When an autistic child got overwhelmed and had a meltdown, a kind soul stepped in to help. Not all heroes wear capes; sometimes, saving the day looks like calming down an anxious child. Children with autism often experience anxiety and get triggered by certain situations. While we may not totally understand, we can still offer support to those who experience life differently than us.

That’s exactly what a man named Ian did when he crossed paths with a 5-year-old autistic child one day. His mom Natalie Fernando had taken him for a walk by the sea in Essex, England, one afternoon. Her autistic son Rudy, also known adorably as “Roo,” unexpectedly had a meltdown during their seaside stroll.

“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 2 weeks out of school today was too much for him and me,” his mom explained on her personal Facebook blog, Better to Be Different.

Many people enjoy a relaxing walk at the promenade at Southend Sea Front, as it offers an amazing waterfront view and the convenience of a jet ski dock nearby, making it easy for enthusiasts to access and enjoy water sports. While many people passed by Natalie and Roo that day, only one person reached out their hand to help. Natalie said that before Ian showed up, she and her son were met with disapproving stares from strangers watching the scene unfold.

She tried to calm Roo down, but parenting an autistic child comes with its own set of challenges. Natalie says that talking him down during a tantrum isn’t always easy.

How Ian helped Roo calm down during the afternoon walk

Natalie said in the recent post:

“Only minutes before Rudy and I were being tutted at, stared at and frowned at by a woman and a man with a 2-year-old in a [stroller] trying to sleep despite me apologising for my sons loud noises, hence the walk along the sea front so I can let him express himself outdoors. Short from gagging him, I’m not sure of an alternative.”

Exasperated and at her wits’ end, Natalie didn’t know what to do next. Her son’s outburst drew a lot of unwanted attention, but calming down the autistic child seemed out of the question. The moment when Natalie started to lose hope, Ian showed up to save the day.

The man had been running along the walkway by the sea when he noticed Rudy. When he passed by, the boy was lying on the ground and looked upset. So, naturally, Ian wanted to see how he could be of assistance. Of course, he assumed that Roo was having a tantrum like most other young children.

To ease the tension, Ian asked Roo his name and tried engaging him in conversation. That’s when Natalie explained that he had autism and didn’t really comprehend what he was saying. However, when she explained her autistic child’s struggles which made the portion of the walk difficult, it didn’t deter Ian. He said, “That’s cool; I’ll lay down with him.”

So, he started to talk with Rudy while lying down on the sidewalk, just trying to ease the boy’s anxiety. After Rudy calmed down, Ian offered to walk Roo and his mom back to their car. This kind gesture totally turned their day around and showed that a little understanding and compassion could go a long way.

Natalie was so grateful for Ian’s kindness that she made a Facebook post about it.

 On her personal Facebook blog page, Natalie expressed her gratitude for Ian showing up at exactly the right time. She titled the post:  “This Man, A Total Stranger.

“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.”

Natalie further explained:

“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…after laying with Roo [he] then walked Rudy and I all the way back to our car. I wish there were more of this man around and I am beyond thankful.”

Natalie said she will never forget Ian’s kindness and hopes others can learn from his example. As a mom of an autistic child, she believes it’s important to empathize with others instead of passing unnecessary judgments.

She wrote the following on her page: “It 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.”

She added: “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 stranger to completely change your day. Thanks Ian from Southend Sea Front. You truly are a kind man.”

autistic child
Final thoughts on the kind man who helped an autistic child through a difficult moment

Ian met Rudy and his mom Natalie while walking seaside in Essex, England, one afternoon. After noticing Rudy having a meltdown, he quickly stepped in to see how he could help. He introduced himself to “Roo,” and after Natalie mentioned his autism, Ian seemed to know exactly what to do.

He laid down near Rudy on the ground and chatted with him. The kind gesture appeared to calm him down considerably. After ensuring Rudy was okay, Ian walked both him and his mom back to their car. Sometimes, it’s a kind stranger who comes to the rescue when you least expect it.