A fourth grade student from Chino Valley, California, raised his hand in class one day and asked his teacher if he could address his fellow students. What happened next was a "beautiful thing," the boy's teacher, Lisa Moe, said.
Moe captured video of what the student, Rumari, said — and it has gone viral. "For a really long time, you guys had not known I had autism," Rumari told his classmates. "So you guys thought I was weird doing this," he said, then started hitting his hand as it rested against his face. It's something he does when he needs to feel better, he explained to the class.
Rumari continued to speak about having autism, and the class listened quietly. Then, once he was done, students started raising their hands to ask questions. One classmate had a simple request: "Can I have a hug?"
Rumari went around to his classmates to hug them and hear their words of encouragement. One student said "it doesn't matter what a person does or if it may look weird, or if they might make weird noises sometimes."
"That's okay! It's them. And it doesn't matter," she continued. "They're good just the way they are, like you Rumari." The boy ran up to her and gave her a big hug.
Then another student raised her hand, and another, all praising Rumari. "I think you're amazing, pal!" one said.
Rumari was clearly happy that he took the leap of faith and opened up to the class. At the end of the video, he asks Moe if he can hug her. The boy has a huge smile on his face as he runs up and wraps his arms around his teacher.
Moe said she has two favorite mottos that she tries to instill in her students: "Be kind" and "Yes I can." Rumari more than exemplified both of these lessons that day.
"Rumari has faced challenges and barriers beyond what any of us will ever be able to fully understand," Moe wrote in her Instagram post. "But today, Rumari stood in front of the classroom with full confidence, enthusiasm, and courage and showed us that there is no challenge or barrier that can stop him."
"With full knowledge, he explained the differences that may come when being autistic and how the spectrum is vast," Moe continued. "He courageously spoke about his own differences and quirks, while defining what it means to make everyone feel like a someone."
The teacher said she started recording Rumari a few minutes into his powerful speech, when she realized her class was completely captivated by his words. "I lost my ability to hold back the tears. It is then that the daily lessons to 'Be Kind' and to remember 'Yes I Can' were brought together," Moe said.
Moe's video was posted April 5 – the beginning of Autism Awareness Month. It eventually gained national attention, but to Moe, the viral success of the video didn't mean that much.
What meant the most was that Rumari had the confidence to open up to his classmates, and they showed him love and acceptance. "If I were unable to ever teach again or if there was ever a question to my path into this role as an educator, this moment solidified my purpose," she wrote.