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Minnesota teen author visits Harlem school to share message about autism acceptance

Seventeen-year-old Andrew Brundidge traveled from his home in Minnesota to a school in Harlem and wowed a group of elementary students with his dancing.


Brundidge showed off some of his best moves after reading from a new picture book that he wrote himself in recognition of Autism Acceptance Month in April.


In Andrew Does his Dance, the first-time teen author tells his own story drawn from his experience in his family.


The eldest of the four Brundidge children, Andrew’s younger sister and two younger brothers have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Andrew Does His Dance shows the big brother’s tenderness and good deeds on behalf of his siblings, often carried out while he’s moving and grooving. By just being himself, he realizes that he is special, too, in a way that’s different from his siblings.


Andrew’s visit to PS 133 in Harlem brought him into a classroom with students enrolled in the school’s Horizon program; it integrates students with autism with peers who are not on the spectrum.


“I love coming out working with the youth. It’s great to see well developing kids with autism and quote-unquote normal children mixing together and having a great time learning the same things,” said Andrew.


With a limited number of children’s books written about families of color and even fewer featuring children on the autism spectrum, Andrew Does his Dance struck a chord with its relevance and representation.


“To have Andrew here and read this book was great for our scholars to see. They are able to know that their siblings who do not have autism love and care for them,” said PS 133 school principal Ellman Schwanna.


Accompanying Andrew on his visit to the school was his mom Sheletta,

Herself the author of three picture books based on the real life experiences of  her three children on the spectrum.


“We got so busy with the other kids that we forgot to tell Andrew how much we see him and how much we appreciate his hard work,” Sheletta told the students. “I said, son, you should have a book too but you should write this one, not me.”


After Andrew read his book aloud to the class, the mother and son led the students in an empowering writing exercise.


“Everyone has a book inside themselves,” Sheletta said. “Think of a story about yourself that you want the world to know. Let’s work on it! Draw it and write it, do your cover right now.”


That encouragement was appreciated by the educators who invited the Brundidge to the school.


“It was magnificent for them to get an opportunity to see Andrew and to do some writing and tell their own stories. It’s inspiring them to understand that reading and writing go hand in hand,” said Sean Davenport, superintendent of the Harlem Community School District. “That promotes that they can do anything that anyone else can do.”


While the dancing teen author from Minnesota left an impression on the students, they will have  a tangible way to remember his visit. The Brundidges donated 25 copies of “Andrew Does his Dance” for the classrooms and school library for students who want to re-read the story and see themselves in it.


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