Autism is a difficult condition to live with, both for the individual who has it, and for those who care for them. Those with the condition suffer feelings of great frustration, anxiety and depression. Those who care for them have to deal with very challenging behaviours, as well as the stresses and strains of coping with the wider public’s failure to understand the condition.
So random acts of kindness offered towards autistic people and their carers can make a big, big difference.
Travis Rudolph, a footballer at Florida State Seminoles, was visiting a local middle school when he spotted Bo Paske, a new kid with autism, sat alone eating his dinner. Travis asked Bo if he could join him, and he sat down and the pair struck up a conversation about the NFL.
Bo’s mom, Leah, took to Facebook to explain what happened.
“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 eyeliner 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.
“I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a table with my son, but I’m happy to say 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!”
Well done Travis. You are a credit to yourself, your football team, and humanity in general!