Thompson returns the love

Published 6:00 am Monday, June 29, 2009

Loveable, fun loving, inspiring –– those are just a sample of the phrases folks use to describe Jacob Thompson.

Jacob is a special friend to many, the favorite volunteer teachers’ aide with the pre-school class at Montevallo Elementary and the very best helper at Lisa & Co.

Jacob has a mild form of autism, but he doesn’t let that keep him from enjoying life and making a strong contribution to the world around him.

He is 23, graduated from Montevallo High School in 2005, and lives with his parents, Anita and Freddie Thompson in Montevallo.

Jacob loves to watch “Wheel of Fortune” and the “Wizard of Oz” movie, but his other activities are many and varied. Along with helping mom with the household chores, playing computer games and training with the Shelby County Special Olympics swim team; he has the two regular volunteer jobs.

On Wednesdays and Fridays, the children in the pre-school program look forward to “Mr. Jacob” leading them to Parnell Library for Mr. Mac’s story time. Jacob helps the little ones with their reading and numbers, too. Thursdays you can find this young man folding towels, sweeping the floor or joking with the beauticians at Lisa’s. Lisa Lawley said they all have the most fun on days Jacob is there.

He’s always smiling and volunteers to help with whatever they are doing. Nan Franks began working with Jacob when he was in the second grade. She said although he sometimes has a problem initiating conversations and learning some subjects, he excels in others. He is a good reader, has an extensive vocabulary and an exceptional memory. He can remember the spelling words he had in third grade.

Jacob went all the way through school with the same class. His classmates made sure no one took advantage of him. The highlight of his senior year was when the most popular girls in school chose him to be her escort in the lead-out at senior prom.

“Jacob has not allowed autism to limit his life,” Franks said. “He lives a full life reflecting the love and care his family has given him. Along the way Jacob taught us all a lot about what’s important in life – the priorities, friends and family. I learned far more from him than he learned from me.”

Catherine Legg can be reached by email at