Elizabeth Selbe was always upfront with her son, Special Olympics athlete Thomas, about his intellectual disabilities. Thomas has autism, as well as ADD and Tourette's Syndrome.
But that hasn’'t stopped Thomas, and he's parlayed that open approach into public speaking appearances. Thomas would tag along with his mother to the walk for Autism Speaks, and four years ago he was invited to speak at a kickoff event in Los Angeles. It was the first time Thomas had ever spoken in front of a crowd, which included about 200 people.
Elizabeth said Thomas "spoke from the heart," and the fearless approach in which he shared his story still pulls at his mother's heart strings.
“He just kind of commanded the room," Elizabeth said. "I was blown away at how well he did. He has no fear of speaking in front of people. He's very outgoing now and very sociable."
"I still cry when I think about it. I had no idea he was going to say this. He said, 'Kids with autism and other disabilities need the chance that everybody else has. I have three words for you: there is hope.' Drop mic, you know?"
Elizabeth added: "We told him, 'Yes, you have these special needs, but you can do this. You can do whatever you set out to do.' And that’s what he tells his friends. He’s very open with people about his disabilities or different abilities."
Thomas is now a Special Olympics Global Messenger and member of the floor hockey team that will compete at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria.
- Thomas Selbe is 23 and is from Santee
- Works with Goodwill and assists a Sunday School teacher with a preschool class
- Special Olympics has provided Thomas “life lessons,” such as how to deal with wins and losses