Connor Cunningham, a junior in high school, has become an advocate for autism, speaking to children and teachers in the Sunny Isles Beach area about autism and the importance of tolerance.
Cunningham, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, enjoys public speaking. He said that, as a child, he received help for his Asperger’s, but it was never from someone who knew what he was going through. This encouraged him to become an advocate.
The speeches that Cunningham gives are particularly for third and fourth graders. He also addresses some other middle-schoolers. In his speeches, he starts out by relating to the audience he is talking to – touching on topics, such as art, video games and favorite movies. He continues with facts, personal stories, humor and games. He also gives the children a chance to ask questions.
Because of his success with his advocacy, Cunningham has started his own organization called “Stand in My Shoes.” His hope is that the organization can grow into a speaker’s bureau and then it can be used as a school resource. He also wants to start recording podcasts and have an online forum for children with autism to help them connect.
Cunningham says that speaking at Sunny Isles was, and has been, a great opportunity. He says that the kids are a lot of fun and that knowing that they listened and felt compassion was rewarding.
Cunningham hopes that his speeches and advocacy have helped other kids who feel different and that they know that there is someone in similar shoes there to listen to them.
By Sejal Sheth