Be careful what you wish for, they say, you just might get it.
Well, in the case of an area child, he was more than thrilled recently when his wish of several years came true. Thanks to the folks at “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” 10-year-old Cibolo resident Vincent Arambula got to sit next to his hero Iron Man in the form of Robert Downey Jr., the actor who played the Marvel superhero character in popular films.
“I finally met my life’s dream. It’s come true, forever,” Vincent said. “It changed my life.”
According to his father Andy Arambula, Vincent is not exaggerating when he says meeting Downey changed his life. Vincent became nonverbal as a child before being diagnosed with autism when he was 4.
The condition affected Vincent’s development and caused him to withdraw into himself. He didn’t speak so he didn’t make friends easily or play with or like other kids his age, Andy said.
Then, at about the age of 6, Vincent stumbled upon an Iron Man replica mask at a neighbor’s house. He put it on and things immediately started to change, his father said.
Andy ordered his son his own Iron Man helmet and the boy began to soar.
“The Iron Man mask and movie allowed him to speak,” Andy said.
“Within 24 hours of me ordering the helmet and us watching the movie, we had a different child in our house.”
Vincent blossomed in different ways, he said. His imagination play increased exponentially, Andy said.
His son did things he hadn’t in the past, the elder Arambula said.
“He started flying around the house, using his hands as repulsor blasters and kind of acting like Iron Man,” Andy said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is the key that has unlocked my son.’”
Vincent started to become “his own independent person,” Andy said. The boy started engaging with other children, found common interests with them and held discussions that he wouldn’t have done before learning about Iron Man.
Vincent was doing things that his father thought kids should be doing, Andy said.
“He was kind of out and really trying to make up for all the lost time he had not making friends and not being able to talk,” the father said.
Seeing their son’s affinity for Iron Man and the way identifying with the character helped him with his autism, Andy and his wife Nicole wanted to share what they learned with the world. They thought maybe knowing what they knew might help other parents of children diagnosed with autism, Andy said.
So Nicole Arambula sent a message to “The Ellen Show” to try to get the word out. The family was chosen to be on the show.
Even better, Ellen and producers arranged for Downey to host the segment and interview the Arambulas.
The episode aired earlier this month and Vincent said his classmates recognized him on the show and let him know they had.
Other parents have taken notice, Andy said. People from across the globe have reached out to the Arambula family. People have commented with hopes something similar might bring their children diagnosed with autism out of their shells, he said.
For Vincent, meeting Downey was a dream come true. When some people say meeting their idols changed their lives, they might mean it on a different level.
Things were a little different when the Schlather Intermediate student was introduced to the man he has looked up to the majority of his life.
“He meant my life,” Vincent said. “I was just a lonely kid in a shell before Iron Man.”