Danielle Eryou stares in amazement at the antics of East Lawrence High School’s mascot, Rocky the Eagle, as he twists, turns, shimmies and dabs down the stands. Because unlike most, Eryou knows the person beneath the suit.
It is her son, Joshua Eryou — the same quiet and reserved teenager — who lives with autism, and as a result of the disorder, struggles to make friends. He routinely escapes into the world of anime, video games and heavy metal music.
But on Friday nights, under the lights of Eagle Stadium, Joshua Eryou shines. With only two home games remaining, the 17-year-old senior’s time as Rocky, a role he stepped into three years ago, is coming to an end.
“Every mother thinks her child will do great things. But I never thought he would be the mascot. He has amazed me,” Danielle Eryou said. “Officially, no one is supposed to know who is in the suit. I can’t help but think, though, that there are children with autism, and if they only knew who was in the suit, they would be encouraged. And so would their parents.”
As the mother of three sons all on the autism spectrum, Danielle Eryou spent many days and nights hoping her boys would find acceptance in a sometimes harsh and judgmental world.
“It was scary for me, but I had to hold on to the belief that if I raised them right and helped them build