As children across the United States gear up for the upcoming school year, proud parents are taking to social media to share their "first day" photos. And this back-to-school photo of a boy comforting his classmate is standing out for a powerful reason, with it receiving thousands of shares as of Sunday.
Two elementary school-aged boys named Conner and Christian are warming hearts after Christian's mom, Courtney Moore, shared a first day of school photo to Facebook on Aug. 14. In the touching picture taken at Minneha Elementary School in Wichita, Kansas, Christian confidently holds Conner's hand, who appears to be upset. And although this pic might seem run-of-the-mill at first glance (it's not uncommon for students to lend a helping hand on what can be a stressful day), there's an important backstory here.
But before I get into all of that, this is what Moore originally captioned the shot that has since been shared upwards of 3,000 times. "I'm so proud of my son. He seen a kid balled up into a corner crying, so he went to console him, grabbed his hand and walked him inside of the school!" Moore said. "It is an honor to raise such a loving, compassionate child!"
What Christian didn't know at the time, however, was that his classmate, Conner Crites, has autism and had been overwhelmed by the back-to-school activities. As many parents already know, the first day back can be a bit overwhelming for kids, especially where it concerns children with special needs.
In a comment to ABC-affiliate news state Kake, Conner expressed the power of Christian's act of kindness had. "He was kind to me," Conner told the outlet. "I was in the first day of school and I started crying then he helped me and I was happy."
Conner's mother, April Crites, also commented to the local media outlet that Christian's kindness did not go unappreciated. "I fear everyday that someone is going to laugh at [Conner] because he doesn't speak correctly, or laugh at him because he doesn't sit still or because he jumps up and down and flaps his hands."
While she described on Facebook that the situation was "sad" for her, it also "warmed her heart" to see that someone was kind to Conner.
"One act of kindness can change someone's life, can change the world," she said to Kake. "That's all it takes."
Moore, who witnessed Christian comforting Conner as he sat on the ground in tears, addd to Kake. "They have an inseparable bond," Moore told the outlet.
The mothers are now taking this moment to note that, "It doesn't matter color, it doesn't matter gender, it doesn't matter disability, and it doesn't matter anything, just be kind and open your heart."
"It's what we need in this world," they continued.
Conner is not alone in his struggle this year as kids return back to school. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and is most prevalent among boys, who are four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed.
Although there is no found cure for the developmental disorder, there are many intervention and supports that can make daily life less challenging for families. Early intervention, for example, can improve learning, communication, social skills, and the underlying brain development.
Of course, kindness can go a long way too. And understanding individuals like Christian are critical to making the world a better place for children and adults with autism.