Nearly every parent has dealt with a child’s meltdown at one time or another. When it happens in public, it’s not only frustrating but can also be embarrassing. But mom Lauren Nordberg, 35, always comes prepared when she goes out to eat with her 6-year-old son Elliot, who has Asperger’s syndrome, which is classified as an autism spectrum disorder.
Because of his Asperger’s, Elliot’s social and communication skills are affected. He’s also sensitive to changes in routine or loud noises, which can trigger screaming tantrums. So Nordberg comes armed with headphones to reduce noises for her son, as well as an iPad to help distract him if he becomes overwhelmed by stimulation.
But neither helped when Nordberg and her son showed up for lunch at Elliot’s favorite restaurant on Bainbridge Island, Wash., where they live. The diner was noisy and packed with customers off from work on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and they weren’t able to sit in their usual spot. Shortly after being seated at a table and ordering food, Elliot had a full-blown meltdown.
“I should have known better than to take him out for lunch after a dentist appointment, but he was so excited for pancakes, and I promised, so there was no turning back,” Nordberg wrote on her Facebook page later that day. “He remembered that he forgot something at home that he wanted and within seconds he was in full on autistic meltdown.”
She added: “We had just ordered our food. After several minutes of stares, I took him outside until our food came so he could have his moments without me getting all the stares. Thankfully he calmed down when he saw food, ate the food, then amped right back up again.”
Rather than cause another scene with the second-wave tantrum, Nordberg asked for the check so they could get out of the diner quickly. And that’s when something amazing happened. She was told that another customer had paid for their lunch — and wrote a heartfelt note on the back of the check that said, “You are doing a wonderful job!” It was signed, “From a mother who knows.”
Nordberg was touched by the stranger’s kindness. “I was crying,” she told CNN, “and the owner of the restaurant was crying too. When I walk into places with [Elliot], sometimes it feels like I am walking on pins and needles. To have someone say, ‘I get it and it’s OK’ … it’s a relief, and it was really powerful.”
She decided to share a photo of the note on her Facebook page to thank the Good Samaritan. “There is good in the world,” Nordberg wrote, “and this mama is thankful for the kindness of strangers.”
Photo: Lauren Nordberg/Facebook