One student at The Baby Fold's Hammitt Junior-Senior High School wasn't slated to speak at Wednesday's graduation ceremony, but outgoing senior Sean Wyrick had something he needed to say. After politely raising his hand and asking permission to address the crowd, Baby Fold staff quickly turned off the recessional music and watched as he took the podium. Unable to communicate when he first entered The Baby Fold's autism program in 2007 at the age of 3, Sean's unscripted, nearly 2-minute address, captivated the onlookers and astounded his teachers.
Thank you to "Miss T.C. for always helping me throughout the years with speech skills; I could not have learned to speak without her."
Speaking clearly, Sean addressed those who made an impact in his life, thanking many teachers including "Miss T.C. for always helping me throughout the years with speech skills; I could not have learned to speak without her," and Miss Cheryl for "never forgetting who I was." Sean acknowledged the "rocky" periods he experienced and the care from Baby Fold teachers and staff who encouraged him throughout the years, giving "a lot of moral support this year when I severely needed it." In closing, Sean left his peers with advice on the power of communication, sharing "While it may not be everyone’s preference, you must know that it is great to actually talk to someone when you need it because you never know when someone could actually help you out. I learned that this year and I learned hiding your intentions rather than speaking them out with someone can make you just worse."
Watch Sean's speech here:
Sean's Assistant Principal, Dani Wipperman, shared that as "Sean thanked his teachers and reminded us all that it is brave to talk to someone when you need it, the room erupted in applause and not a dry eye was left in the audience. Sean’s speech inspires others that despite the challenges of Autism Spectrum Disorder, many obstacles can be overcome."
"I don’t know what we would have done without the love, support, and school structure The Baby Fold has given to him and to our family."
Teacher therapist Asst. Cheryl Shook (pictured in side by side image with Sean) spoke of Sean's perseverance and determination during his 15 years in The Baby Fold's special education program, "Sean has worked so incredibly hard since age 3 to become the successful young man he is today. He has been surrounded by an incredible support system throughout his time here at Hammitt School. Between the school staff and his amazing parents, he has learned coping skills that he can use the rest of his life." Teacher Therapist Suzy Kelley, shared the recipe that makes The Baby Fold's Hammitt School program so successful for children with autism, "It's the blending and melding of programs, the frequent family communication, and loving, caring people on his team. Sean should be so proud of what he has accomplished and we are all blessed to have had a front row seat to watch his successes unfold."
Sean's mother Laura Wyrick, shared, "When he was 2, I wasn't sure he'd ever talk in sentences. When he was 3, I didn't think we could find an appropriate school for him. His behaviors were out of control. His whole life there have been issues that seemed like mountains, but Sean chipped away at them until the issues were a thing of the past. I have learned to never say never. I have learned to never give up. I am proud of Sean for facing his struggles head on. And I'm so proud of him for having the courage to stand in front of a crowd and speak like this as I know it was hard for him." Speaking to reporters from The Pantagraph, Laura shared that her son's speech “speaks volumes to the thanks that he has and how he feels about how far he’s come … he has a lot of gratitude for what he’s achieved and what others at The Baby Fold Hammitt School have helped him to achieve.” (Janik, Mateusz. "Never Giving Up." The Pantagraph, June 9, 2022, p1) "I don’t know what we would have done without the love, support, and school structure The Baby Fold has given to him and to our family."
Read The Pantagraph Story about Sean Wyrick here.
Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental condition that impacts how individuals interact or communicate with others. Autism affects 1 in 44 children in the United States. Common characteristics include repetitive behaviors and impaired communication and social interaction. While there is no cure, early interventions and therapies can help to reduce symptoms and support development and learning.