4th Grader Announces He Has Autism in Spontaneous Speech for Classmates

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“For a really long time, you guys have not known that I have autism.”

That’s what this fourth-grade student from Chino Valley, California, had to say to his classmates.

Eleven-year-old Rumari Zalez's viral speech on autism all started when he asked his teacher if he could say something to his classmates as they were working on projects for Autism Awareness Month in April.

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🧩 Today, a beautiful thing occurred within my classroom. My two most important mottos and lessons I stress every single day with my students is to “Be Kind” and to believe in one’s self through the growth mindset of “Yes I Can”. • • It is #AutismAwareness Month and every classroom on campus has been asked to have each student decorate a paper puzzle piece and hang it on our classroom doors. When I handed out the puzzle pieces, most students were familiar with the idea of Autism and aware of the cause of decorating the puzzle pieces. What my students did not know is that Autism is present within our classroom with one of our fellow classmates, Rumari. With excitement, Rumari rose his hand and said “May I please say something?” I nodded and said “of course”, but never could I have imagined what was to follow. • • Rumari has faced challenges and barriers beyond what any of us will ever be able to fully understand. But today, Rumari stood in front of the classroom with full confidence, enthusiasm, and courage and showed us that there is no challenge or barrier that can stop him. He brought to life the meaning of “Yes I Can” as he explained to his fellow classmates that he was autistic. With full knowledge, he explained the differences that may come when being autistic and how the spectrum is vast. He courageously spoke about his own differences and quirks, while defining what it means to make everyone feel like a someone. • • My other students and I sat quietly and listened, completely engulfed in every word he spoke to us. Because of this, it took me a bit before realizing I needed to capture this moment. Without any of the students knowing, I hit record and captured the final moments of Rumari speaking to us and the raw, authentic reactions of the rest of my students. It is then, that I lost my ability to hold back the tears. It is then, that the daily lessons to “Be Kind” and to remember “Yes I Can” were brought together. • • If I were unable to ever teach again or if there was ever a question to my path into this role as an educator, this moment solidified my purpose. With permission from Rumari’s parents, I wanted to share with you this moment:

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“He was so excited,” his teacher Lisa Moe told InsideEdition.com. “He has a very good grasp on autism and how the spectrum works. He was talking about how it was a blessing. His mom tells him that he is a blessing every day.”

Rumari even went on to explain his self-stimulatory behavior, also known as stimming.

“This is something I like to do,” he said, going on to explain that it makes him feel good and other kids without autism might not understand the sensation.

“Throughout the year, the kids were like, 'What is he doing? What is that?'” Moe said. “He explained it, and in that moment, it was just simple. It was just, 'Oh OK, he likes it and that’s what he does.' No questions asked.” 

Rumari ended the speech strong, and let others know to be kind to each other and to make everyone feel important.

He even took a moment to ask for questions, during which his classmates asked for “huggies,” which is Rumari’s word for a hug.

His parents, Olivia and Rudolpho Zalez, told InsideEdition.com they were blown away by their son’s speech.

“We were extremely impressed and just shocked,” Rudolpho said. “It’s difficult to stand up and just talk in front of your peers but especially about something like this, and for him to be so brave and just raise his hand and ask.”

His parents explained that Rumari hasn’t always been so confident about having autism.

“It’s not all fun speeches,” Rudolpho said. “There are time we have to persevere through the hard times, but I think we keep positive mindset.”

But they’ve taught him that like his favorite X-Men characters' mutations, Rumari’s autism is his superpower and that “it’s different, not less,” his dad added.

Aside from his superpower, Rumari is like any other 11-year-old boy.

“He’s an amazing kid with an amazing personality and probably one of the biggest hearts,” Rudolpho said. “He cares for everyone and is cautious for everyone’s feelings and emotions. We’re blessed.”


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