A Model Laboratory High School freshman took his support for a legislative bill concerning autism all the way to the state Capitol Thursday.

Fifteen-year-old Nicholas Killin was diagnosed at nearly 4 years old with Asperger’s syndrome, a developmental disorder that affects a child’s ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others.

Doctors group Asperger’s syndrome with other conditions that are called autistic spectrum disorders or pervasive developmental disorders.

Nicholas told his story of growing up with the condition in the Capitol Rotunda to a crowd that included several state legislators during the Voices of Autism rally, sponsored by the Kentucky Council on Developmental Disorders.

The rally was organized to bring awareness to House Bill 188, which would create a Medicaid waiver to help support individuals with autism, require autism screenings for all children, update the statewide Manual on Autism and create the Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders Program within the Cabinet of Health and Family Services.

“I’m proud to say that I was the first Asperger’s kid at Model,” he said during his “Having a Dream” speech. “I will be the first to graduate as a student from preschool to 12th grade. Just watch me.”

“Being an Asperger during middle school and now into high school can be quite challenging,” he said. “Some people don’t understand me. When they see me walking, they ignore me like I’m not there. Don’t they think I want to be invited to something? Don’t they think I want to be a part of a group?”

Terri Killin, Nicholas’ mother who also works as an autism liaison for the Clark County School District, said there were many difficulties when she and her husband tried to find out exactly what was wrong with their son.

“The first couple places we got diagnosed we were not satisfied with because they were saying he would need an assistant all of his life,” she said. “In Louisville, they said he would never be potty trained. Well, he was already potty trained.”

“After he was vaccinated, he lost his ability to walk, talk and everything,” she said. “Because he was not born autistic, I think he has been able to come back the way he has.”

Nicholas has had to go through occupational, physical and speech and language therapy to get to where he is today.

“He’s done it before school, after school and weekends,” his mom said. “He didn’t quit because he knew it would make him better. His goal was to have friends and be part of the classroom. So, he worked harder and harder. He still works hard.”

When she was told that there was about a three-month wait to enter her son in preschool in Madison County, she got permission to enroll her son into Clark County Schools.

Nicholas went to Model Laboratory School the following year because of smaller classrooms and proximity to home.

“I am quite a handful,” he said during his speech. “I stood up when I was asked to sit down, which wasn’t a very good idea. I played during clean up. I walked when I was supposed to play. I screamed sometimes. I ignored kids and people who talked to me. I am proud to say that the kids who kept talking to me are now pretty much my close friends.”

“My proudest moment was when someone new at Model called me a retard and the whole fourth-grade class stood up for me because I’m their friend,” said Nicholas, who also spoke briefly with Gov. Steve Beshear before a photo was taken with the rest of his Model government class, which watched his speech in support.

Nicholas described his middle school years as the most difficult times.

However, he also found his true dream around that time.

“Every kid has a special interest,” Nicholas said. “My focus was weather science. I started studying weather on the Internet and watching forecasts by meteorologists across the whole U.S. My dream is to become a meteorologist and talk about weather a lot.”

“Should you ever need a weekly forecast, I’ll be available right after I give this speech,” he said.

State Sen. Ed Worley, D-Richmond, who watched the rally alongside state Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, joked with Nicholas after his speech.

“I’m glad you like weather instead of politics,” he said. “I’d hate for you to run against me.”

Worley described Nicholas as “an outstanding, young man.”

“He raises the level of awareness to us all by his presence here and his ability to talk about autism,” he said. “All people need to see that and to see the progress he’s made and the success that he is.”

“We’ll support House Bill 188 all that we can,” Worley said. “This is a very difficult time financially, but there’s always priorities.”

Moberly called HB 188 “a good bill.”

“We ought to do more to coordinate and provide funding for autism services,” he said. “Nick is a great example of how kids can do well even when inflicted with autism. I’m very thankful that he’s at Model and that other kids can see how well he’s doing.”

“Rallies of this type are very important to bring awareness to legislators about things that we need to address,” he said.

Terri Killin discussed the bill last year in front of the legislature.

“I told them about having to fight insurance companies, not being able to buy a house for like 10 years after he was born and us having to educate the teachers about how to help,” she said. “But, Model was willing to learn, thank God. A lot of schools would said they would do it their own way.”

“Like Nicholas says, if this bill is passed, maybe parents can just be parents,” Terri Killin said. “That would be great.”

State Rep. Scott Brinkman, R-Louisville, who introduced HB 188 and is a parent of an autistic child, also spoke during the rally.

“We know what it’s like for all of you facing the daily challenges of raising and caring for a child with autism spectrum disorders,” he said to the crowd. “We understand the good days, the bad days; the highs, the lows; the victories, the regressions.”

“It’s not perfect legislation, but it’s certainly a blueprint of where we are and where we need to go,” Brinkman said about HB 188. “I know we’re in a tough budget situation, but if we wait for money to be plentiful, we’ll still be here 40 years from now saying the same thing. So, we do need to achieve some positive things this session.”

One thing Brinkman said he knows is doable is the creation of an Office of Autism Spectrum Disorders within the Cabinet of Health and Family Services.

Brinkman helped pass legislation in 2005 to establish the Kentucky Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders to seek ways to train, treat and serve individuals with autism.

Along with the governor, Nicholas also was able to meet briefly with Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, who asked him how his speech went and if he was nervous.

“No, not at all because I have a little bit of an acting career coming,” Nicholas said about his nerves. “I acted in a play last year, so I’m good.”

Mongiardo did not attend the rally, but said he read a copy of the speech Nicholas wrote beforehand.

“It’s very good,” he said. “Congratulations. I think it’s great that you’ve worked so hard and you’ve had so much support.”

Terri Killin said she is so proud of how far her son has come.

“I got into special needs because I saw ‘The Miracle Worker,’” she said. “I guess he’s my miracle. He’s everything. He’s my success.”

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