By the time Mary Flasche first posted on social media about her 24-year-old autistic son, David, she was almost desperate.
“He stays in his room all the time because he’s not social, but for a while, he was corresponding with this one person,” she said. “One day, the [correspondent] just stopped writing and David was upset, but then around his birthday, which was July 1, he got kind of obsessed and was starting to get anxiety from it. He started waking me up in the middle of the night, wanting to walk outside to check the mailbox.
“He expected a card on his birthday [from the correspondent] and it never came, so I reached out to a Facebook group hoping to find a pen pal for him. I explained the scenario, and the response has been amazing.”
What Flasche said she hoped would be one or two volunteer pen pals has become a community rallying behind David and his needs.
“We’ve been receiving cards and letters and packages every day,” she said. “I posted in the group on Thursday [July 6], and we started receiving things Saturday.
“Almost a week later, we’re still receiving cards — David got 14 on Wednesday and about 40 on Monday. I am just humbled by the outpouring of love this community has given.”
Flasche, who has two biological sons who are autistic and is the guardian of two other autistic boys, said at times, she and her husband get overwhelmed with how busy their lives are and taking care of their sons.
“As his mother, this has alleviated a lot of stress,” she said. “We all want things for our children, and the main thing is for them to be happy, so to see my son smile and be happy when he receives these letters is amazing.
“He hasn’t been happy in a while, and today he smiled because he was so happy, and that meant so much to me — that he knows there are other people who are his friends. That’s all it is — he just wanted a friend.”
Flasche said while autism disorder, a mental condition present from early childhood, has a spectrum of conditions that vary in severity, David is classically autistic, meaning he has significant social interaction difficulties and communication challenges.
She said she feels more confident taking her boys into the community now.
“It’s overwhelmed me how the community has pulled together on this,” she said. “Their lives are very scheduled, but I’m motivated to take my kids out and meet people because people, especially here in Forsyth County, are just so amazing.
“There’s just so much craziness and darkness in the world that sometimes something like this blindsides a person. It has restored my faith in humanity.”