In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I write this to sixteen-year-old Josh, from Round Rock,Texas.
Thank you, Josh, for playing with the boy who took such an interest in you in that hotel pool.
Thank you for not questioning why he invaded every bit of your personal space and clung to you like you were a long-lost friend, even though he had never seen you before.
Thank you for returning his laugh. Thank you for looking him in the eye. Thank you for talking TO HIM, and not around him.
When I told you that he has autism, thank you for responding as if you already knew.
When I told you that he is non-verbal, thank you for again responding as if this wasn't some kind of strange news.
And, mostly, when I told you that my son loves being thrown in the pool by his dad, thank you for throwing my 65-pound child around that pool.
After watching you interact with my son for just a few minutes, I knew you had to have some type of connection to at least one person with special needs.
You told me that you volunteer, through a program at your high school, to work with kids with autism.
Of course you do,
Because look at how wonderfully you interacted with my son -- a boy who usually keeps to himself in that pool and draws the occasional glances when his differences become apparent.
Thank you for welcoming his attempt to interact. As you saw, he doesn't have the skills to approach people in typical ways. Thank you for accepting his clear interest in you and returning the attention.
Thank you for commenting on his strong swimming skills.
Thank you for saying that "he seems high functioning."
He is not -- at least not according to the traditional indicators employed by school districts and educational evaluators. Daniel struggles. We struggle as his family. BUT thank you, thank you, Josh, for reminding me that someone who knows a little something about autism can see Daniel and see a lot of great things.
Thank you for talking directly to my daughter, who too often gets overlooked. Like me, she wishes her brother had friends. Like me, she loves watching her brother being happy. She was thrilled watching you interact with him in the fun, positive ways that you did.
Thank you for reminding me that there are kind, golden-hearted people in the world who can look at my son and see more than just a nonverbal child with autism.
If you read this, Josh-from-Round-Rock-who-was-in-DFW-for-the-Cowboys game, show it to your family and tell them how lucky they are to have a kid like you. And if you are still single when you are 35, look us up. You are, after all, only ten-years older than my daughter. ;)