Sometimes life provides us with clothes full of thorns (fears, problems, incomprehension). If they do appear, remember this kind cactus, and I encourage you to overcome them. – Luis Rodriguez
The above passage was delivered in a note to the Ravens, along with a book written by Rodriguez about his son titled, “I’ve Got Autism … My Friend Poncho.”
It didn’t take Aimar’s parents long to realize something was different about their son. A few months after birth, he wouldn’t stop crying. Even as he grew older, he would still scream for more than 90 minutes at a time and have frequent outbursts of anger. He loved running, but would often fall down. He never looked people in the eyes.
Aimar seemed detached from the world around him. He only wanted to connect with his computer.
At 4 years old, Aimar was diagnosed with autism. When he was 5, doctors added that he had high-level mental abilities. After all, Aimar was reading in three languages and speaking perfect English despite growing up in Spain’s Basque Country with two Spanish-speaking parents.
But life, and particularly school, were hard and often frustrating for Aimar. It became easier, however, with the unknowing help of the Baltimore Ravens.
Aimar loved to learn things on his computer. One of them were sports logos. He knows and can draw more than 3,000 of them.
One day five years ago, he and his family went to the zoo and Aimar spotted a man with a Ravens cap. Standing in front of the man, Aimar excitedly shouted “Baltimore Ravens!” over and over.
“Looking at what was happening, I could hardly believe it,” Rodriguez wrote. “Seeing that logo made Aimar happy and he had expressed himself with a smile. It gave us hope that things could be better in the future.”
From that point on, the Ravens became a major part of Aimar’s routine. He always wears his Ravens cap, never goes to school without his Ravens backpack and always drinks from his Ravens mug at breakfast.
Since 2013, Aimar has followed the Ravens from afar on Facebook and YouTube. He idolizes quarterback Joe Flacco and laughs at the sight of Poe.
Slowly, with the help of his family and a special friend at school, Aimar’s “thorns” have started to fall off. Rodriguez's book, which uses cactuses as a metaphor, has detailed the process and helps inform others about how to better relate to those with autism. It can be purchased here.
Now 9 years old, Aimar is much happier and routinely interacts with the world around him. Things are going so well that the family (Luis, wife Aitziber, brother Oier and Aimar) has organized a trip to the United States in 2019, and plans to come to Baltimore to fulfill Aimar’s dream of seeing the Ravens.
“For our family, the Ravens are more than a team,” Rodriguez wrote.