Hockley mum of autistic boy thanks stranger for 'kindness'

image copyrightNatalie Fernando
image captionIan Shelley got down on the ground with Rudy Fernando after learning he was autistic

An autistic boy's mother has thanked a stranger who became her "hero" after he lay down on the ground with her son while he had a meltdown.

Natalie Fernando, 44, was walking along the seafront at Southend-on-Sea with her son Rudy when he got upset.

Ian Shelley, who is training for a 250-mile running race, stopped to chat to the five-year-old and calmed him down.

Mrs Fernando said she was "blown away" by Mr Shelley's actions and "will not forget his kindness".

She said she had walked with her son along the seafront but he "hates to turn around and walk back" and he had one of his meltdowns, during which he gets down on the floor.

Mrs Fernando, from Hockley in Essex, said when she explained to passer-by Mr Shelley that Rudy was autistic, he said to the little boy: "Fine then, why don't I lay down here with you for a while?"

Describing Mr Shelley as her "hero", she said: "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."

image copyrightNatalie Fernando
image captionNatalie Fernando said she would "not forget" Mr Shelley's act of kindness

Rudy was diagnosed as autistic aged two and also has global development delay, speech and language difficulties, sensory processing disorder and learning difficulties.

Mrs Fernando blogs about his condition on Facebook to help parents of children with special needs, and to raise awareness.

Her post about Monday's incident has been liked more than 50,000 times.

image copyrightNatalie Fernando
image captionMrs Fernando posted on Facebook to thank Mr Shelley for his actions

"I just cannot believe how it has reached so many people that either have special needs in their life and can relate, [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," she said.

Mr Shelley, 49, who runs with the group Vegan Runners, said he had made "two new friends for life".

He said: "Kindness really does cost nothing, also kindness begets kindness."

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