Leah Paske hasn't been in the "scary and hard" middle school grades for years, and understandably has forgotten most things about her experience aside from the one time she cried after a boy called her a name on the bus. But when her son who has autism started sixth grade, Paske started feeling a bit of anxiety about middle school all over again.
"Sometimes I'm grateful for his autism," Paske admitted in a post to Facebook. "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."
Paske feels worried for her son, and consistently asks him if anything about his day at school made him sad or if he ate lunch with someone. A few weeks into the school year, however, she got her answer to the latter question not from her son, but through a heartwarming photo of him eating lunch with a special new friend.
"Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State, and several other FSU players visited my son's school today," she wrote. "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."
This post was originally published on August 31, 2016.