In the last several weeks, I have seen three specific situations on social media regarding children with autism in stressful situations who needed assistance and received it from a caring individual.
One story involved a young boy with autism who was struggling at Disneyland when it became his turn to have a picture with Snow White. “Brody” had been waiting in line for a picture with Snow White. When it was his turn for the picture he, in his mother’s words, became “overwhelmed” and in the author’s words had a “meltdown” and didn’t want anything to do with the picture. The woman portraying the character Snow White seemed to know what to do and walked around with him and comforted him until he felt better.
A similar story in Tennessee from August explains how a school resource officer helped to comfort another young boy with autism on his first day of school. When “Kadin” was having trouble transitioning to a new school, they officer knelt on the floor next to him and gave him a hug.
The third story was probably the most popular, and my favorite, because it involved one child helping another in the most simple, yet heartfelt way. The situation occurred when an 8-year-old boy in Kansas saw a classmate crying on the first day of school. For no other reason than just pure compassion, he walked over to the crying child took his hand and walked him into school.
In each of these situations, the moments of compassion were captured on film by the children’s mothers. These are mothers who have probably watched their children respond similarly in other stressful situations without the same outcome. They most likely were anxious themselves as they watched their children struggle wondering how their stress would be perceived or treated.
Each mother stated, in their own way, how the compassion from a stranger made a huge difference to their child. Obviously it is a popular notion because each of the stories I cited, appeared not only on social media but made national news.
I hope that every time we like or share these stories on social media, we are also being reminded of how we respond to similar situations. For example, when we are in line at the store and see a mother struggling with a crying child, do we react with judgment or empathy? Do we assume the child is spoiled or the mother weak or do we open ourselves up to the possibility that this child is in sensory overload and the parent is trying to teach self-management skills?
Kindness is one of the easiest things we can teach our children. Teaching kindness does not require a tuition or a textbook; there is no memorization involved or test at the end. Teaching kindness happens by example. I really don’t think that 8-year-old who took his crying classmate’s hand had any special tutoring on how to identify someone in need and respond.
Aesop said “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Let’s continue to like and share and celebrate the good deeds of others, but not forget to show our children these same examples. There is a population of individuals with disabilities and their families who will forever be grateful.