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Local Boy Meets His Hero
(An Autism Story)
By Nancy E. Sheppard

LBHero imageTidewater Comicon in Virginia Beach is a magical event for locals every year. There they can mesh with other enthusiasts, rub elbows with celebrities, purchase unique memorabilia, and learn from panels of experts. The 2018 convention was my 8-year-old son’s very first time attending.

I am not embarrassed to admit that I have been a Power Rangers fanatic since it premiered in 1993. That love of all things Rangers has filtered down to my children. My son, Ben, is on the Autism Spectrum. He is high functioning but has noticeable challenges with communication and socialization. He is very self-aware of these challenges and it has created a great deal of insecurity. Ben is a student in York County and has flourished because of ardent parenting, dedicated teachers, talented therapists, and incredible doctors. But still, he remains self-conscious. When we told Ben that Walter E. Jones, the original Black Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, was going to be at Tidewater Comicon this year, he was absolutely thrilled and couldn’t wait to meet his hero.

When we arrived and saw Mr. Jones’ table, I immediately "geeked” out. Ben, however, became very reserved. Ben’s ABA therapist, my husband, and I did all we could to distract him until we reached the front of the line. Upon meeting Mr. Jones, he could tell how timid Ben was. As his mother, I secretly knew that Ben was scared that he wouldn’t be able to verbalize to his hero any of his thoughts. Mr. Jones came out from behind the table, tussled Ben’s hair, gave him a huge bear hug, and put him immediately at ease. He looked Ben in the eyes, listened carefully to everything he was saying, and spoke with him with incredible enthusiasm. It was in that moment where my son did not feel hindered by his challenges but was a boy meeting his hero. Mr. Jones let Ben hold his original Power Rangers helmet (added bonus… my husband and I got to hold his morphers) and took a picture with us. For my son, it was a magical moment. He felt like a superhero, meeting his superhero.

It’s about kindness… it’s about caring… It’s about these moments that make a huge impact. Y’know that adage that you should never meet your heroes? Mr. Jones proved this wrong. At our very own local comicon, my son morphed from a boy insecure because of his challenges into the superhero we’ve always known him to be because of the time and kindness his hero showed him. And that is the greatest gift any parent could ask for.

 





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