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Meltdowns are a fact of life for many autistic children and adults. They’re a response to overwhelming events, emotions, or physical stimuli. They’re not tantrums or “bad behavior,” and you can’t get someone to stop by shouting at them or punishing them. According to the National Autistic Society, the best way to help someone having a meltdown is to give them time and a quiet, reassuring space away from the source of the problem, but sadly very few people know enough to recognize a meltdown or know how to help.
While on a trip at Walt Disney World in Florida with her family, Lauren Bergner’s young autistic son Brody had a meltdown, which isn’t uncommon due to the intense physical and emotional experience for a child visiting one of these theme parks. As there’s an unfortunate trend among some parents of autistic children to post pictures of their children’s meltdowns in order to gain sympathy for themselves, humiliating and objectifying their children in the process, Bergner’s Facebook post initially seemed like it would be a part of this depressing pattern. Fortunately, she subverted the trend with a post that not only didn’t seek sympathy but treated her son respectfully while demonstrating how well a Disney cast member playing Snow White stepped up to help during his meltdown.
I am so emotional with these pictures !! Brody was having a meltdown . It was our turn to take pictures with her and he...Posted by Lauren Bergner on Sunday, August 25, 2019
I am so emotional with these pictures !! Brody was having a meltdown. It was our turn to take pictures with her and he wanted nothing to do with it ! Snow White could tell Brody had special needs! She took him for a walk and got him time away from the crowd !! This is true magic !!
I sent this email to Disney. Snow White if you see this please get in touch with me.
I wanted to share an amazing experience that I had today Sunday August 25th in Epcot. My son Brody has Autism and is non verbal . We went to meet Snow White by the fountain at the Germany Pavilion at 4:00 this afternoon . My son was having a autism meltdown . He was crying and was overwhelmed and just having a hard time . Snow White was amazing with him !! She kissed , hugged and cuddled him . He was laying his head crying on her lap. She then took him for a walk away from the crowd ! She was amazing . She held his hand , danced with him , took him over to a bench and sat with him . She went above and beyond !! She took so much time with him .She was a pure angel ! She was magical and my family is forever thankful and touched !
I would love to personally thank her .
Is there an email that you can share with me? I have attached the pictures that were taken from the Disney photographer . I am thankful these moments were captured . My heart is full .
Please make sure she is recognized !
We will never forget this moment .
Though it’s the Disney princesses’ jobs to be kind to visitors, this particular cast member took her role seriously, stepping out of the short meet and greet script to help Brody calm down. Providing a quiet reassuring presence, taking him off to one side where things were quieter and engaging with him on the level he was comfortable, she did everything right to help him recover from his meltdown. Brody ended up enjoying himself and Lauren was so grateful that the cast member knew what to do that she contacted Disney to make sure they passed on her thanks.
Apparently, she’s not the first Disney princess actress to have done something similar, so maybe there’s just something about the role that attracts people with the right instincts or experience to know what to do.
Facebook user Lynne Young Studer wrote in a comment, “Something very similar happened about 20 years ago with our daughter who has autism. Snow White took her by the hand and walked with her behind a picket fence, sat in a rock with her and read a book. We couldn’t believe how in tune she was with our daughter. Love Disney World! We will never forget that pure act of kindness.”
Siobhan Ball is a historian, archivist, and journalist. She also writes for Autostraddle and bi.org