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Canton teen challenges classmates to raise money for Garden City's Burger School

Sue Mason - Observer & Eccentric


Jonathan Wyman saw a need and decided to do something about it.
So the 14-year-old Canton resident stood before his fellow students at South Pointe Scholars Charter Academy and did a presentation about autism and the Burger School for Students with Autism. His goal was to educate his classmates about autism and Burger and to raise money to allow students at the Garden City school to go on field trips.
It wasn’t an easy task for Jonathan. He has autism.
“I want to help raise money for Burger, a school that works with people like me. I hope to raise $757, so they can go on field trips with that money,” Jonathan wrote in an email. “April is Autism Awareness Month and I think people should know that we are people with feelings.”
“Every year, Jonathan has done a presentation on autism. This year, he focused on the problem of having the kids at Burger get to go on field trips,” his mother Paulette said. “He realizes autism makes him different, but not that different than other students.”
Founded in 1978, Burger School for Students with Autism is operated by Garden City Public Schools. The school, which serves 32 school districts in Wayne County, is the largest public school in America to serve children with autism.
Burger students range in age from preschool to 26, at three locations. Garden City’s Lathers Early Childhood and Preschool Center houses preschool children, while Burger West has students through 10th grade and Burger East is home to students ages 17-26.

His challenge

Jonathan’s challenge at South Pointe was to raise $757 — $1 for every student who attends the academy — that will be divided between Burger East and Burger West. He armed himself with plenty of facts and figures about autism and even visited Burger and interviewed eight staff members in preparing for his presentation.
“I learned about this special school and how they help educate students that are very much like me and students very much not like me,” he said in his presentation. “See, people with autism are very different. Mr. Joe Valdiva, principal of Burger East, said this quote: ‘When you have met a person with autism, you have met only one person with autism.’ That means when someone has autism, they are different than someone else who has autism.”
His message to South Pointe students was that he’s different, they’re different, everyone is different. In the case of autism, “we see the world a little differently,” he said.
He pointed out that while he doesn’t like to say the word bananas, others are fine with it. While visiting Burger, he met a student who needed to turn off the light three times before leaving a room and another student who had a gift for memorizing just about anything.
“This is a gift I have. I can say the presidents start to finish and in reverse,” he said. “Sometimes colors, noises, tastes and smells bother people who have autism. Some of us repeat over and over again the same thing. A few students make sounds, like my brother. Some of the noisy students are mute, which means they cannot talk. Sometimes they can tell you why and other times they cannot tell you why certain stuff bothers them.”
Jonathan provided South Pointe also provided some statistics:
• The Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics suggests 1 in 50 children has autism. The predicted rate of autism will be 1 in 9 by 2022.
• A child has a greater risk of being diagnosed with autism than childhood cancer, diabetes and pediatric AIDS combined.
• There is no medical detection or cure for autism.
• Autism now affects 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys. Boys are nearly five times more likely than girls to have autism.
• Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S., yet the most underfunded. It receives less than 5 percent of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases. Total 2012 National Institutes of Health budget is $30.86 billion. Of this, only $169 million goes directly to autism research. This represents 0.55 percent of total NIH funding.
• Michigan has the fourth largest autistic population in the U.S. The rate of autism in Michigan has increased more than 100 percent since 2001, from 5,680 school children to more than 15,000.
In researching his presentation, Jonathan asked if it costs a lot of money to run a school for students with autism. He found out that it does. That’s when he decided he wanted to do something nice for the school that “has been helping kids like me and not so much like me for a long time.”
“Since, April is Autism Awareness Month, I think this is a good time to show support for Burger,” he said. “I want to challenge everyone at South Pointe to bring $1 to school, so Burger can buy sometechnology stuff or let some of the students go on a field trip. I learned that sometimes kids with autism do not get to go places. Many of them go to school and then back home. They do not go anywhere else. Sometimes people in the community do not like people with autism, because we are not like them.
“I am calling this Burger Bucks. It would make the kids at Burger very happy to get to go somewhere other than school and home,” he added.
Caring kids
Paulette Wyman said it’s second nature for students at South Pointe to donate and the response to her son’s Burger Bucks campaign has been wonderful.
“I had a little girl run up to me and give me $5 and tell me it was for Jonathan and Burger,” she said. “There are so many at South Pointe who want to come to Burger’s Autos for Autism show and make Rainbow bracelets to sell for Burger.
“South Pointe is a very accepting school. It’s multicultural and has a very caring bunch of kids,” she added.
While Jonathan has challenged South Pointe students to raise money for Burger, he also is accepting donations from the community. People interested in helping can their donations — checks should be made payable to the Lyman Foundation — and mail them to Jonathan at 41690 Metaline Drive, Canton, MI 48187. The Lyman Foundation is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to raising funds for Burger School for Students with Autism.

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