Thriving Meyer Academy student with autism stars at TEDx event

Benji Gans, a seventh-grade student at the Meyer Academy who is excelling despite autism, spoke at a TEDx event at the Benjamin Middle School last week. Photo courtesy of Belen Woods/SBS Agency

Benji Gans didn’t say a word until he well past his toddler years.

His parents were told he would never speak. But on Friday, Benji, a seventh-grade student at the Arthur I. Meyer Jewish Academy who is on the autism spectrum, took the stage in front of a room full of people at a TEDx conference to talk about how he’s succeeded. He was one of the keynote speakers.

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It was hard for him to learn to write, throw a ball or do anything that required him to use his hands, he said, according to a summary. Debby Gans, his mom, never gave up and worked to provide him with the speech, occupational and physical therapy that he needed.

Benji and Debby Gans pose for a photo at his TEDx talk at The Benjamin Middle School in North Palm Beach. Benji is a seventh-grade student at the Arthur I. Meyer Jewish Academy in Palm Beach Gardens. Photo courtesy of Belen Woods/SBS Agency

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He put in a lot of hard work, and now his challenges are less than they used to be, he said. The therapies teach his body and brain to cooperate with each other. Spirituality, though, comes first, he said. Prayers bring him happiness and make him calm.

His advice for helping people with autism is simple: Always be patient. Share schedules and plans.

“Your brain processes a lot faster than mine does, so just be patient,” Benji said, according to a summary of his talk.

As a very young child, Benji expressed his discomfort with constant crying. He was paralyzed with fear. Routine sounds and everyday life bothered him. Debby Gans said she and her husband were told Benji’s social skills were severely impaired, so they should keep their expectations low and love him instead of spending money on unproven therapies, according to a summary.

She was undeterred. It paid off.

Benji even has strong foreign language skills. The principal at school once heard him speak Hebrew and mistook him for an Israeli, he said. He encouraged people to think of his story if a doctor ever tells them their child will never walk, talk, run or read.

“Hope is everywhere…Keep trying,” he said.

 

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