Fourth grader opens up to classmates about autism — and their responses will melt your heart

Footage of a fourth-grade student with autism addressing his classmates is going viral due to the heartwarming response of his peers.

Lisa Moe, a teacher at Eagle Canyon Elementary in Chino Hills, Calif., began recording when 11-year-old Rumari Zalez got up in front of his class and began a powerful impromptu dialogue about his autism on April 5.

"For a really long time, you guys had not known I had autism," the little boy bravely said.

Rumari went on to demonstrate how a gesture he sometimes performs that others may consider "weird" — namely, hitting his fist into his palm as the back of his hand rests on his face — is actually a ritual that he performs for comfort.

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🧩 Today, a beautiful thing occurred within my classroom. My two most important mottos and lessons I stress every single day with my students is to “Be Kind” and to believe in one’s self through the growth mindset of “Yes I Can”. • • It is #AutismAwareness Month and every classroom on campus has been asked to have each student decorate a paper puzzle piece and hang it on our classroom doors. When I handed out the puzzle pieces, most students were familiar with the idea of Autism and aware of the cause of decorating the puzzle pieces. What my students did not know is that Autism is present within our classroom with one of our fellow classmates, Rumari. With excitement, Rumari rose his hand and said “May I please say something?” I nodded and said “of course”, but never could I have imagined what was to follow. • • Rumari has faced challenges and barriers beyond what any of us will ever be able to fully understand. But today, Rumari stood in front of the classroom with full confidence, enthusiasm, and courage and showed us that there is no challenge or barrier that can stop him. He brought to life the meaning of “Yes I Can” as he explained to his fellow classmates that he was autistic. With full knowledge, he explained the differences that may come when being autistic and how the spectrum is vast. He courageously spoke about his own differences and quirks, while defining what it means to make everyone feel like a someone. • • My other students and I sat quietly and listened, completely engulfed in every word he spoke to us. Because of this, it took me a bit before realizing I needed to capture this moment. Without any of the students knowing, I hit record and captured the final moments of Rumari speaking to us and the raw, authentic reactions of the rest of my students. It is then, that I lost my ability to hold back the tears. It is then, that the daily lessons to “Be Kind” and to remember “Yes I Can” were brought together. • • If I were unable to ever teach again or if there was ever a question to my path into this role as an educator, this moment solidified my purpose. With permission from Rumari’s parents, I wanted to share with you this moment:

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Rumari's classmates were clearly excited by his speech, and many of them had questions and thoughts for their friend. The 11-year-old buzzed around the room and accepted hugs and kind words from his peers.

"I think you're amazing, pal," one girl told him.

"This is not a question, but I think you're awesome just the way you are," added another.

"It doesn't matter what a person does or if it may look weird or if they might make weird noises sometimes," posited a third. "They're good just the way they are, like you, Rumari."

Moe told Good Morning America that she was absolutely floored by the special moment, which happened to coincide with the beginning of Autism Awareness Month. 

"I wasn't imagining that I was going to capture what I captured," she said. "Seeing his confidence to stand up and do has solidified my purpose of being a teacher and creating that environment to say unapologetically, 'Like it or not, this is me.'"

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