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Boy With Autism Who Ate Lunch With Football Player No Longer Sits Alone

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An 11-year-old Florida boy with autism, who gained Internet fame when a college football player joined him for lunch because he was eating alone, no longer sits by himself, his mother said.

Bo Paske went from often being secluded at his middle school lunchroom to being one of the popular students after a photo of his interaction with Florida State University wide receiver Travis Rudolph went viral earlier this week. His mom said he was bombarded with attention in the cafeteria when he returned to school Wednesday.

“They were all cheering for him. All the girls all wanted him to sit with them,” his mom Leah Paske told TIME on Friday. “I think everybody will probably want him to sit with them going forward. I would be very surprised if he was ever sitting alone again in that cafeteria.”

The 39-year-old Tallahassee mom said she used to always find herself heartbroken that her son didn’t have many friends. She said Bo, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 3, used to spend most days eating lunch alone. “It bothered me way more than it bothered him,” Leah Paske said. “It makes me feel much better to know that people would surround him with love there.”

Now, she worries less — and she said Bo’s story has inspired dozens of people around the world and has brought hope to other parents of children who have autism. “To know a picture and few words could be that life-changing for moms and families all over the world is so humbling,” Leah Paske said. “I’m speechless.

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