Brent S., profiled by his mother
Twelve year old Brent S. works every day in his school and community as an everyday Autism Champion. Brent is a sixth-grader and so is his brother, Harry, whom received a diagnosis of autism at age two. Brent has embraced having a disabled brother and works tenaciously for inclusion, unknowingly advocating for autism acceptance.
Brent chooses to eat lunch daily with Harry at school, helping him through the lunch line and oftentimes declining invitations to sit with friends when two seats together are unavailable. There are days when Brent has arranged for friends to sit with Harry at lunch for a scheduled absence. While it may not seem like a big deal, this simple gesture gives Harry extra peer interaction to help build social skills and leads peers in the opportunity to interact with Harry, shaping perceptions about this complex and confusing disorder.
Recently, Brent was assigned to give a persuasive speech and he immediately wanted to speak about the Special Olympics' campaign, Spread the Word to End the Word. The campaign supports eliminating the use of the R-word -- retarded and retard. As a difficult topic for any sixth-grader to tackle with peers, I had my concerns. Brent wrote a compelling speech, challenging his classmates to take the pledge to quit using the R-word. He explained that when he hears kids use the R-word in the halls and in a derogatory way, it is offensive to people with intellectual disabilities and insulting to him and his brother. His speech was well-received, raising awareness for all people with differences.
Countless times, I have witnessed Brent proudly introducing his brother, explaining autism to a stranger, and even standing up for social justice. He has learned that education is the key to people understanding and accepting autism, taking every opportunity to speak publicly to educate others on the disorder.
The other day, I was telling Brent how I admire everything he does for his brother. His reply, "I don't think I do anything too special. He's not just my brother, he's my best friend." Their friendship transcends the obstacles of Autism.
Brent is my everyday Autism Champion -- my hero.