Monday, May 27, 2024

Niusha Summers, 9, after giving a speech Monday at an Autism Awareness Day event at City Hall. (Photo: Zachary Davis)

City Hall was lit with blue spotlights Monday at an Autism Awareness Day celebration with Mayor Marc McGovern and the principals of four public schools leading the event: Robin Harris of the Fletcher-Maynard Academy, Darrell Williams of the King Open School, Katie Charner-Laird of the Cambridgeport School and Manuel Fernandez of the Cambridge Street Upper School.

Among the speakers at the event was Niusha Summers, 9, of Fairmont Street, a Cambridgeport third-grader. This was the speech she read, lightly edited and condensed for publication:

I had a shock when I found out my brother, Misha, has autism. My father and my mother thought Misha might be deaf; they didn’t know why he wasn’t responding to them. When we went to a doctor, she said that my brother has autism. We started treating him differently than we did before, in a way that he was very special. I didn’t understand it. I was confused. I really wanted that attention too. This year in my class, I wrote this essay for people with autism.

You might think that we could treat people with autism like any other people. But I think no, that is not true. People with autism should be treated specially, not like every other person. Misha needs to be treated specially because he could be hurt really fast. He has more sensitive senses than other people.

I think people with autism don’t have the protection they need. If they are walking on the sidewalk and see a road, they don’t know to look both ways before crossing. One time my brother bolted from my dad’s hand and ran into the middle of the street. You are maybe thinking: But people with autism can learn those things in a split second. They will learn exactly what to do. But I think: Definitely not. People with autism may learn, but not in a split second.

I think police should be trained to understand people with autism better. When children with autism get lost or separated from their families, police don’t know how to approach them. Police don’t know if they are mad, upset, confused or hurt. They just don’t know! Police should be ready. Also, for example – and believe me, this is true – last summer a child with autism got lost in Cambridge, and the police didn’t know how to approach him. He couldn’t talk and so couldn’t say who he was, or where his parents were. I think the police should have noticed what the child’s reaction was! People with autism should be cared for.

Sometimes children with autism get bullied, and that is wrong. My brother knows what that feels like, because one time he got bullied. A big guy pushed my brother around. Imagine if you were the one passing a classroom and everyone laughs at you.

People with autism are special, intelligent and nice! They have talents nobody else has. They are unique in many different ways. You may not know that yet, but all those qualities are always inside.

My brother is one of the most important people in my life. He is 6 and he is just beginning to say his first words. I know those words will be truly intelligent. It may be frustrating sometimes, but I will never give up!