How Youth are Getting Involved in Supporting the Autistic Community

Group of disabled friends

It’s common to see stories on how businesses and private organizations are helping the autistic community, but you don’t have to be part of a nationwide effort in order to make a positive impact, and nowhere is this more clear than when you look at what young people across the country are doing to support others their age with special needs.

Things as simple as inviting a student with special needs to sit with a larger group at lunch or partnering with them for a school project can help a young person feel like an accepted and valued part of the broader collective - and one shouldn't underestimate the effect something as simple as that can have on a young person. However, “simple” wasn’t what students at McFarland High School in Wisconsin aimed for when they crowned Gabby Carufel-Wert, a student with autism, prom queen earlier this year - they were going for “unforgettable.” Which was exactly what they delivered not only to Gabby, but her parents as well. Terri Carufel-Wert, Gabby’s mother, commented on how special prom was for her daughter.

"She owned the crown all night long, and the sash and she couldn't wipe the smile off her face, she hasn't stopped smiling since and she went to bed smiling."

Everyone wants to feel like they’re included, and there’s no other place where inclusion and teamwork are quite as imperative as on the basketball court. So while we’re on the subject of unforgettable moments, John Abbot, a teen with autism at Fayetteville-Manlius High School, shared one with his team when he hit the game winning shot in overtime to close out a win for him and his squad. Celebrating a special achievement is always more fun when you’re able to do it with a group of close friends, and being able to do exactly that had been a long time dream of Abbot’s who had wished his whole life to someday “be on a team.”

A dream drove Blake Deanton to help students with special needs through his Eagle Scout service project. Autism is something that personally affects Deanton because his twin brother Shane was born with it. Deanton titled his project “Wings for Autism” and the ambitious purpose of it was to fund the building of a new sensory room at his brother’s middle school. The fundraising for the project went so well, however, that Deanton was not only able to pay for one, but for two fully equipped sensory rooms. Deaton’s achievements were amazing, but it is important to remember that doing something on  the scale of “Wings for Autism” isn’t required in order to have a positive impact on the people with special needs in your life. Something as simple as a smile or a hello can create that  unforgettable moment for a young person with special needs!

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