The mother of an autistic child had a heartbreaking realization after looking closer at a photo she shot of her son’s football team.
Nichole Zumbach Harken’s son, Tucker, now 15-years-old, was standing with his team during their game in what seemed to be an ordinary scene. But there was something amiss that Harken didn’t notice until her son pointed it out when asked a question, reports Mad World News.
Harken’s son is #39 and is separated from the other teammates.
Tucker has high-functioning autism, which means he has difficulty making and keeping friends. When he was in fifth grade, Tucker participated in autism research and was asked about his relationships with other people. When the subject of friends was brought up, Tucker told the researcher that he did not have any friends his own age.
Tucker said, "Oh, I have friends. Lots of them. My mom’s friends. The people that she works with really like me. Then I have my dad’s friends; I have all kinds of grownup friends." Tucker continued, explaining that his adult friends treat him differently than his peers. Also counted among his friends are teachers, coaches, and Lisa from Kwik Star. “[She’s] my friend. She always makes me smile and always talks to me," Tucker said.
"The kids make fun of me behind my back when they think I can’t really hear them. I can tell they don’t really want to be my friend. They don’t choose to sit by me. They don’t include me in their parties. They don’t take the time to try to understand," Tucker explained while his mother began to cry. "So, I decided to just be friends with grownups. Really it’s a lot easier. I know they will take the time to try to understand me. They will be kind to me. They will not make me feel sad. So, I just choose to be friends with grownups."
Writing in The Mighty, Tucker said that she went home and cried in the bathroom after the interview was over.
But looking back, she says the photo doesn’t bother her anymore.
"I’ve realized that if it doesn’t bother Tucker, then it cannot bother me," she wrote. "Tucker has taught me so much about what is important in life."