Wheatland volunteer firefighter embraces autistic 3-year-old in heartwarming photo

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WHEATLAND, Calif. (KTXL) — During her three and a half years, there are some things in this world that Kayli Templeton has struggled with.

“She’s very sensitive to noises, touching certain things like play dough she had a rough time with,” said her mother, Brittany.

A couple of months ago, Kayli’s mom and their family got some answers from a professional.

“And based on some of the things her psychiatrist noticed, they diagnosed her with autism,” Templeton told FOX40.

This week at Kayli’s preschool, her class was visited by firefighters from the Wheatland Fire Authority. While it was a fun show-and-tell for her classmates, Kayli found it overwhelming.

“I saw her very scared, very timid about it,” said volunteer firefighter Anthony Banas. “Something else was just going off in my head.”

Turns out, 25-year-old Banas may have been the perfect person for that very moment. His brother is also on the autism spectrum.

Inside that classroom, the frightened little girl who can easily shut down around strangers and the understanding man with experience on his side were about to form a special bond.

“I just looked at her and I said, ‘Are you doing OK sweetie?’” Banas recalled. “And she just kind of did a little dive hug. And I sat there and go, ‘OK, this is progress, this is good.’”

His kind gesture resulted in a small child who felt safe and a photo that will last a lifetime.

“When she’s nervous, she clenches her hands and in the photo, they’re relaxed on his back,” Kayli’s mom explained. “She just looked comfortable, like she had known him forever.”

Even if a picture is worth a thousand words, in this case, the only two that truly matter are empathy and love.

“It’s just, it’s happy,” Templeton said. “I just like that it’s so blissful and a positive story”

Templeton said after she and the fire department shared the picture on social media, she has received several messages from other parents who have loved ones with autism.

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