Neil is 9 and last year was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism. This past year, he’s struggled with school bullies and other social challenges. He loves making friends and is extremely outgoing, but he has trouble connecting with kids his own age.
In August 2011, we saw the movie, “Dolphin Tale.” Neil sobbed at the part of the film where we thought Winter the Dolphin might die, so loudly in fact, that people in the theater kept stopping us afterwards to find out if he was okay.
When Winter made it, he yelled and clapped, “Winter is ALIVE! SHE’S ALIVE!”
One aspect of Asperger’s Syndrome is a fascination or fixation on one subject or issue. In this case, Winter became Neil’s focal point for several weeks. He called up her Web site, http://www.seewinter.com, and watched her on her live Web cam and learned everything he could about her.
We also discovered that the Clearwater Marine Aquarium had a “dolphin camp” that he could attend in the summer. So on Christmas morning, Santa brought Neil a giant box, containing the DVD “Dolphin Tale,” a stuffed dolphin, and a note that said, “Your gift from the North Pole is one week with Winter.”
Both Neil and I have been inspired by this dolphin’s seeming will to survive. Many times during his difficult school year, Neil has reminded himself — and me — that if Winter could make it through a tough time, he could, too.
We made this trip in July 2012. We hope you enjoy our story about our visit and the photos!