You've seen the viral posts...
"Autistic boy scores a touchdown..."
"Autistic boy has the basketball game of his life..."
"Blind, autistic man stuns the music world..."
Seems like people with autism are constantly making the news for performing extraordinary feats or being treated... with dignity.
Case in point... I came across this story this morning (and so did a bunch of my friends - I always appreciate when people share stories like this with me because I want to pass them along ) and immediately thought that this was pretty awesome. If you haven't seen or heard about this, FSU wide receiver Travis Rudolph was visiting a middle school with some teammates when he saw a boy in the cafeteria eating by himself, so he went and sat with him. What he didn't know was that the little boy has autism, and the boy's mom posted on social media about the encounter.
Here's the mom's post:
Several times lately I have tried to remember my time in middle school, did I like all my teachers, do I even remember them? Did I have many friends? Did I sit with anyone at lunch? Just how mean were kids really? I remember one kid on the bus called me "Tammy Fay Baker" bc I started awkwardly wearing eye liner in the sixth grade, I remember being tough and calling him a silly name back, but when he couldn't see me anymore I cried. I do remember middle school being scary, and hard. Now that I have a child starting middle school, I have feelings of anxiety for him, and they can be overwhelming if I let them. Sometimes I'm grateful for his autism. That may sound like a terrible thing to say, but in some ways I think, I hope, it shields him. He doesn't seem to notice when people stare at him when he flaps his hands. He doesn't seem to notice that he doesn't get invited to birthday parties anymore. And he doesn't seem to mind if he eats lunch alone. It's one of my daily questions for him. Was there a time today you felt sad? Who did you eat lunch with today? Sometimes the answer is a classmate, but most days it's nobody. Those are the days I feel sad for him, but he doesn't seem to mind. He is a super sweet child, who always has a smile and hug for everyone he meets. A friend of mine sent this beautiful picture to me today and when I saw it with the caption "Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son" I replied "who is that?" He said "FSU football player", then I had tears streaming down my face. Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State, and several other FSU players visited my sons school today. I'm not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I'm happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn't have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes. Travis Rudolph thank you so much, you made this momma exceedingly happy, and have made us fans for life! #travisrudolph #gonoles #autismmom #fansforlife
Awesome, right? Every single major news outlet seems to have taken notice. So did I... and I think this is pretty darn cool. My Will just started middle school, and I'd be DEVASTATED if I found out he was eating lunch by himself in the cafeteria every day.
But my warrior mama instincts kicked in almost immediately. Why was this boy eating alone in the first place? Why aren't his peers sitting with him? Does he want to sit alone? If so, what interventions are in place for him to socialize with his peers? Bravo to the young man for recognizing this boy was sitting alone and taking the initiative to go sit with him.
The more I thought about it, the more this picture broke my heart. This mom shouldn't have to worry if her son is sitting alone at school... ever. This sweet boy with happens to have autism never should've been sitting alone in the first place.