A mom is thanking a police officer who went above and beyond to help her autistic son who had a breakdown on the metro.
Taylor Pomilla is the single mother of a 4-year-old boy named Andrew. Last Friday, she picked her son up from school and took him on the metro for their usual 45-minute commute in Washington, D.C. However, the journey took a turn after Andrew got upset — and what started as a small tantrum quickly escalated into an inconsolable meltdown, which only simmered down after a police officer intervened to help.
Pomilla tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the behavior began after she stopped him from getting out of his seat and playing in the middle of the train — in which case he could have fallen and injured himself. She explains that an autistic meltdown or breakdown is different from what people perceive as “bad behavior.”
“Sometimes his emotions get too much. Too much for him to process and handle, and he goes to a point when it starts to turn into a meltdown,” she says. “There really isn’t any way to calm him down. It’s just too much for him.”
She described the meltdown, recounting that Andrew was “laying on the ground, screaming and going back and forth.” At one point, his shoe fell off and he threw it across the train.
Since it was rush hour, and the train was packed, the mom says people were staring at him.
“A lot of people think that he’s a bad child, or I’m a bad parent. He doesn’t look autistic, but just because someone doesn’t look, doesn’t mean they aren’t,” she says. “And that’s a lot of judging that comes first. I hate that because he’s so kind and wonderful, and he’s trying — but he just can’t.”
When the situation became unmanageable on the train, Pomilla decided that they had to get off at the next stop, where Andrew continued working through his meltdown for almost 20 more minutes.
“The station was very busy. It was horrible,” she says. While this wasn’t her first rodeo dealing with an autistic meltdown, she said she was crying because this was “probably the worst one he had in a year,” and she knew how much her 4-year-old was struggling.
That was when the officer — who has been identified as Officer Dominic Case with the Metro Transit Police — came over to ask if he could help. According to Pomilla, he listened to her and “probably didn’t even think twice” before offering to help. He accompanied them to their next train — and eventually all the way to their final destination.
In a Facebook post, the mom wrote about how he went above and beyond in keeping Andrew entertained and comfortable throughout the journey.
“He starts talking with Andrew and showing him all his gadgets. He then takes off his Velcro police badge from his vest and asks Andrew, ‘Can you be a police man with me and help me do police work on the train?’” her post says. “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.”
She added that Officer Case even let Andrew keep the police badge.
Pomilla says that Case helped not only Andrew, but his kind act was a huge relief for her too. As a single mother traveling with a young autistic child, she’s always on alert and has never been able to “read a book on the train” or sit back.
“The fact that this was a ride where for once in my life I could just sit and breathe for a minute — I’ve never had that, it just felt amazing,” she says.
She adds that while people say that the officer’s job is to serve, going this far to help a young boy definitely isn’t in his job description.
“That was not his job to go spend almost an hour with a child, take those funny pictures and do the dumb stuff,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “You rarely see people help.”
Pomilla posted on Facebook to recognize the “amazing officer,” but also to educate people on what an autistic meltdown is. “Maybe people won’t stare as much,” she says, explaining that a meltdown is only aggravated when a child with autism has an audience. The mom is also hoping it encourages people to offer a hand. “It might change the world, in a small way.”
Her post was definitely successful, and she says that Officer Case was presented an award at a Metro Transit Police Department board meeting for dedicated service yesterday.
The department did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment, but Pomilla says that she and Andrew attended the ceremony — Andrew decked in a little police outfit — and both happy to have made a “memory he will remember.”
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