By Kathy Walsh
ERIE, Colo. (CBS4) – A teenager from Erie has made his Eagle Scout Service Project personal. It is a lesson in understanding and compassion.
Darius Matsuda will be a high school sophomore this fall, but on a Monday in May, he went back to Erie Middle School to deliver a powerful message.
“Autism is not a disease, it’s a brain condition that affects communication, social interaction, behaviors and the body,” Matsuda told a classroom of eighth graders.
Matsuda has autism.
“It really makes it hard for me to be friends with people, to talk with people,” he said.
But Matsuda shared with Health Specialist Kathy Walsh that, in eighth grade at Erie Middle School, he was bullied.
“People would start teasing me since I was different,” the 15-year-old Matsuda said.
He explained that bullying escalated when kids would form a circle.
“Leaving me and some other kid in the circle,” said Matsuda. “They kept shouting ‘fight, fight’ because they wanted me to fight him.”
Matsuda wants compassion, not conflict. The Power Point presentation he has developed is his Eagle Scout Service Project. He is teaching others what autism feels like.
“Certain lights can hurt us and frustrate us,” Matsuda told the students. “We also have oversensitivity to sounds. And some of us don’t even want to be touched.”
The young students learned that, even with his autism, Matsuda is not all that different.
“To relieve me of my stress, I would listen to music; sometimes even play some games on my phone,” he told them.
Matsuda is opening up about autism for all people with the developmental disorder. That includes both his 13-year-old brother, Eli, and his 11-year-old-sister, Charlise. Matsuda’s message is really a request.
“Be nice to everyone, even if they are different.”