iStock/Thinkstock(HOOVER, Ala.) — An Alabama fourth grader is being praised by her school of 450 students after giving a powerful speech about being on the autism spectrum.
Keira Meikus, 9, explained what it’s like having autism during her school’s morning announcements on April 7.
“She’s thrilled,” Keira’s mom, Sarah Charles of Hoover, Alabama, told ABC News. “I don’t know that she really understands the impact that she’s making. She’s still very young. She calls autism her superpower. That’s just part of who she is and that’s just one piece of her that makes her special.
“We are incredibly proud,” she added. “We knew she was made to shine and she’s shining at 9.”
Charles, 34, said Keira was diagnosed with autism when she was 4 years old.
“It was a difficult time,” Charles said. “It was very scary because I wasn’t sure what we would do. I wondered how life would be for her and if she would be able to do all the things we hoped for her and all the things her older sister could do.”
“She just found out a year ago that she had something called autism,” she added. “We never named it for her before then. She’s still learning about it.”
Keira, who’s a student at the Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School in Homewood, Alabama, is not shy about having autism, her mother said.
In fact, she was happy to inform her fellow students of what it’s like being on the spectrum during a speech she delivered to the whole school last week for April’s Autism Awareness Month.
Keira’s speech read, in part:
“I have autism. I am like you. I go to school, I take tests, I watch TV, I like music and playing with my friends. I am also different than you. Some noises hurt me, I flap my hands when I get excited or overwhelmed. I don’t always make eye contact when I should, and I don’t always know when someone is being serious or joking…I can’t speak for everyone who has autism, but I’m sure most want what every typical person wants — to be accepted and to belong….”
Since Keira gave her speech, Charles said she’s heard from a bunch of fellow parents who praised Keira for her courage.
“My absolute favorite part of her speech is ‘I am like you,'” Charles said. “They [children with autism] want the same things. When you ask Keira what she wants to be when she grows up, she wants to be a mom … there are many similarities and it doesn’t always have to focus on the difference.”
“A lot of her speech therapy this year has been focusing on communicating with other people and socializing and she’s been working on it really hard,” Keira’s teacher Andrea Smith told ABC News. “It’s been a great step for her and to have the kids be so accepting of it helps them make sure that she feels included- to play with them and interact with them, which is all she wants in the first place is to be a part of the group.”
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