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Heart of Autism: 13-Year-Old Lights It Up Blue in his Community!

This Heart of Autism post is by Kim Jansen, a teacher in Sherman, Conn. Kim tells about her experience with Josh, an extraordinary 13-year-old on the spectrum who is determined to spread autism awareness in his community.

It was just about three years ago when I met the most amazing 10-year-old boy, who has since changed my life. It was the last day of school, and Josh, a 3rd Grader at the time, stopped by my classroom to introduce himself to me. He wanted to say hello and let me know that he may be in my 4th Grade class the next year. Right away, I knew that there was something special about this little guy. September came, and sure enough, Josh was in my 4th Grade class.

Josh had many ups and downs throughout his education, and was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in the spring of 4th grade. His parents could not have been more supportive of this diagnosis and have done everything possible to teach Josh about his diagnosis, as well as educate others about it. They have made spreading Autism Awareness a huge part of their life. They are the reason so many people in the tiny community in which Josh lives, and goes to school in, know what Autism is. Having parents that are so proactive only made Josh more interested in spreading Autism Awareness too.

Last year, Josh had the opportunity to be “The Assistant Principal For The Day”, an opportunity for him to make decisions and plan activities for his school. This day took place in April, during Autism Awareness Month. Josh immediately decided he wanted to plan an activity to promote Autism Awareness while he was the Assistant Principal. Josh was now a 5th Grader, but we still had a very close relationship, so together we planned our school’s first “Light It Up Blue Day”, which was a huge success. Josh was thrilled with the response from our school and community on “Light It Up Blue Day”. We immediately began talking about other activities we could do during April of the following year.

Josh is very passionate about Autism Awareness and had participated in the Greater Waterbury Walk Now for Autism Speaks while he was in 3rd Grade. While working with Josh to organize our Light It Up Blue Day, I joined Josh’s Walk Now for Autism Speaks Team. We walked together, in the pouring rain, and began thinking of ways to raise more funds for Autism Research and increase Autism Awareness the following year.

Before we knew it, April was here again, and we were on a mission to spread as much Autism Awareness as possible, We approached our school administrators with several ideas we had for the month. They were very supportive, and so our month began. We started off with “A Light It Up Blue Day”. All the students and faculty were decked out in blue, and proudly wore stickers that said, “My School Supports Light It Up Blue Day”. It was an amazing day! After that, the month was followed with a school wide “Rise and Shine and Wake Up Autism Awareness Breakfast”, a bottle and can drive and a Dunking for Dollars Dunk Tank Fundraiser. It was a very successful month. We managed to raise $1,800 for Josh’s Autism Walk team, but most importantly, every student in our school now has an understanding and awareness of Autism.

It has been a wonderful experience working with Josh to spread Autism Awareness and becoming involved in the Greater Waterbury Walk Now For Autism Speaks. I look forward to working with Josh on this journey for years to come!

The Heart of Autism series highlights individuals with autism giving back to the autism community. Read more about these inspiring people here! If you have an idea for a Heart of Autism story, we would love to hear from you! Email us at heartofautism@autismspeaks.org.