What These Parents Did for Their Autistic Son Left Him in Tears

For the last seven years, Hector and Rose Zuniga have been taking their autistic son, Hector Jr., to a Blockbuster Video in Texas twice a week to pick out movies.


It was an important routine that provided their son with a sense of stability and happiness, Hector told ATTN:. His son was diagnosed with a non-verbal form of autism when he was three years old, and 17 years later his vocabulary remains limited to a few words. One thing he's consistently been able to convey, though, is his appreciation for movies featuring a rotating cast of characters, such as Barney and Mickey Mouse.

When his parents heard three weeks ago that the local Blockbuster was shutting down, they showed up early during the close-out sale and purchased all the videos toward which Hector Jr. gravitated. They brought their son to the store before the closure, let him know what was happening, and promised that he had a surprise waiting for him at home.

Hector's brother, Javier, captured the unveiling in a tweet that went viral on Tuesday.

"He was smiling ear-to-ear. You could see tears out of the corners of his eyes," Hector's father said. "The rest of Sunday he would go and take a look, and he organized them the way he wanted them, and he would go and watch some and then return them to the shelves and pick some more."

"We think — this was one of our better ideas, I guess I'll put it that way."

For people with autism, routines represent an valuable tool that helps "to create stability and order," according to the advocacy group Autism Spectrum. They "quickly learn routines and are naturally motivated to repeat them."

Losing a routine can be a devastating experience for individuals with autism, and Hector explained that he worried his son would become inconsolable when he realized that the Blockbuster was going to close. Thankfully, he said, the miniaturized video store his family installed in their home has been readily accepted and integrated into Hector's daily routine.