Mum-of-four, Grace Grinnell, decided to take her 4-year-old to the supermarket one afternoon.
She was worried as he had already been to the dentist that day. Tiring enough for any 4-year-old, but for a child with Autism, it resulted in a meltdown.
Writing in The Mighty, Grinnell says that she was picking up supplies for her daughter. She had been at a camp six hours away and had broken her leg. She was in a cast, but needed pain medicine ad plastic to wrap the cast in to shower.
So even when her son started screaming, she stayed in the queue.
"I endured the looks of disapproving people as I slowly inched up in line as my son was on the floor between me and the shopping cart screaming at the top of his lungs," she wrote. "I made it through the checkout and was able to pick up my son and get out the door.
The screaming and flailing continued as I tried to walk to my car."
Once she got to the car, her struggle continued:
"My son had Herculean strength during this meltdown. His little body was arching and twisting, and as hard as I tried to calm him and just get him buckled in the car seat, I couldn't do it. He was screaming, and I was struggling, minivan door wide open for all to see."
Out of the corner of her eye, Grinnell saw a woman approaching, and she instantly assumed the worst:
"I was sure she was going to tell me she had called the police or at least tell me what a horrible mom I was."
But instead the woman said something so simple, yet it blew Grinnell away. She asked if she could help.
"She simply asked if she could help me. As I felt the tears well up in my eyes I said yes."
With the kind woman's help, they got her son buckled into his car seat. She told Grinnell that she too had two sons that were on the spectrum.
Not only that, but she had defended Grinnell when a man complained about them in the store:
"She had been in another checkout line but had witnessed the meltdown in the store. She told me a man behind her in line had said, 'What that kid needs is a good spanking.' She told me it made her so mad that she turned and told the man, 'You have no right to judge them. That boy could have issues you don’t know about.'"
She had left her sons with their father and rushed over to help as soon as she could. Grinnell thanked her profusely and the two exchanged numbers.
The exchange taught Grinnell that despite "all the hurtful looks and comments" there were those out there that were willing to help:
"There were also people out there who understood the challenges we faced. For the times I saw other parents with a child melting down and I just looked the other way, I could do better. I too could ask if they needed help.
Empathy and compassion can go a long way for everyone because you just never know what someone is going through till you have walked in their shoes."