Evansville girl wins autism awareness essay contest

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Evansville sixth-grader Kendall Hazen wrote the following essay about her friend Katie Fahey. Kendall's essay won first place for grades six through eight in the 9th Annual Autism Awareness Essay Contest sponsored by the Autism Society of Wisconsin.

“My Friend Katie And I”

When Katie and I first met, she had just walked into the science classroom. All I could think about was how much I hoped she could sit by me and I was really excited to be her friend. It had taken her almost an hour to gather enough courage to walk in the room. She finally walked over and sat right next to me, the bell rang. And the class was over.

Next class was the same way; it was like that for about a week. She gradually got used to everybody in the class and started to come quicker.

Every time she would sit down Marybeth, her aide, would get her cards down. The cards had words on them which Katie would put letter chips on the cards to spell out the words. I got the feeling she was bored with them because they were the same ones every time. I asked our science teacher if I could stay in and make some new ones for her. She said yes. At lunch I made some cards using the science vocabulary we were studying, like hypothesis and data. We did some animals and names of students in the class.

After we made her new cards, Katie would start running ahead of Marybeth to get to class quickly. After about a month I told Marybeth she should get Katie some new activities to do, so the next class Marybeth brought in some shapes to put in a picture on a board. Katie LOVED those!

When I am finished with my own work, I often play with Katie using her cards, puzzles and ipad games. I taught her how to do knuckles and what we call knuckle head. When I do knuckles, Katie puts her forehead on them. Then she always looks up at me and smiles.

I have science right before lunch 1 out of 3 days, so when I walk past the classroom on my way to my locker I always stop and say, “Katie let's go!” She never wants to get out of her chair so I think she waits for me to come by because whenever I do she is out of her chair running towards me.

Katie now also attends my gym class! At first, as usual, she was a little nervous. But when she saw me, she ran right over and started doing what I was doing. When it was time to run, she got up and ran into the center of the gym. I think she likes how people run in circles around her. When she saw me run past her she looked at me with a scared expression on her face like she didn't know how to get out of the circle. All I said was, “Come on Katie, you can do it!” She shot out of the circle and ran towards me. As we ran, she was laughing, and she looked like she was having the time of her life! We ran for a couple of laps together and then her ears got bright red (that's what happens when she works hard) and she went by Marybeth near the water fountain.

She loves playing in the water fountain, and when we were done running, I would go stand next to her and she would give everybody a high-five when they were done getting their drinks. After they were all done, I would push the button, and she would take a drink. Then she looks at me and smiles.

Now, you're probably wondering why I've never said that she has talked to me. Well, she doesn't talk often. She can, but she doesn't want to except sometimes she'll start talking to me and won't stop.

I think she is a great friend because she always has to listen to what you say and she doesn't look away or be rude to you. She is very strong willed, so strong that sometimes she will go on the floor and won't get up except for gym when she sees me. She just gets up and comes to copy me. I also love her because she is not the typical middle school girl, and I'm not saying that because she has Autism. I'm saying that because she doesn't care who likes her or if she's pretty or who she hangs out with. She is just herself and she has taught me some valuable life lessons. Such as: to just be me, not to be concerned with what other people think and, to value and accept people for their differences. I hope I'm her friend forever.

Katie once took forever to start new things but with my help and support she is being included in two regular classrooms and having fun (or at least I think she is). And I have found a new friend.

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