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Help A 4th Grader Teach His Classmates About Autism

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Twin Cities is home to one of the premiere children’s mental health centers in the country.

The Washburn Center for Children in Minneapolis helps pair therapists with families and helps schools get kids the help they need to be successful.

One of those kids is Elijah, who’s overcome huge challenges. Now, he’s helping his classmates understand why he’s different.

“I’m here because we want to tell you guys about autism,” Elijah told his classmates.

It wasn’t the usual lesson plan for the group of 4th graders — but it was a necessary one.

Elijah has autism and severe ADHD.

“I would get really mad. I would throw things,” he said.

Now it’s different.

“When I’m mad, I can breathe; I can take a break,” Elijah said. “I can talk about it.”

Lisa Vaupel, a Washburn school-based therapist at Valley View Elementary, said she worked with Elijah to help him calm himself down.

Vaupel works with kids like Elijah who have challenges functioning at home, in the community and with their peers.

“He knew what he wanted to do. He just didn’t do what he wanted to do,” Vaupel said. “When we could slow it down, he was able to do it.”

She used cognitive behavioral therapy to help Elijah understand what he was feeling was OK and how to deal with it.

“So a lot of that was identifying his emotions, and helping to know what his thoughts were,” she said.

Vaupel also helped Elijah understand what having autism means.

“It means your brain works different, and sometimes you get frustrated,” the fourth grader said.

Knowing he likes to draw and write, Vaupel helped Elija write a book.

“We did a lot of things about telling his story of school and his family — things that were hard and things he was good at,” Vaupel said.

And that led to him making a movie for his classmates…so they could understand Elija better, too.

——-

The video explains some of the problems he has to overcome and how he’s just like them.

He’s a star on the soccer field, rides dirt bikes and likes to figure out how things work.

And he says he’s proud to be who he is.

How You Can Help

We’ve got volunteers from Washburn Center for Children ready to take your calls and your donations. All the money raised goes to help kids like Elijah.

In fact, just $40 is enough to help a child get a year’s worth of therapy.

To learn more, call 1-800-542-9226.

You can also pick up your cell phone and text in a special $10 donation that will be added to your cell phone bill. Just text the word “Washburn” to 80100.

Web Extra: Elijah At Home

Web Extra: Elijah At School

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