Cara Thulin, a mom from Missouri, was too anxious to enjoy the last days of summer. The reason: her son, Zeke, who has autism, was heading off to high school for the first time. “I wasn’t sleeping at all,” Thulin tells Us Weekly. “Zeke knows the other kids don’t understand him. He knows when people laugh at him and he knows he struggles.”
Rather than waiting to see how things played out, Thulin typed out an open letter to the parents, kids and teachers at Kickapoo High School. She attached a photo of Damien “Zeke’s” ID. “This boy is in your ranks now. And I need you all to help me,” the 36-year-old began in a Facebook post published in late August. “His brain grew up differently than a lot of ours. It grew focusing on protecting Zeke from being overwhelmed by sounds and light, textures and smells. His senses are stronger than ours.”
Thulin went on to explain that her 14-year-old runs to class, doesn’t know his graduation year and gets confused in busy hallways. “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,” Thulin wrote. She added that Zeke loves the band Panic! At the Disco and urged his peers to ask him questions.
“He may answer you. He may stare at the floor. He may run away. But he’ll now that you care,” she wrote. “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.”
Thulin signed off with a plea directed at other parents: “I am raising a very VERY strong kid,” she shared. “Please do me a favor and raise very kind kids in return.”
Zeke is now three weeks into school and having his best year yet. “He comes home telling me about his shop class and what they’re building and the funny jokes his teacher makes,” Thulin tells Us. “He is into it! My neighbor has him for third period and she will send me updates throughout the day telling me Zeke is sharing, talking and helping the other kids. It’s a complete 180 fro the kid I saw at middle school.”
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