Patriots defensive captain Duron Harmon will have a special fan in the stands at the AFC Championship game this weekend: his nephew Nic.
"When he’s there, it just gives me a little boost, Harmon said.
Nic is 8 years old, but was diagnosed with autism when he was 2.
In-depth news coverage of the Greater Boston Area.
"He couldn’t talk much, could only say a few words, but he always had some type of joy about him. He would get frustrated when he couldn’t communicate," Harmon recalls.
It was a diagnosis that shook his family. But, Harmon's sister, Nic’s mom, rose to the challenge.
"She really put all the uncertainty to shame," Harmon said. "She said, 'my son will live the life he’s supposed to. He will go to school. He will drive a car. He will live a normal life.' She would tell me all the time: 'I'm motivated to make sure he gets all the services he needs to progress and grow.'"
Now, Nic can talk and has made huge progress since his diagnosis. It's a journey that has inspired Duron to spread the word about autism awareness.
"The people are unique. They’re talented. They just have trouble processing and communicating. So if you’re in school with them, try to be nice. Bring out the joy in them, let them know they can be comfortable, because when they’re comfortable they start showing more of themselves. The more of themselves they show, the better student they will be, the more progress there will be."
If you would like more information about autism, click here to learn more about Autism Speaks.