the judgment, from the people around her while her son lay on the floor of whatever public place she’d taken him to – but by now, she was used to it.
What many people don’t realize is that autistic meltdowns are not the same as tantrums, so you should never assume that the mom of a child with autism is a “bad parent” who’s “incapable” of controlling their child.
While tantrums are an angry or frustrated outburst, autistic meltdowns are a reaction to being overwhelmed.
The child is experiencing sensory overload, which can be incredibly scary for them to experience. A meltdown may also be a response to information overload, which was the case for little Rudy.
According to Natalie, she and Rudy had been walking one way along the coast, before turning around and heading back the way they came.
But Rudy hated the idea of turning around, and ended up having an autistic meltdown.
Natalie didn’t expect anyone to intervene, unless to make a remark that didn’t help her son in the slightest.
So when a man stopped to chat with Rudy, Natalie was surprised to say the least.
The man, named Ian Shelly, was training for a 250-mile running race with his group, Vegan Runners, at the time.
When Natalie explained to Ian that Rudy was autistic, she assumed that he would quickly retreat. But instead, he surprised her even further by saying:
“Fine then, why don’t I lay down here with you for a while?”
Speaking to BBC News about the stranger’s act of kindness, Natalie called him her “hero”, adding:
“I was beyond shocked. It’s something I’ve done many times with Rudy in supermarkets, car parks, and shopping malls because it makes Rudy feel that you’re in his world.
“To see someone who knows nothing about Rudy just instinctively do this was so surprising and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.”
Natalie blogs about her son’s condition on Facebook. When she shared her story, it received more than 95k reactions.
The takeaway of her post is something that we should all strive to remember from now on:
“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.”
Amen to that! You can check out Natalie’s blog, Better To Be Different, here.
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