Teen With Autism Finds Spirited Way to Make Friends at School

277
277
0

“Before I was the mascot I didn’t really find anything confident about me,” Andrese Duke tells MLive.com in the video below. “I was just a regular kid until when I became the mascot, I feel confident in me.”

The 13-year-old from Grand Blanc, Mich., has autism, so socializing with his peers at Grand Blanc West Middle School can be difficult for him. But when Andrese dresses up like Victor E. Bobcat, his school’s mascot, it’s easier for him to approach people, give out high fives and share a hug or two.

Check him out in the video below:

Live Mighty. Like us on Facebook.

277
277
0
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

RELATED VIDEOS

Custom-Made Shoes Help Kids Trek Through Life’s Most Difficult Journeys

373
373
1

A child walks into a hospital for his first day of chemotherapy. Another has already been in that hospital for weeks, receiving treatment after treatment for her rare illness. In a different wing, a teen is relearning how to walk after an accident. They’re all on different, difficult journeys they had no choice in embarking on.

425486_406256686120039_740780384_n And if they’re going to make it through, they’ll need a good pair of shoes on their feet.

Better yet — they’ll need a magical, custom-made, one-of-a-kind pair of shoes. That’s what Madison “Peach” Steiner thinks, anyway.

About three years ago, the 23-year-old artist from Farmington, N.M., founded “Peach’s Neet Feet,” a nonprofit where volunteer artists paint shoes for kids and teens living with diseases, disorders and disabilities.

“We use the shoes as a way to celebrate people,” Steiner told The Mighty. “We say, ‘Hey, these are yours and only yours.’ Kids with cancer may view them as their fighter shoes. A nonverbal kid may see them as a way to show their identity.”

1903984_646765872069118_5218148428999096611_n 1039742_487142814698092_186685806_o

11771_461425400603167_2119366757_n

Steiner estimates that her 30 volunteer artists have painted 2,000 shoes to date. To apply for a pair, parents can [email protected] with their child’s name in the subject line. Steiner then sends an application, most of which are approved. The artists sometimes even visit the kids to make sure they get the design right.

“We want the shoes to come out as unique and individual as possible,” Steiner explained. “They’re a part of the kids that represents who they are. From the beginning, I’ve hoped these shoes would become more than just shoes.”

539065_364483620297346_11834524_n

10304880_649509958461376_2968770263813780025_n

10372235_645728795506159_7420215004775649245_n

10446717_649856391760066_1391216398134662992_n

Kids outgrow, wear out and get shoes dirty. Kids step in puddles and spill drinks on themselves. Steiner knows this — she hopes that when they’re ready, these kids and their parents will view the shoes as a keepsake, a symbol of a long, hard but maybe beautiful journey.

On one occasion, Steiner delivered a pair too late — the shoes arrived on a customer’s doorstep days after their daughter had passed away from cancer.

“It was a situation where I froze and thought, ‘This is going to be a bad thing or a good thing,'” Steiner recalled. “They’ll view the shoes as something negative or they’ll see them as something to cherish.”

This couple chose the latter. They contacted Steiner to let her know they’d always take the shoes with them — in the car, on errands, on trips and to a memorial service at their daughter’s school, where a tree was planted in her honor.

“They were going to carry the shoes with them wherever they went,” Steiner said. “They were going to continue their daughter’s journey for her.”

10427231_647571631988542_1944408582325494574_n

Visit Peach’s Neet Feet’s website and Facebook page to learn more. If you’d like to cover the costs of a pair of shoes for a child, head here.

Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook.

And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.

 

373
373
1
TOPICS
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

8,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.