Jo Wincup's 15-year-old son, Ben, has a diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. They live in Seaton Delaval, Northumberland.

I was so grateful that I was in floods of tears.

"Over the past 15 years, my family has almost got used to strangers staring and making comments – it still hurts but we've grown thick skins. But we've also seen the difference that public understanding can have. The kindness of one stranger, four years ago, still sticks in my mind and helped us through a very difficult time.

Jo and her son, Ben, who is autistic.

"After a trip to the cinema, we went to a toy store but Ben became upset when they didn't have the exact bear he was looking for. All children at that age would be disappointed but his autism means that this can quickly escalate to a meltdown. So we quickly started walking to the nearest exit so he could get some air and calm down.

"But the crowds, bright light and range of smells became too much and he became overwhelmed. Ben lost control just as we left the shopping centre and arrived at the bus area and he started kicking me, shouting and swearing.

"People were queuing for buses and started to stare, some even said really hurtful things. I can't quite remember what they said but it wasn't nice. This upset Ben even more and he ran off into the bushes. I went after him but he refused to come out, shouting that people were staring at him and continuing to swear at everyone around him.

"I just wanted to cry, for the ground to swallow us up.

Jo and her son, Ben

"Then I heard another voice from the crowds, saying something along the lines of 'What are you doing? Do you not understand? Have you not heard of autism?' The stranger made her way over to us and knelt down before Ben. I was worried he was going to kick her but she managed to calm him down and helped us back to the car.

"I was so grateful that I was in floods of tears and wasn't really following what was going on but I remember her saying she worked with autistic children. Still in a daze, I thanked her and must have driven off. It's still one of my biggest regrets that I didn't ask for her name and stay in touch.

"If she's reading this, thank you so much. You'll never know what a difference you made to us, just knowing that there are people out there like you who understand."

The best way for an autistic person to deal with unexpected changes is to, wall, expect them! So if plans do change, let them know in advance. A little notice and understanding can go a long way. What will you do to help autistic people?

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