Timothy Rohrer, an 18-year-old New Jersey resident with autism, has made waves this past November with a guide for students on how to treat peers with disabilities. Titled “How To Be a Good Influence to People With Disabilities,” Rohrer’s illustrated pamphlet has been circulated by the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education (NJCIE), according to an April 2019 report by App.com, and has also been picked up by the advocacy organizations Autism Speaks and Autism New Jersey. Rohrer will be featured by Autism New Jersey as an ambassador later this month, and will be speaking at an upcoming NJCIE conference as well.
The pamphlet, which outlines ten pointers encouraging inclusiveness and understanding towards people with disabilities, was the result of Rohrer’s own experiences struggling to fit in socially and feeling excluded by his peers. Rohrer, who was diagnosed with autism as a second grader ten years ago, had severe verbal delays, according to his mother, Amy Rohrer, and couldn’t hold a conversation until the third or fourth grade. Fortunately, he has made huge strides since then, earning his driver’s license at 17, and holding a part-time job at a concession stand, in addition to looking at colleges.
“It was very difficult to be excluded by my peers,” Rohrer was quoted as saying. “This made me feel depressed. I want to make sure people with disabilities have the same social opportunities as everyone else.”
Rohrer said his guide is not meant exclusively for people with autism, but encompasses other disabilities as well.
“This guide is not only for autism; it’s for all the other disabilities, too,” he explained. “It’s unfair for people with Down syndrome or cerebral palsy to be left out. Teenagers need to get out of their comfort zone and understand what (those with disabilities) are going through.”
As for his current social life, Rohrer said he has managed to make friends through Crossroads Young Adults, a youth group in Allentown, NJ.
“I made a few friends that I actually got to hang out with,” he was quoted as saying in App.com’s report. “They understood what it feels like for me to have autism.”
Joanne Schiumo, Rohrer’s second-grade teacher, has expressed admiration for her former student’s guide and the progress he has made socially.
“The guide is tremendous,” Schiumo said. “All of this was going on inside him all along, but you didn’t realize it. It’s really touched my heart.”