Taylor Pomilla’s 4-year-old son, Andrew, looks like any other preschooler. So, when he melts down in public, bystanders assume he’s a just a spoiled kid having a tantrum.
“No one realizes he’s autistic,” Pomilla told TODAY Parents. “People think I'm a terrible mother who can't discipline her child. I get so many dirty looks."
That’s exactly what happened when the 24-year-old single mom and Andrew were riding the Washington, D.C., Metro on July 19.
“He started rolling on the floor screaming,” Pomilla wrote in a Facebook post that has gone viral with more than 16,000 shares. “Then he starts the kicking, hitting and pulling my hair while everyone in rush hour stares on the train."
Pomilla tried all the usual tricks, including candy and YouTube videos, but Andrew had reached the point of no return and they exited at the next stop.
“Now we’re rolling around on the dirty station floor. He is covered in black dirt. I try picking him up but he continues to kick,” Pomilla wrote. The overwhelmed mom was crying when she noticed a man walking toward them.
It was a Metro Transit Police officer named Dominic Case.
“I thought he was going to accuse me of abusing Andrew because I was holding onto his arm to keep him from running away,” Pomilla told TODAY Parents. But Case only wanted to help.
The 27-year-old officer, who has taken autism sensitivity training classes, crouched down next to Andrew and asked, “Can you be a policeman with me and help me do police work on the train?”
Andrew said yes and took Case’s hand.
"I was overwhelmed," Pomilla told TODAY Parents. "He restored my faith in humanity."
The kindness didn't end there. Case rode the train all the way home with them.
It marked the first time Pomilla has been able to relax on the Metro since she and Andrew relocated to Arlington, Virginia from Texas six months ago.
“Even if Andrew is being perfect, I’m constantly on alert,” said Pomilla, who works in the non-profit sector. “(Dominic) watched Andrew and I was able to just breathe."
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Pomilla hopes others will learn from Case. “If you see someone struggling, go up to them and ask, ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’” she said. "It's very isolating to be a special needs parent. Knowing we're not alone means the world."