Special Needs Now

An FSU Football Player's Simple Kindness Toward a Boy with Autism Is Going Viral

Everyone should be more like Travis Rudolph.

Florida mom Leah Paske's Facebook post about the kindness a Florida State football player showed her son with autism is going viral, and restoring many people's faith in humanity in the process!

In the post, Paske first ponders how much of middle school she can really remember. "Did I have many friends? Did I sit with anyone at lunch? Just how mean were kids really?" she writes.

"I do remember middle school being scary, and hard," the mom continues. "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."

Paske's anxiety is even more acute because her son Bo has autism.

"Sometimes I'm grateful for his autism," she writes. "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."

Some days Bo tells Paske he ate lunch with a classmate, but most days, he eats by himself. "Those are the days I feel sad for him, but he doesn't seem to mind," she says. It's still easy to understand why this mom aches for her "sweet" son.

Then one day, a friend sent a photo to Paske with this caption: "Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son." She replied, "who is that?" And the friend wrote back, "FSU football player."

"Then I had tears streaming down my face," Paske writes, adding that Travis Rudolph, a wide receiver at Florida State, visited Bo's school that day, along with other FSU players. "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!"

Whew! Am I the only one misting up over here? And by the way, I think Rudolph has won more than just one fan with his simple, sweet gesture.

For his part, Rudolph told ESPN he just saw a "normal" kid eating alone, and decided to get some pizza and sit with him. He added, "I was just a kid not too long ago and I remember what the impact was of guys that played in college and in the NFL coming back to us. So I feel like maybe I can change someone's life or I can make someone a better person or make someone want to be great or be like me, or even better."

Here's hoping Rudolph's act, and his words, will inspire more of the same!

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.