Why I cried when my child had a meltdown on a busy train


Isaac was so excited. He had watched so many trains come and go from the busy platform while he flapped, clapped and laughed at the doors opening and closing and the whistle blow as each train pulled away. He loves trains and even more so when he gets to ride on them.

Our train was due next so I held his hand and gathered up our bags. I knelt down beside him and told him we needed coach B and we would sit at a table. I was unsure if he understood as at 8 he has complex autism, learning difficulties and a brain tumour. I had already prepared him though and just the day before we had been on the same train for the journey down. He had loved that journey and I was sure he would love this one too.

But as I helped him over the large gap and headed for our booked seats on the busy train I had no idea of the huge meltdown I was about to face.

The seats we booked were not where they should have been and instead of a table of four we were instead booked to sit on a row of two with the other two seats behind. No amount of explaining would work and Isaac sat down in the aisle of the busy train and screamed.

He screamed and he screamed. He banged his head and bit himself. He shook and kicked his legs. He could not cope with such a simple change as a different seat. It was awful.

He was scared. I was scared. He was crying, his sister was crying and I was crying inside. It was like a scene from a horror movie with all eyes on the train on me and my son and I had no idea what to do. My son was a danger to himself and others and was causing an obstruction on a busy train that was unable to stop.

I sat on the floor beside my traumatised son and tried to calm him as a member of the train crew approached us. Through the noise and distress of my son and his sisters crying I somehow managed to explain to the assistant what the problem was.

Immediately she did everything she could to help. She checked every carriage on that train for a feee table but there was none available. I tried to see if Isaac would sit on some fold out seats near a window or perhaps even stand at the door. I had told him we would be sitting at a table together and that was all his brain could process. One little change had disturbed him so much his body was in crisis.

And then a stranger offered to help. With tears in her own eyes she came down to where I was and said she could see the distress of my son and would he like her table seat. She was not angry or frustrated, or even annoyed; she showed compassion and gave up her own seat to see my child happy.
I thanked her and we sat at her table and immediately Isaac began to calm down. Everyone was looking at me and I was waiting for a stare or rude comment or cheeky remark. We got none of that. All I saw were people moved by what this lady did and by seeing a child with special needs so upset.

I was so touched but more was to come.

IMG_1108As the train employee returned she handed me a bag. She apologised for the booking mistake, gifted us a whole bag of food from the buffet trolley and called ahead to our destination and booked assistance for us. She then asked what Isaac enjoyed doing and when I said he loves pressing buttons she lead him through the entire train and let him press buttons at doors, toilets and even on her ticket machine.

IMG_1107She turned Isaac’s distress to utter delight. As I walked through the carriage and past the passenger who had give up her seat I looked at her and cried. She too has eyes filled with emotion as she watched my son laugh as the toilet door opened when he pressed the button.

Yesterday I witness kindness on a scale that changed me. I saw not only autism awareness but autism acceptance and compassion. Instead of stares I saw smiles. Instead of rudeness I saw understanding.

My child is not badly behaved or spoiled. He was highly distressed over a simple change that I had no control over. He was told something would happen and that didn’t go to plan. He could not voice what was upsetting him and he was scared we were on the wrong train since we had no table.

I cried when my son had a meltdown on a busy train yesterday because I hate seeing him so anxious and scared, but I also cried at the actions of complete strangers and simple acts of kindness that I will never ever forget.


I found this bag this morning as I was sorting though our luggage. It reminded me again of yesterday and why I cried when my son had a meltdown on a busy train.


23 thoughts on “Why I cried when my child had a meltdown on a busy train

  1. What a lovely conductor and a lovely train passenger. That could have gone so horribly wrong if the passengers and the conductor hadn’t been so understanding. This restores your faith a little. I love it when strangers bowl you over with kindness 🙂 xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So touched by this post Miriam, so well written, I too understand what happens with a slight change, my daughter also likes to sit where there is a table on the train, (we make frequent train journeys.) This is just wonderful how the lady was so kind, so pleased for the acceptance and understanding as I’ve encountered many times where people have been the opposite. Loved seeing how much Issac got from the buttons – my daughter loves them too!
    X x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I cried too as it means so much when strangers show kindness and understanding. Ella doesn’t adapt easily to changes but not to such a scale as Isaac. I do understand though that it can be exhausting.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have tears in my eyes. There are so many good people out there, but it can be hard for them to know how to ‘show it’.
    What incredible people you met on this journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I was so relieved to read that Isaac was treated with empathy and kindness when he was struggling. You can clearly see how content and calm he is being able to push the buttons on the train. This was a really touching post x

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am going to bed in tears, but happy tears. That is so lovely to read and I am so pleased you received such kindness. My son also has severe learning disabilities and epilepsy and we too encounter kindness, like the elderly lady who offered to fetch her car for him, when he had a seizure in the park recently. On the whole people are kind

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really relate to this, my son is autistic. I have to do a fortnightly train journey to pick him up from his dad’s. When I do sometimes it ends badly with him screaming and not wanting to sit down. Being autistic myself and finishing late night work shifts it can be stressful. But in situations like that I have had so many nice people on the trains saying how well im doing and some even help calm him down.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am in tears. Beautifully written. I’ve had complete strangers so me the same kindness with my son. It’s so comforting when people show us there is still compassion in this crazy world we live in. And the tears are still coming ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My son finds that wearing ear-defenders in these situations helps. It cuts out a lot of noise. We never leave home without them. We also try and time it so trains etc are not full. Less people, less stimulus. Good to read that people were kind to you. The last thing parents need when their child is going into meltdown are people giving them the evil eyes when they could offer to help. In my case, their attitude triggers a meltdown of my own. Can you imagine how hard it is to battle your child’s meltdown at the same time as your own? Ain’t easy. I’m there to support him. Nobody to support me. Then again, I guess that’s how NT parents must feel? Seriously, try the ear defenders or headphones.

    Liked by 1 person

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