TV meteorologist cheers up man with autism struggling with 'grueling' self-isolation, disrupted routine

Mark Byamugisha was surprised with a video message from his favorite TV meteorologist. (Photo: Michelle Byamugisha)
Mark Byamugisha was surprised with a video message from his favorite TV meteorologist. (Photo: Michelle Byamugisha)

As an individual with autism, Mark Byamugisha thrives on routine. But like countless others, his schedule and beloved activities — including bowling, connecting with peers and watching sports — have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic and the need to self-isolate at home with his parents. According to his sister, the disruption has been “grueling” for the 34-year-old Maryland man, who prefers to be called Mark B., and he’s spent much of his quarantine time confined to his bed.

Fortunately, Mark B.’s family found a way to lift his spirits: a surprise video message from his favorite local TV meteorologist.

Sister Michelle Byamugisha, founder of the blog Autism Articulated, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that weatherman Steve Rudin of ABC 7 in Washington, D.C. has been a firm fixture in Mark B.’s routine. When he’s not tuning into Rudin’s broadcast from his parents’ home in Gaithersburg, Md., the young man is poring over a printed copy of the Washington Post’s daily weather report, something he’s done every morning since childhood.

“As long as Steve's broadcast doesn't interrupt a sports game or prior commitment, Mark B. tunes in every day,” she says. “He has always been intrigued by meteorology and like many autistic people, Mark B. appreciates consistency. Steve has been forecasting the weather for many years, and having that recognizable, trusted voice means a lot.”

Noting that “although his routines have certainly been disrupted, his interest in meteorology is still strong,” Byamugisha and her family first thought printing out Rudin’s online bio for Mark B. to read might cheer him up. On a whim, she decided to reach out to Rudin himself, who surprised them all with a personalized video message designed to reassure her brother. The message and Mark B.’s response to it have since been shared on social media, where they have gone viral.

“I am so happy to know that you’ve been watching me for over a decade,” Rudin says in the message filmed at his news studio. “That is pretty awesome. I know things are a little bit different right now because so much is changing in our world, but you know what? We’re all going to get through this together, and we’ll watch the weather together over the coming days and weeks and months and years.

“And you know what? A year from now, it’s like none of this has ever happened. I hope that one day, when things get better, that you and your sister can come visit me here at the station. I’d love that. Stay safe. Stay healthy.”

Rudin also mentioned Mark B. in his March 27 broadcast, choking up as he referenced his devoted fan.

The feeling is mutual. Michelle Byamugisha says the video “turned Mark B.’s mood around” and is “helping him better understand why everything is canceled and why people are avoiding going outside.”

“It took a moment for him to absorb, but he’s taking Steve’s motivational words to heart and today, Mark B. couldn’t be happier,” she says. “Steve’s generosity is so appreciated and it struck a chord with so many families like mine. The needs of autistic people are totally disrupted by coronavirus — from their emotionally fulfilling hobbies to their day-to-day resources and diligent routines. With one video and an on-air shout-out from Steve, Mark B.’s spirits were lifted and that kindness means everything.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC and WHO’s resource guides. 

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