Millstone teen with autism had something to say. It went viral and changed his life
Tim Rohrer's heartfelt advice on how to treat people with disabilities led to global feedback, speaking gigs and what he sought most -- friendships.
MILLSTONE - Tim Rohrer’s expectations were modest when he decided to go public with a deeply personal message: It hurts to be excluded because you have autism.
The Millstone teen hoped the brochure he created, “How to be a Good Influence to People with Disabilities,” would make an impact locally.
Turns out, it resonated globally.
Feedback started pouring in last April, after the Asbury Park Press featured Tim and the brochure during Autism Awareness Month. It came from a workplace in Louisiana, a church group in Arizona and a teacher in the Baltic nation of Latvia — who translated the brochure into Latvian to share it with her students, one of whom has muscular dystrophy.
“Tim has followers on his Facebook page from the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia — all over the place,” mom Amy Rohrer said. “His message going that far and wide is more amazing than I ever imagined.”
Media outlets from Nevada, Texas, Florida and Ohio reached out for interviews. School districts and educator groups across New Jersey booked him as a speaker. Tim, who turned 19 in May, even had an offer to make a presentation in Washington State (he couldn’t make that one).
“I was surprised and overwhelmed at the same time,” Tim said of the outpouring.
Of all the interactions of the past few months, one hit home the most. A former classmate from Allentown High School messaged him on Facebook, apologizing for excluding him.
The courage to speak
The question Tim gets asked most often: What gave him the courage to speak?
“Because I grew up being excluded during my childhood and in high school,” he said, “and I don’t want that to happen to any other person with a disability.”
In June he addressed a packed room of educators, therapists and parents at a conference of the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education — an early supporter of his brochure.
“These past couple of months have been extremely uplifting, seeing Tim's story spread around the country,” said Aimee Tillyer, the NJCIE’s development manager. “The moment Amy Rohrer sent me Tim's guide, I knew he was going to inspire multiple people.”
He’s expanding the outreach, writing essays for his Facebook page (one was translated into Arabic by a global inclusion initiative) and creating three different age-group presentations. One is for grades K-2, another for grades 3-4 and the 30-minute version is for middle- and high-schoolers. That one includes a PowerPoint slides, a speech, and videos about disability awareness and autism awareness.