Particularly apt for this time of year, when back-to-school is in full flow, is this touching story of an autistic boy who didn’t have to eat lunch alone.
For us mums, the thought of our kids going to school and feeling anything less than wonderful, than proud of who they are, breaks our hearts. We can’t control what happens in school, and this scares us, particularly if our kids are ‘different’.
Mum Leah Paske knows this all too well. Her son Bo is autistic, and because of how different he is to other kids in school, he’s often excluded by them.
“I have feelings of anxiety for him, and they can be overwhelming if I let them,” she wrote in a powerful, reflective Facebook post. “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.”
But on one particular day, Bo didn’t have to eat lunch alone. Travis Rudolph, a football player for Florida State, chose to sit with him to eat. And when Leah was sent the photo of the pair companionably having lunch, she broke down in tears.
“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’”, she wrote. “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 son’s 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!”
Just beautiful words from this loving mum – we’re so grateful she shared them with us.
No child should have to eat their lunch alone. That's just wrong as far as we're concerned. We hope Travis' actions will inspire the children in Bo’s school to think twice and ask a lonely child to sit with them.