Traveling with a child in tow can easily turn any parent into a bundle of nerves (I've been there), especially when they're going it alone. But every now and then, a stranger steps in to lend a hand, as this mom's post about a metro police officer assisting her son with autism demonstrates. Not only does her message prove that helpers are out there, but it's a reminder to practice empathy in tough situations.
As ABC-affiliate WJLA-TV reported, single parent Taylor Pomilla's day on July 19 hit a snag when she and her 4-year-old son, Andrew, hopped on the metro in Washington, D.C. Per Pomilla's post on Facebook, things went downhill fast when Andrew, who was diagnosed with autism, dissolved into a "full on meltdown/breakdown" mid-ride.
Although Pomilla generally uses what she has coined "calming strategies" (like setting him up with an iPad for their 45-minute commute home, snacks in hand), those go-to tactics didn't work this time, according to American Autism Association.
"Sometimes when he gets upset, it will go two steps too far, and escalate into a full on meltdown/breakdown," Pomilla explained in a lengthy Facebook post. "He started rolling on the floor, screaming, his shoe fell off and he flung it across the train, all while I’m on the floor trying to calm him down (in a dress) with all the candy I had."
She continued, "Then he starts the kicking, hitting, pulling my hair while everyone in rush hour stares on the train, most thinking I was a bad parent who had an out of control child, even though really he can’t help it." Ouch, I can just imagine the scene.
Of course, as parents always do in these scenarios, Pomilla immediately began to apologize, explaining to fellow riders about Andrew's diagnosis. But with Andrew's behavior escalating, this poor mom felt as if she had no choice but to get off the train early, wrong stop and all. And at this point in the story, things took a turn for the worse. " ...We’re rolling around on the dirty station floor," Pomilla penned. "He is covered in black dirt. I try picking him up but he continues to kick which now gets dirt on me...At this point I am crying out of pure frustration and feeling so sad that Andrew is being judged right now."
Thankfully, a Metro Police Officer appeared at this critical time, asking if he could help. After Pomilla explained what was going on, the officer offered to accompany them on the train home — 30 minutes away. And this ride was much different than the first, with an entranced Andrew taking in all of the officer's police gadgets and his badge.
"He sat next to Andrew as he requested on the train, acted interested as he showed him silly videos, and he even made funny faces in the Instagram face filters when Andrew asked," the gratified mom reported on Facebook. "This officer COMPLETELY went out of his way to help Andrew. He honestly restored my faith that there are good people still left in the world." Aww. Don't you just love a feel good story like this one?
Pomilla's touching post was shared 14,000 times as of Wednesday, inspiring The Washington Post and other media outlets to share her story. "No matter if you relate to the story because you are a caregiver or know someone with Autism or have a husband/wife that is a police officer, everyone is finding a way to connect with it," Pomilla tells Romper about the positive feedback. "This story is hitting some chord with every person — that’s what makes this so incredible. I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding outcome than that."
As for the good samaritan's identity? His name is Officer Dominic Case, who Pomilla later got to thank by phone, according to NBC Washington. "I've tried to say thank you in so many different ways, and it's just not enough," Pomilla told the outlet. "It is so ... Heartwarming is the only word I can come up with."
I'm happy to be sharing good news like this because it reaffirms helpers are out there. And if I ever see a situation similar to this one, I'll try to lend a hand.