Teddy addressed his school board on Thursday night asking them to increase autism awareness. And made a new friend.
Teddy has more courage than most adults I know. It is great to see an autistic child who knows who he is and wants the world to know too. I hope that Chandler will be able to advocate for himself like this when he is in 5th grade.
CR Student Takes Mike, Tells Story
By KENDRA GENTRY
Bucks County Courier Times
Teddy Willis got his chance to speak publicly on Thursday night.
The Goodnoe Elementary fifth-grader, who has autism, recently spoke about his disability at his school after initially being denied. Thursday night, he addressed the Council Rock school board during its public comment section.
“I would like more people to understand my disability about having trouble with social skills,” he said into the microphone. “If they did that, then I wouldn't be the least popular kid at Goodnoe and I would just be like everybody else.”
What came next was a surprise to both Teddy and his parents, Irene and Ted Willis of Newtown Township.
After leaving the board room, Teddy was introduced to Andrew Flinn, a 13-year-old seventh-grader with Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism.
Andrew and his mother, Noreen, drove an hour from Coopersburg to listen to what Teddy had to say.
“My son, like Teddy, is picked on in school,” Noreen said. “We wanted to approach [my son's] school about it but were also turned away.”
Andrew said the bullying he received was really bad a few years ago.
“Fourth grade was the worst grade for bullying. The kids started getting their kicks by picking on me,” he said.
Irene Willis, Teddy's mother, said her son's presentation before the school board not only raised awareness with board members, but to the district as a whole.
“Hopefully there will be more sensitivity training and people will embrace what Teddy feels like to have autism spectrum disorder,” she said.
Carol Bemmels, Teddy's grandmother and a guidance counselor at Conwell-Egan Catholic High School in Bristol Township, said she was proud of Teddy and Irene for their comments to the board.
“Allowing kids with disabilities to speak for themselves is positive,” said Bemmels, who was the person who informed the Flinn family about Teddy's presentation.
Irene said she was happy to meet Andrew and his mother. She said she hopes for similar connections with students at Teddy's school.
“Maybe 10 kids will look beyond his disability and see that he is a child who wants to play and will want to be his friend,” she said.
As for Teddy and Andrew, the two already swapped e-mail addresses.
“I'm just glad he made another friend,” Noreen said. “It was well worth the ride.”
Kendra Gentry can be reached at 215-949-4206 or kgentry@phillyBurbs.com.