Autism is one of the most misunderstood conditions on the planet because it exists on a spectrum. One of my close friends has autism, and, for him, the condition affects his life in a myriad of ways; affecting everything from his ability to carry out day-to-day tasks to relationships. However, because it's not obvious that he has the condition, his struggles aren't recognized.
WebMD defines autism as the following:
"Autism is a complex neurobehavioral condition that includes impairments in social interaction and developmental language and communication skills combined with rigid, repetitive behaviors. Because of the range of symptoms, this condition is now called autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It covers a large spectrum of symptoms, skills, and levels of impairment. ASD ranges in severity from a handicap that somewhat limits an otherwise normal life to a devastating disability that may require institutional care."
In short, people with autism, or indeed any other condition, should be treated with compassion and respect, even if those around them don't necessarily understand their way of dealing with the world. Unfortunately, when this doesn't happen, it can be an incredibly isolating experience, which is why it's so special when someone goes out of their way to make sure it's not.
Case in point, this viral video of a Dunkin' Donuts employee dancing with a young autistic man, Donald Simon, pictured above. It was posted to Facebook by his mother, Donna Maxon, on January 4, and since then has been viewed more than 143K times.
Donna captioned the heartwarming clip:
"Sometimes the Staff at Dunkin Donuts does a floor show to ensure their Special guests are having fun! Thank you for rolling out the red carpet for Donald... at the Dunkin' near Trader Joe's. #Dunkin’ #autism #ellen #statenislandadvance #DunkinDonutsDancingDude #SpectrumNewsNY1 #humankindness [sic]"
To see it for yourself, check out the video below:
The clip resonated with a lot of social media users and a fellow mother of an autistic child wrote this comment after viewing it, revealing how this small act of kindness highlighted such an important issue for people on the spectrum:
"Thank you for sharing this Donna! I have two young children on the spectrum, one is non verbal. What you said about someone on the spectrum that is non verbal and how difficult it is for them to make friends is very very true. I am so happy that Donald made a new friend! This story warms my heart!!! [sic]"
"This is great! Nice guy! Donald looks like he had fun. Thank you Dunkin Donuts Dude!" wrote a second social media user.
"Hope dunkin does something for the young man [sic]," added a third.
In addition to the video, Donna shared a picture of the Dunkin' Donuts employee, Bryan Lara, with his new friend. And while Bryan has won a lot of praise on social media for his actions, he said it was all in a day's work.
"When we're not too busy, I always make a point to talk to my customers," he told Yahoo Lifestyle. "I know most people's names and their drink orders."
Bryan said that Donald tried to befriend him by asking for his name on a number of occasions and copying his movements, which is what inspired Bryan to start dancing towards him, hoping that he would start dancing too.
Donna said that while the video meant a lot to people on the internet, it meant more to her, saying, "When you're on the spectrum and nonverbal, the word friend isn't used that much, and it touches the heart of a special-needs mom."
Hopefully, Bryan's actions are duly rewarded by Dunkin' Donuts and inspire other people to carry out small acts of kindness too!