Natalie Fernando walked along the seafront in Southend-on-Sea with her five-year-old son Rudy when he became agitated at having to turn back, something he frequently struggles with. This prompted a meltdown, and him lying face down on the ground screaming and crying.
Fernando shares, "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 two weeks out of school, today was too much for him and me."
One stranger stopped to ask if everything was okay. Ian Shelley who was training for a 250-mile running race proceeded to lay on the ground with Rudy to talk to him before walking them both back to their car.
Posting on her Facebook page Better to be Different, Fernando shared, "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, his response was, 'That's cool. I'll lay down with him.'" Fernando shares that Rudy was diagnosed with autism at age two and also has global development delay, speech and language difficulties, sensory processing disorder and learning difficulties.
Describing Shelley as her "hero", Fernando says: "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. But 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."
Fernando urges people not to judge a struggling parent or child, especially without knowing the circumstances. "If you see a parent struggling, maybe take time to ask if they are okay. 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. Thanks Ian from Southend Sea Front. You truly are a kind man."