News Article Details

How a Springfield mom helped her son with autism fit in at high school

Kansas City Star - 9/2/2017

Sept. 02--A proud mother's gamble paid off.

Cara Thulin's son was facing the crucible of high school. That's daunting enough for most teenagers.

But Damien "Zeke" Gibson is autistic, and Thulin was apprehensive about how he would be received.

"His brain grew up differently than a lot of ours," Thulin wrote in a Facebook post directed at students and staff at Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Mo.

"This boy is in your ranks now. And I need you all to help me."

In a conversational tone, Thulin explained that Zeke's senses are stronger than others'.

"And so while we were growing and paying attention to other babies...and learning how to behave and react...he was paying attention to the way (the) sun hit his moms earrings, or how loud the dog was...and he missed out on all that social training we didn't even realize we were getting."

Thulin simply asked that people be kind to her son.

"If you see this kid, say "Hi Zeke!" and don't get offended if he doesn't respond. He heard you. And he feels a little more confident now that someone knows his name.

"He may answer you. He may stare at the floor. He may run away. But he'll know that you care.

"And I promise you, that will help him feel better than he feels when people laugh at him. Because he does notice when people laugh at him. He just doesn't know why."

Zeke's story was also told by The Springfield News-Leader.

Thulin told The Kansas City Star on Friday that she began to have second thoughts as the number of likes for her post grew rapidly. As of Friday morning it had been shared more than 2,000 times and generated about 250 overwhelmingly positive comments.

"And I was worried when that post started hitting the "hundreds" that I'd just made it worse. You know?" Thulin messaged The Star. "Like I worried now the kids would be running up to him and saying "Hi!" And being just overly involved."

It turns out she needn't have worried that her son would be welcomed by the Kickapoo community.

"They've all been kind, and helpful," Thulin said. "Just treated him like one of the rest.

"It's all I could have asked of them. Just to exist and go thru high school with him. With that extra bit of compassion that they wouldn't have had before they knew he was autistic."

Matt Campbell: 816-234-4902, @MattCampbellKC

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(c)2017 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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