In the world we live in, we occasionally encounter ordinary people who perform extraordinary acts that rekindle our belief in the goodness of human nature.
A few years ago, a touching story was shared on Facebook that continues to warm the heart whenever one stumbles upon it. This tale is centered around a father and an unexpected yet delightful interaction that his son, who is on the autism spectrum, experienced. The father narrates how one day a young girl approached him in his office, seeking permission to ask his son a question.
Special needs children often yearn for experiences that are typically enjoyed by others their age. For instance, securing a date for a school dance is a significant concern for any 17-year-old. Failure to do so can take a toll on their self-esteem, as having a dance partner is considered an important social norm at this age.
Even though attending alone might not seem like a big deal from an adult perspective, it could symbolize social downfall for a teenager. This situation is especially challenging for sensitive kids who are still developing their emotional coping skills. It’s even more complex for children with special needs, including those with autism, as they may find it more difficult to fully comprehend these social nuances.
In this story, a father named Mike Larson documents his autistic son, Jon’s, experience as he prepared for his high school prom. He shared the entire account on Facebook, and it has since been liked and reshared by millions of people worldwide.
Mike started his heartfelt post with a photo and caption, “This is my son Jon with his prom date Maddi.” He went on to share, “Jon is a junior and he has autism. About a month ago, Maddi, a senior at their school, approached me in my office (as I am a teacher there) and asked if Jon’s mother and I would allow her to invite him to the prom.”
Mike went on to explain, “Maddi had become acquainted with Jon through a school club that fosters friendships between special needs students and other students. ‘He’s a junior,’ she elaborated, ‘so it’s his prom too. I just think he should have the chance to go.’ I told her we would be delighted to have him accompany her.”
Maddi didn’t just settle on inviting Jon to her senior prom. She wanted to ensure he had the best possible experience. After some research, she discovered Jon’s favorite color was orange, so she chose a dress in that shade. In addition, she reserved a table for their group (which included another couple) at a restaurant that served Jon’s favorite food – chicken fingers, French fries, and chocolate milk.
Before formally extending the prom invitation to Jon, Maddi sought the approval of his father. Mike Larson described this moment as quite overwhelming to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Mike also explained that he had three reasons for sharing the prom photo and their story on social media.
1. “to show support for special kids like Jon.”
2. “to show support for groups that promote these friendships.”
3. “to remind us all, in a time when we hear about all the terrible things going on, that there are wonderful kids like Maddi working to make other’s lives better.“
The heartwarming prom photo initially went viral in 2013, and since then, Mike Larson has been providing updates on the pair’s journey post-prom.
In 2019, Mike celebrated the post reaching a milestone of 1 million shares, noting that his message had made its way around the globe. He also shared updates about everyone involved, “Many have asked how Jon is doing. He is well and happy, still living at home.”
Mike further revealed that Maddi is now married and occasionally feels “embarrassed” by the ongoing attention, as she never saw her actions as anything out of the ordinary. Mike ended his post with gratitude, saying, “Thanks to all who have wished them well.”
Over 16 years ago, when Jon was diagnosed with autism, his father, Mike, envisioned many potential scenarios for his son. One of them was that Jon might never attend a prom due to his condition. However, thanks to Maddi’s thoughtful actions, not only did Jon attend the prom, but he also had a memorable night!
“It’s something I never thought would happen for our family, and not only did it happen, but it happened in such a beautiful way,” Mike expressed. “And to have it bless the lives of other people is beyond anything I ever could have hoped for. It will be one of the nicest memories of our lives.”
Stories like this remind us that there are kind and considerate individuals out there, bringing hope to us all. If you also find this story touching, feel free to share it with your loved ones, just as Mike has requested.