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My name is Maxwell Bane, but you can call me Max. I am 15 years old and I am a freshman at Fike High School.
I am a lot like most teenagers — some days I don’t want to get out of bed and go to school, but once I get there, I love to learn, to experience success and feel like I belong.
What is unique about the way God made me is that I have autism and speech motor apraxia. Together, they make it tough for me socialize and talk. But don’t be fooled, just because I don’t talk much doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot to say. I sometimes do a few things most other students at Fike don’t do as much. For example, I love to spin and flap my hands. It feels good and gives me a way to feel in control. I do it a lot when I am excited. I also can get really mad sometimes because it is pretty frustrating knowing what you want to say and not being able to say it.
Well, today, with the help of my mom and dad, who know me pretty well and can almost read my mind, I want to talk to you. Thanksgiving is this week and I want to say thank you to some really cool people who live in Wilson:
• The people at Barton: My family is a Barton family. Some of us work there, some go to school there and some graduated from there. I am there a lot. Whenever I go, everyone always says hi to me and are so glad to see me. Some of the students even get me off the bus in the afternoon and hang out with me after school too.
• Special Olympics: I love sports like the rest of my family. Kelsey Newton at the Parks and Recreation Center has given me the opportunity to compete just like them.
• Sidekix: I want friends, but it is hard for me to figure out how to be a friend. Sidekix is a new nonprofit in Wilson that brings together kids with and without disabilities to do fun stuff together like bowling, playing basketball and eating out.
• The Arc and SPOT: This summer, I went to Camp Sunshine sponsored by The Arc at the SPOT. We went to the park, movies and pool. It was a great way to meet new friends.
• St. Therese Catholic Church: I love my church because I can be myself there. I am valued for the human being I am.
• My sister, Riley, brother, Archer, and sister-in-law, Virginia: I know I drive you guys crazy sometimes, but I am so glad you live in Wilson right now and wanted you three to know how much it means to know that one day when Mom and Dad are in heaven, I will always have a home.
• Fike High School: I love being a Golden Demon. I used to attend volleyball games when my sister played there. It is really cool to be a student now. I love my teachers and kids in my class. I love going to football games and listening to the band. I love being in the Student Demon Club and going to Demon Time.
• I especially want to thank three groups of people: First, Mrs. Goings and my other teachers for finding ways for me to be included, just like all the other kids at Fike. Second, to Reece Nelson for being kind to me. I was at a Fike football game earlier in the season and there is a student section where the students cheer on the team. I really wanted to be a part of that, but just didn’t know how. Then, the coolest thing happened. Reece came up to me and asked if I wanted to hang out with the other students. I said yes and I went down and stood with all the other students and watched the game. I felt like I really belonged at Fike. Third, I want to thank Coach West and my teammates on the track team. I went to practice last week and we did my favorite thing in the world — run! It was really cool when my teammates and Coach West cheered me on during practice.
My whole life I have simply wanted to be included. As a kid with autism, this world is hard to figure out and I need help navigating it. I want to belong just like everyone else. Sometimes, it only takes one teacher like Mrs. Goings who sees the value of her students being full members of the student body, one brave student to do what Reece did, or one coach and team like the track team, and everyone else begins to realize we are all more alike than we are different.
So, thank you to the town of Wilson and the people who have been so kind to me.
Editor’s Note: This letter was originally published on Nov. 22 and is the month of November’s nominee for the Elizabeth Swindell Award for local commentary. Swindell Award winners and monthly nominees are selected by the Times and republished to note the recognition.