HINDMAN — The seventh annual Special Needs Awareness Evening was held on Thursday at the Hindman Elementary in Knott County. For one Perry County student, it was his chance to show people what autism looked like through his eyes.
Kelby Johnson is a non-verbal autistic fourth grade student at Robinson Elementary. He is able to communicate through a program on his tablet called DynaVox.
Johnson, 9, types out what he wishes to say on his tablet and the program is then able to speak for him.
He presented Autism Through My Eyes during the Special Needs Awareness Evening.
During the presentation, Johnson described himself as fun loving, autistic and a lover of food.
He told the audience that he wonders if he will ever be able to talk and he also wonders if he will ever be normal.
Johnson hopes to one day write a book about autism and give insight to those who might not understand what autism is by showing them the perspective of someone who lives with autism.
He told the audience to give kids/adults with autism and those that might be a little bit different than them a chance before they judge or misunderstand them.
“Please remember, we all have our unique strengths and weaknesses,” said Johnson.
Johnson said the DynaVox has allowed him to make more friends than he would have if he didn’t have the program.
He said the program lets him communicate to people about his needs, wants and desires.
The friends Johnson does have, understand that he has autism and the struggle he faces as being non-verbal, Johnson said.
He thanked his parents for their love and support and making sure that he had a voice when he didn’t have one.
Johnson left this message for parents who have kids with autism,”Parents with kids who have autism, never underestimate what your child can accomplish if you support and encourage them.”
The rest of the evening was filled with dancing, songs, stories and poems by students and parents.
Most of the programs were dedicated to raising awareness about children with special needs and some of the struggles they face throughout their lifetime.
Information booths were set up before the event. Some of the vendors include Appalachian Horse Center, Autism Awareness Advocates, Disabled American Veterans, Highlands Center for Autism, Lion’s Club, LKLP Headstart, NECCO and Perry County Autism Awareness Group.
After the program, refreshments were served to those in attendance.
Hindman Elementary wants to thank all those who helped make the event possible.
TJ Caudill is a reporter with The Hazard Herald and he can be reached at 606-629-3245.