By, Pam Teel
The Millstone Times January 2019
18 year-old Tim Rohrer graduated from Allentown High School last June. Growing up was not so easy for him. Tim had autism. Like others with autism, Tim faced many challenges in life, both academically and socially. School was really hard for him. Even in a large high school with many students, there were still many times that Tim felt all alone. He tried hard to fit in, but he was always made to feel like an outsider. Because he was different, he didn’t get invited to many play dates, parties, or social gatherings. A lot of times he sat alone during school lunches.
Tim wanted nothing more than to be like everyone else and do the same things that they did. He wanted to be invited to sweet sixteen parties, the beach, or even just out for a bite to eat, but that rarely happened. Although people may be nice and say hello in school there is so much more to that they could have done. It’s an emotional struggle knowing that your peers are out doing things with friends and you are never asked to join. It was such a struggle for Tim emotionally to deal with all the pain of not being accepted.
Tim’s parents always worried about his future and what he would be able to do. They wondered if he would ever be able to work, or
drive a car, or even if he would be able to function on his own. However, as Tim got older, he surprised them all. He developed an extreme amount of determination and motivation to achieve things. He wanted to be like everyone else. He worked doubly hard in high school on things that for most teens were relatively easy. He was determined to learn how to drive and at sixteen he passed his permit test. When he turned seventeen, he got his license on the first try. He wanted to get a job like other normal kids. He knew it wouldn’t be easy having autism. He interviewed at many different places but never heard back from any of them; yet he kept looking. Eventually, he went on an interview at Iplay America and the people there hired him on the spot after he impressed them in a group interview. He’s been working there ever since. On more than one occasion they let his family know what a phenomenal job he’s doing. During high school, Tim received a few awards. As a sophomore he received the Principals Award, which is for kids that have had lots of difficulty but have persevered and achieved academic excellence. As a senior he received the Presidential Silver Award, another award based on those who faced hardship in life but have overcome and achieved academic success!
As Tim got older, he had a dream, and that dream was to help raise awareness about social isolation and what it can do to you. He wanted to help to educate other students about acceptance of people who might have some physical and mental disabilities. He was tired of being invisible and wanted to help others who might have felt the same way he did in school.
He talked about this desire for a long time and then decided to write a guide to try and teach kids to how to interact with those with disabilities. Learning to socially accept someone that has a disability needs to be taught when the children are young and carried out throughout high school. Parents need to let their children know that it’s ok to be friends with someone with a disability and how they should included in your school life and not treat them like they didn’t exist. There are only two kinds of people in this world, followers and leaders. Leaders aren’t afraid to step out of their norm regardless of what people say about them. Be that leader and the next time you see someone sitting alone at lunch or wanting to be a part of the conversation or the party, reach out to them, include them, despite what others think.
When he showed the guide to his mother, she knew he had something special. She decided to send it to a few organizations. She sent it to the NJCIE, the NJ Coalition for Inclusive Education. The next morning they contacted her and said they loved it and wanted to share it on their website as a resource listing Tim as the author. They felt it was the meaning of inclusion and what they strive for. It was posted on social media and is now forever on their website. His mother also sent it to POAC, Parents of Autistic Children. They loved it too and are now using parts of it in school assemblies. A program Tim belongs to called Best Buddies, which promotes social inclusion, also loved it and plan to use it. Tim asked his mother to share it with the Millstone Community via facebook forums and the feedback was incredible. People thanked him for writing the guide. They applauded Tim for speaking up and sharing his story. The comments were truly inspiring. Tim’s journey to get his word out is still making its way around. It’s been truly amazing how fast his story spread and how much the community embraced it.
It’s now posted on the AHS school website and Mr. Leary, the head of Child Study in Allentown, sent it to all the Monmouth County Directors of special Ed. Tim’s employer was so impressed that they offered to help promote the guide using their PR department. Tim has also written a guide more for teens, which include worksheets that will help, teach kids. All of Tim’s teachers, work supervisors and friends in life will tell you that he is the kindest, sweetest, most polite young man they know. Tim currently attends the Monmouth County Career Center and is focusing on Computer and Business applications and is doing very well there.
We need to teach our children to be kind to kids with disabilities and to include them in their everyday activities. It can really make a difference in some- one’s life. No one should feel left out. Tim’s dream to help end the struggle he had growing up is coming true. Getting his guide out to as many people as possible is a great start. Keep up the great work Tim. You will truly make a difference!