News Article Details

Deputies brighten autistic boy's Christmas

Courier-Tribune - 12/18/2018

Dec. 17--NEW MARKET -- A local boy with special needs got an early start on the Christmas season Friday when three Randolph County sheriff's deputies showed up to offer him gifts.

Thomas, 8, is autistic and is expected to need special care for the rest of his life. He is in the care of his grandparents, Richard and Cindy Hopple.

Richard Hopple said Thomas has difficulty with relatively simple tasks, such as tying his shoes or riding a bicycle. On the other hand, things like technology and vocabulary come easy for him.

"Thomas has trouble with large crowds," said Hopple. "He's progressing, but he's about two years behind" in his schooling.

"He did well when the officers came," Hopple said. "I was surprised. Sometimes the input (of unfamiliar people) is too much and he can't take it. (But with the deputies) he did the (patrol car) lights and horn. He's doing pretty good this year and we're trying different medications. He's ever-evolving."

Hopple said Thomas is not only autistic but has obsessive compulsive disorder and severe ADHD. He's on an individual education plan at New Market Elementary School.

For a child such as Thomas, Hopple said, routine is good. But outside forces over which they have no control can throw him for a loop.

Hopple said they were at a parade once and, with different people coming by and offering candy, "he got upset and starting kicking. I had to hold him until he calmed down."

Thomas' problems can be traced to his being born prematurely at 24 weeks, according to Hopple. His brain hemorrhaged and caused scarring on the brain tissues. Hopple said there isn't much that can be done except to "keep working with him.

"My wife and I work 24/7 with him," he said. "That's the key with autistic children, to continuously work with them."

"We were contacted by Randolph Easter Seals, who told us about Thomas and his family," said Randolph Sheriff's Lt. Eddie Slafky. "Turns out, Thomas' favorite toy is Thomas the Tank Engine. I took up a collection from the patrol shift and bought some toys, the highlight being a glow-in-the-dark Thomas the Tank Engine playset.

"Also, the command staff at the sheriff's office took up a collection and bought a grocery gift card for the family," Slafky continued. "We set up the time to deliver everything and Sgt. Eric Wilson, Capt. Mike Craven, who is the patrol commander, and I went and played Santa. Mr. Hopple said that Thomas sometimes gets overwhelmed, but he reacted just like any child and was all smiles when we started pulling the gifts out. We, too, were all smiling ear to ear as we watched Thomas tear into his gifts.

"It was nice to see that immediate reaction on Thomas' face," said Slafky. "It also was rewarding to be able to brighten this family's holiday a bit more."

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(c)2018 The Courier-Tribune, Asheboro, N.C.

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