Moment hero stranger steps in to calm down autistic boy suffering episode on train

Naomi Ackerman
Lending a hand: Daniel Ball plays with Jack and his sister Amy in an image posted by single mother Gayna Pealling

This is the moving moment a young man stepped in to help an autistic boy who was suffering a difficult episode on a train journey.

Single mother Gayna Pealling hailed Daniel Ball, 21, “my hero” after he stepped in to help calm down her five-year-old son Jack, who has autism and ADHD.

She posted images of Mr Ball, who is a team leader at a recruitment agency, “distracting and playing with” Jack and his sister Amy, four, to Facebook and it quickly gained more than 129,000 likes.

The strangers have now joined forces to launch a campaign raising awareness of autism after the moment of kindness went viral.

Ms Pealling told the Standard: “If I didn’t have Dan that journey would have been a nightmare. When an autistic child has a meltdown it is hard.

The boy's mother said:

"Jack was swearing and got extreme — I apologised and said ‘he has ADHD and autism and please bear with me’, but people were looking at me.

“Jack started hitting me and my daughter because that’s what he does … Dan basically sat next to them and said ‘take your hot chocolate and sit there’ and ‘I’ve got it all under control’.

For around 50 minutes to an hour he was drawing and interacting with them and for the first time in my life I could sit and have an easy journey and enjoy a hot drink.”

Ms Pealling said it can take up to three hours to calm her son if he is “extremely overloaded” with unfamiliar situations and loud environments.

Act of kindness: Gayna Pealling with her children

“I put it on Facebook to show how hard it is for any parent who has special needs kids,” she said.

“People always turn to me and say ‘he’s naughty’ or ‘you’re a bad mother’ or even ‘he’s disgusting’… we have been kicked off the bus 12 times this year.

“But [this time] I had a hero — Dan — and if people helped other parents like me, they would be thankful too. Everyone just needs to be more aware, so parents can get more support when they are in public.”

Mr Ball, from Farringdon, insisted he was “not a hero” as he launched the Come To My Rescue campaign today with his mother, special needs educational consultant Barbara Ball — and the backing of Ms Pealling.

The team has created badges saying “The Rescuer” which they are urging people to wear on the Tube and other public transport “so parents know they are happy to help”.

He said: “People were starting to tut. It was a Saturday afternoon slow train and he was climbing over seats and stuff. If you don’t understand ADHD, you just think it’s bad parenting and the mum can’t control them.

"But my mum has worked with special needs kids my whole life so I have quite a good understanding of what they are doing.

"Jack gave out a roar and refused to take his tablets and his mum was struggling to get him to take them, so I intervened and just said ‘bet you can’t show me you can take one’.

“We played games with coins, drew images of trains, I showed them how they worked. I love playing with children anyway.

"It’s lovely people have made such a big deal out of it. But from my perspective it’s just about helping people, nothing miraculous. I’m not a hero or anything.”

Mr Ball's mother posted online: "I am very proud of him. I'm sure he had no idea that it was a big deal, and was just trying to help."

For information on how to help, and to download a badge visit this link