The first day of school can be a daunting and overwhelming experience for even the most outgoing of children. Even through the excitement, the day can be tough to approach without nerves.
For children who already face social challenges, those nerves can be ten times worse. The crowds, new faces, and break in routines can make the first day of school a bit of a nightmare for children with anxiety disorders or who sit on the autism spectrum.
That was exactly what happened when 8-year-old second-grader Connor Crites, who is nonverbal autistic, arrived at Minneha Elementary in Wichita, Kansas, for the first day of his new school year.
Connor had been nonverbal until the age of 5. And the chaos of the first day of school overwhelmed him so much that he had burst into tears.
Luckily, one of his classmates, Christian Moore, was there to scoop up little Connor and completely change his day. Christian took Connor by the hand and became his friend.
The fellow second-grader’s mother told the media that her son noticed Connor crying and seemingly in distress, so he went over to make sure the other student was okay.
“I seen him on the ground with Connor as Connor was crying in the corner and he was consoling him,” Christian’s mother told local news station KAKE TV. “And, he grabs his hand and walked him to the front door and he waited until the bell rang and he walked him inside the school and the rest was history.”
The gesture was appreciated by Connor, who spoke to the news station about how Christian made his day.
“He was kind to me,” Connor said. “I started crying and then he helped me. And, I was happy … He found me and held my hand and I got happy tears.”
It wasn’t just Connor himself who appreciated the hand, though. His mother, April, explained that it was a simple gesture but went a long way towards helping her son feel accepted and included in school.
“That’s all I can ask for, is someone to be open to him like that,” she said. “I’m so happy that something so positive is coming from all this, that my son got a friend. And, hopefully a friend for life.”
For parents of children on the autism spectrum, school can be a scary place. The possibility that other students will bully their child for problems with speaking, social interaction, or behavior control can lead them to spend their days anxiously awaiting a phone call that something has gone wrong.
For Connor’s mother, the fact that another student at such a young age was willing to reach out and offer friendship so willingly was a huge relief and source of joy.
“I fear every day that someone’s going to laugh at him because he doesn’t speak correctly or laugh at him because he doesn’t sit still or because he jumps up and down and flaps his hands,” she said.
It just goes to show that it doesn’t take much to change someone’s life. For both boys, each has a new friend, and all it took was a helping hand to spark.