Boy goes viral with videos explaining why 'autism is cool'

(Photo credit: John Le, WLOS)

News 13's Person of the Week, Conner McKnight of Cullowhee, has a message about autism that's worth sharing.

Conner's videos about his personal experience have been shared across the world including countries like Australia and Italy.

"Sometimes people that have autism can't speak for themselves," he said. "So, I have autism, and I can speak for myself."

At 12 years old, he's already got a grasp of how he can touch lives. His first video was posted in April during Autism Awareness month.

His two videos have a combined 50,000 views and they've been shared hundreds of times.

"I have autism!" he declared in his first online appearance. "When I found out I had autism, I didn't know what it was until I was horrified. I was so scared. I felt like it was the end of the world."

That fear has long since faded.

"Autism is a really cool thing to have," he told News 13. "The way autism affects me, I can still talk and explain autism. "

His nearly four minute video debut outlined misconceptions he wanted to clear up. It was news to many at Cullowhee Valley School because a lot of people had no idea about his autism.

"That was really brave of him to kind of announce that to the world," his mother Becky said. "Conner, being who he is, kind of breaks those stereotypes."

He takes away some of the stigma by explaining why he thinks people with autism are special.

"Less than half of people born have autism," he said in one video. "So, I'm proud to be one of the less than half."

"I think Conner is not the kid you think of when it comes to autism," his mom said. "He's very articulate, he's very social, he's extremely compassionate."

Conner seems like a natural spokesperson. Interestingly, he didn't utter his first words until he was 3 years old.

"'Yay,' he said 'yay' a lot!" his mother recalled. "And one day he just started talking like he was talking all along."

Conner's teacher Jennifer Patten said his online presence is a public service.

"You should be proud of yourself," Patten told him.

"Yay!" he responded.

"Because you speak about stuff that people may not want to come out and talk about," Patten continued.

Sometimes when we embrace small victories, we prepare for bigger challenges.

"Yay, we did it!" Conner said, tossing a football in P.E. class. "Now, one more. Ready?"

It's kind of hard not to root for him.

"Promise to be nice, OK?" he said, talking to the ball.

With a new sense of purpose, Conner plans to make more videos with a direct message.

"That having autism is not a bad thing," he said. "It's a great thing!"

He'll continue to seeking out small victories while shattering big myths.

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