Iowa teen with autism opens up after an act of kindness from classmates
Woodbury Central is a relatively small school in Moville. One member of its student body is a 15 year old boy named Gage Bennett.
Gage has autism, and for most of his life, you could barely get him to open up. But some girls at his high school wanted to change that.
A time in the school day for friends to meet up and enjoy each other's company.
But at the start of this year, for Gage Bennett, it was a time spent alone.
"He really didn't sit," Woodbury Central Principal Dan Bormann said, "he kind of ate standing up and just liked to stand."
Bennett is autistic.
He would eat his lunches in the corner of the lunch room standing, that is, until some seniors noticed him.
"Gage would kind of just stand off in the corner and kind of be talking to himself," said Brooke Nettleton, a Woodbury Central senior.
So after seeing Gage stand in the corner of the lunchroom, they decided to do something bold. Something that not many people have the courage to do.
"One day we just decided to ask him to come sit over at our table," Nettleton said.
And at first, he wasn't very open to the idea.
"He would only, kind of, you know, answer yes or no questions," Kalynn Manker, a senior, said, "but he's really warming up to having full on conversations."
"The more I watched I discovered that they were truly taking him in and befriending him," Bormann said.
Which has not only translated to more conversations at school, but opening up at home.
"'Grandma,' he said, 'I smell cookies.'" Diane Ashley, Bennett's Grandmother, said "And I said 'on your breath,' and I said 'You do? I'm making cupcakes...'He would never have said that a month ago."
Seeing Gage in the lunchroom on his 15th birthday surrounded by people who care for him has left Ashley speechless.
"I don't know how to thank them there's not words enough to thank them," she said. "They're really special girls."