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The Best Help I Ever Received During My Son's Meltdown

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For the most part, the trip was fine. Sure, there were bad parts. My husband woke up the morning we were supposed to leave with a 103-degree fever and had to stay home. By the end of the trip, I was in the emergency room with an incredibly painful double ear infection. But in between, I managed the trip to Disney World with Danny, my then-6-year-old, with a lot of patience and luck.

But I wasn’t quite prepared for just how difficult it would be. I knew Danny was prone to meltdowns, but everyone said he would outgrow them. I knew he got anxious and scared more than other kids, but I thought he’d be fine. I didn’t know — no one even suggested — he had sensory processing disorder (SPD).

I didn’t know I was taking a 6-year-old with SPD to Disney, by myself, along with a raging infection in my ears. And so there we were at Epcot, a few days into the vacation, both of us sobbing.

Our first ride that day was Mission Space, where you’re an astronaut on a mission to space (hence the name). It was way too much for Danny. Too loud, too stressful, too overwhelming. It was a good 20 minutes before he could calm down. We moved on with our day and I brushed off the bad reaction.

By 6 that night, he was done. Too many people, too much noise, too overwhelming. Unfortunately, we still had an hour and a half to kill before our dinner reservations with Chip and Dale, his favorites. And that’s when I made my mistake.

“Lets go on Spaceship Earth,” I said.

Completely overwhelmed and unable to verbalize his stress, Danny started to sob. He thought I meant Mission: Space. Unable to tell me the source of his anxiety, he got more distressed the more I insisted.

So he did the only thing he could: He bit me. Hard.

And that’s when the Disney worker found us sitting on a bench, both sobbing.

“We can’t have this!” she said and walked away.

Thanks a lot, lady, I thought. Can’t you see I’m doing the best I can here? I’m alone with my child, my ears hurt, and now my arm is bleeding. I started crying again.

And then I really cried. Because the woman was walking back to us with two ice cream cones, one chocolate and one vanilla. She asked me if Danny could have one. His tears disappeared as he happily attacked the chocolate.

I thanked her over and over. Usually the public response to a Danny-meltdown was to glare at one or both of us. Kindness was rare, and generosity even rarer. I asked if I could hire her for the rest of our vacation. She smiled, declined and walked away.

There’s a lot of great memories from that vacation. Danny’s joy on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, dancing with Phineas and Ferb, and the day spent just lounging by the pool.

But, above all else, I will never, ever forget that woman’s kindness. I’m nine years into learning how to deal with SPD now. And that one ice cream cone was the best help I’ve ever received.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe the moment a stranger — or someone you don’t know very well — showed you or a loved one incredible love. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: July 24, 2015
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