By Marty Mayfield
What is hoped to be an annual event was the brain child of a very special Raton High student. 14 year old Johnny Gentry, a student with Autism, wanted to bring awareness to the affliction.
Gentry spoke to the small first time crowd and told them that he wanted people to know that people with Autism “are not weird or stupid and Autism is not contagious. We are not spoiled brats who throw temper tantrums, we are human beings who struggle with what may seem to you as normal day life.” He added that they learn differently and what may take a normal person once or twice to understand may take a person with Autism 20 or 30 times to understand. Autistics may have trouble expressing their feelings and understanding yours.
He added that it takes a special understanding to take on an Autistic child and that he feels fortunate that God put him in a place with understanding parents and an understanding community. The staff at Raton Public Schools works with about 13 children in the school system according to Lou Martinez, head of the special ed department. She told KRTN that the students are special and have their own unique qualities. Autism is not easy to diagnose because it doesn’t follow a specific set of symptoms. Autistic students can have varying degrees of symptoms. They can be very high functioning and sociable to withdrawn and almost impossible to reach in the worst cases.
This walk was started by one of those special students.