With everything that comes with their condition, people with autism often find themselves isolated and singled out. Blake Rice is one example of a teen with autism, but he is far from alienated. In fact, the students in his high school wanted Blake to feel like he belonged – so much, that they all banded together to do something extraordinary for him.
One of the most challenging aspects of being in the autism spectrum is facing difficulties with social communication and interaction. For instance, people with autism may find it difficult to start or carry a conversation, therefore, making it hard for them to make friends. They may also not understand certain social rules the way that other people do.
Blake didn’t always feel like the “life of the party”, but his fellow students at South Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, North Carolina see him as a sweet and friendly person. In order to acknowledge their friend, the students united and nominated Blake to be their Homecoming King.
And he won!
In a video uploaded by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the crowd can be heard cheering and clapping for Blake, as he triumphantly throws his fists in the air upon being hailed as the Homecoming King. He gracefully accepted the sash and the crown and he gave a big bow before the audience. As innocent as he was, Blake bowed so low and so abruptly that the crown fell from his head!
He was crowned once more, and Blake did a little prance around the gym before busting out some sweet dance moves! This had the crowd roaring louder and after a while, Blake headed over to the bleachers to dole out high fives.
“We are so proud of you for this amazing display of love and inclusion,” school administrators wrote on Facebook.
Matthew Rice, Blake’s dad, is one proud father. He is also a CMS Sabre and a teacher at his son’s school. He wrote an open letter to the students after that evening, thanking them for supporting his son and making him feel included.
Part of his message reads:
“All who nominated, organized and voted chose to turn what could be an opportunity for exclusion into a celebration of inclusion. It sets you apart. It shows the world just a glimpse of the amazing culture of South Meck. By choosing to honor Blake, you honor the best all of you have to offer this world. You chose not the hottest guy, or the richest guy, or the smartest guy. You chose the most unlikely guy, and supported him unconditionally, all of his complications and disabilities in full display and your ROARED your support.”
It is important to note that individuals with autism don’t think of autism as a challenge at all, it’s just the way they are. So it is necessary that we treat them with compassion and respect, and make sure that they feel accepted even though they are a little bit different from the rest of us.
May this beautiful gesture from the students of South Mecklenburg High School echo through the rest of the schools in America and beyond. May this also serve as a reminder to us to be kinder and more understanding of our brothers and sisters who have autism.
Watch the clip below to witness Blake do his happy dance after being crowned as Homecoming King.
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