Essay offers inspiration for all

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An essay by a Providence Elementary School fifth-grader Emily Betenbaugh-Harris about her life with autism impressed us, and we’re not the only ones.

The essay, submitted as an entry for the PTA Reflections program, went on to win top awards at her school, from the school district and received the state PTA’s Overall Award of Excellence in literature category.

“My brain works different but I can believe, dream and inspire,” the 11-year-old wrote in a five-paragraph essay as an entry for the PTA Reflections program.

Emily’s essay touches on her belief in herself and her belief that she’s nice, fun and smart. The essay also shares her dreams of attending college, researching animals and her ambition and ability to inspire others.

“I can inspire everyone to make right choices about respecting others,” Emily wrote. “I can inspire everyone to have nice feelings about me and about autism. I can inspire everyone to learn about autism and teach others about autism.”

Emily told us that she hoped her work, titled “Emily’s Autism,” would make others aware of autism, and we believe she succeeded.

Emily was diagnosed at age 6 with a mild case of autism, said her mother, Jennifer Harris.

Pam Lawrence, a skills aide at Providence Elementary, has worked with Emily since she was a first-grader. She suggested Emily write about her life for the contest. It came as no surprise, Lawrence said, that the essay went onto receive state accolades.

“It’s amazing,” Lawrence said. “When it was written and knowing the way that I felt about the words that came out of her head, it did not surprise me that it started moving forward, and when it got to the state level, it was very exciting and rewarding to know that her essay was selected as a state winner.”

Emily’s father, Justin Harris, said he’s “blown away” by the accolades his daughter’s essay has received. He said it amazes him that despite her struggles, she has done something to bring to light what she and other children like her experience.

We agree. Her thoughts on inspiring everyone to make right choices about respecting others reflect wisdom beyond her years and provide a valuable lesson for everyone.

Her work advanced to the National PTA Reflections contest and although it fell short of receiving national honors, it certainly won our hearts.

Congratulations, Emily, on your well-deserved awards. We’re glad you accepted the challenge to submit an essay.

Thanks for the inspiration.


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