No One Would Sit With This Autistic Boy At Lunch, But One Athlete Changed All That

SEPTEMBER 2, 2016  —  By Madeline Distasio  
Madeline Distasio

Madeline Distasio

Writer and editor holding it down in Philadelphia. Interests include drawing, exclusively wearing black, having too many books to fit in my tiny apartment, and choosing my dachshund over people.

If you're a parent, then you know how heartbreaking it is to picture your child eating alone in the cafeteria.

Sadly, that's an image Leah Paske often has to live with when she sends her son off to school in the morning. Bo Paske is in sixth grade at Montford Middle School in Tallahassee, Florida, and because he has autism, he has a hard time fitting in with kids in his class.

The perfectly sweet little guy often ends up eating lunch alone, but earlier this week, he made friends with the coolest guy in school. When football players from Florida State University (FSU) came to visit the kiddos, wide receiver Travis Rudolph grabbed some pizza and asked Bo if he could sit with him.

Happy to oblige, the polite student introduced himself and the two of them had a great conversation. A friend of Bo's mom snapped this photo of the new buddies, and when it got back to her, she took to Facebook to express her gratitude.

Here's what she had to say in her original 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" because 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 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!

To learn more about the football player who gave one little boy the best day ever, check out the video below.

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There's a lot of negativity floating around out there, but people like Travis Rudolph cut through the sadness with simple acts of kindness that people like Leah Paske will never forget.

 

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