Lifestyle & Human Interest

Mother of Boy with Autism 'Blown Away' by Stranger's Response to Son's Meltdown on Beach


From a very young age, we’re taught to be wary of strangers. It’s generally a good rule, and better to be safe than sorry — especially when you’re a kid.

But every once in a while, a stranger is just a friend we haven’t met yet, and their warmth and kindness can blow us away.

One mother and son duo from Hockley, Essex, recently had a heartwarming experience with a total stranger during a time that could have elicited judgment.

Natalie Fernando and her 5-year-old son Rudy, who has autism, were out for a stroll along the sea when Rudy grew upset. At times, his meltdowns could become “very aggressive,” according to what Fernando posted online, and he enjoyed taking walks but did not enjoy turning around and walking back.

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She’d already passed a few people who were less than friendly as they viewed Rudy’s antics on the way back to the car, but then came Ian.

Ian Shelley was out for a run, training for a 250-mile race, when he spotted unhappy Rudy and paused to talk to him.

“This man, my hero this morning saw my son on the floor and like any other person would assume that he was having a tantrum, he asked my little Roo what his name was and 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,” Fernando wrote.

“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.”

The method was nothing new to mom and son: Fernando said that it was a common tactic she employed to calm Rudy down — but seeing a total stranger ease right into it was a lovely surprise, and she said she was “blown away.”

“I was beyond shocked,” Fernando told BBC. “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.”

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Shelley now considers Natalie and Rudy “friends for life,” and said, simply, “Kindness really does cost nothing, also kindness begets kindness.”

Many have appreciated his gesture and he has set an excellent example.

“I just cannot believe how it has reached so many people that either have special needs in their life and can relate,” Fernando said, “[or] more importantly those that do not have special needs in their life, being able to see how important it is for us to not be judged and showing others how much it means to us and our children to be accepted for what they are.”

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