For much of his life, Timothy Rohrer, a now-young adult who was diagnosed with autism as a second-grader, has dealt with exclusion from his peers.
You might have heard of him before. We met with him in 2019 after he penned and published a pamphlet in which he guides people on how to treat those with disabilities.
He also has an inspirational website that does the same.
In the pamphlet, Rohrer urges people to put themselves in the shoes of those with disabilities, and to imagine what it would be like to deal with the same challenges they do.
His guide quickly began circulating, and after being published by the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education and shared all over the country, Rohrer began making appearances at conferences and schools.
“He’s reached a really big audience — much bigger than we could have imagined,” Rohrer’s mother, Amy, said. “He can inspire. When he speaks, he inspires. They engage.”
As Tim met with more people and spoke to more audiences, he kept hearing a suggestion: “A few participants said (to Tim), ‘Have you ever thought of writing a children’s book?’”
A pandemic gives life to a new idea
When COVID-19 began spreading like wildfire and the global pandemic set in, Tim’s appearances came to a halt immediately.
“There was nothing else to do,” Amy said. “We thought writing a book would be a good way to cope -- to create resources teachers can use to teach their children about autism.”
Tim’s mom said she saw how hard it was for kids with disabilities to learn during the pandemic. And that was even true for many who weren’t struggling through disabilities.
“The quarantine that we felt during the pandemic is how (Tim) has felt during every day of life,” Amy said. “(Schools) teach about bullying and drugs -- why can’t they teach about disabilities?”
Tim got right to work on the book, and so came to fruition “Timmy’s Story: A Story About Autism and Friendship!”
It wasn’t an overnight project, but Rohrer already had all the pieces; he had put a lot of work into his pamphlet, which wasn’t just about educating the general population on those with disabilities. It was more so about teaching everyone how to treat one another. It was about inclusion for all.
Timmy, the main character in Rohrer’s book, is kind of like Rohrer as a kid, his mom said. He doesn’t feel comfortable when he’s touched on the shoulder or when he hears a loud sound. He also feels excluded by people.
Upon learning that he has autism, in the book, Timmy’s mom is better able to understand how to respond to him. She learns different ways to help Timmy, through therapy and sensory toys -- and it works.
As the book moves forward, Timmy’s teacher informs his class about what autism is. By helping them to better understand the condition and what it’s like for Timmy, the boy is able to see a clear difference in how they treat him and how inclusive they are with him.
At the end of the day, real-life Tim wants to drive home what the characters in his book have learned: How to better understand autism and how to be inclusive -- to those with disabilities, as well as to those without disabilities.
Now, Tim’s hope is that he can get his book into all libraries across the country, so that the message can educate kids in schools everywhere.
“Tim’s theory is that all kids should be taught social skills on how to communicate and (be inclusive),” his mom said.
Amid the pandemic, Tim participated in Zoom conferences to keep spreading his message. He also joined a local nonprofit organization called 5Help Foundation to participate in assisting his community.
Tim can now add “author” to his list of ways he’s doing some good for the world. He has sold about 500 books, at last check.