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.
This is what he said at the school board meeting.
Thank you for allowing me to speak to the school board.
My name is Teddy Willis. I am 11 years old and I’m a fifth grader at Goodnoe Elementary school. The month of April is autism awareness month. Autism awareness is very important to me because I am a person with autism. I would like more people to understand my disability about having trouble with social skills. If they did that then I wouldn’t be the least popular kid at Goodnoe and I would just be like everybody else.
Kids at school are sometimes mean to me. They do things like get me out first on purpose so that I get really upset. I tried to tell the kids about autism last week but the teacher wouldn’t let me. I don’t think that was fair but this week I was able to say a few sentences about autism during morning meeting. If people understood more about my disability then maybe they wouldn’t be mean to me. Maybe they would see the good things about me. I want to have friends like everybody else and I want to play with other students without getting picked on because of my disability.
Telling people more about autism would probably help.
Does anybody have any questions about autism?
We have just come across some great research in the States, which indicates an alarming similarity between delayed development caused by an inability to metabolise fatty acids, and child autism. I would urge all parents to test their children with simple urine and stoll tests.
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