Meet Our 2019 Ambassador of the Week 2: Tim Rohrer
April 08, 2019
High school was not an easy time for Tim Rohrer. No matter how hard he tried to make connections and develop friendships, the other students couldn’t seem to be able to get past Tim’s differences. It didn’t matter if he tried to interact with a group of athletes or band members, Tim was often left in isolation. But instead of becoming angry or resentful, Tim asked himself how he could make things better for everyone involved.
The result is an education guide Tim wrote called “How to be a Good Influence to People with Disabilities,” which was published by the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education (NJCIE) in November and continues to be shared frequently on social media and websites, including his own.
The guide, which includes illustrations, offers straightforward but thoughtful advice for a variety of social situations, inside or outside of school. One piece of advice: “If you see someone who is different from you, that means that they might have a disability. Don’t be afraid of them. They want to be like everyone else. Be nice and introduce yourself to them. Start to talk to them.”
“I struggled in high school, so I thought I needed to educate and take action. I want people to know what to do and how to handle it. The guide made me feel better about myself,” Tim said.
His confidence has grown to the point that he has taken on the role of public speaker on several occasions. He has spoken to a youth group in Allentown, and he will be a presenter at the NJCIE Summer Inclusion Conference in June. Public speaking isn’t something that necessarily comes naturally to Tim, but it’s something he feels compelled to do.
“Public speaking isn’t so bad, because it’s for a good cause. I believe in what I’m speaking about,” Tim said, who is 19.
Tim and his mother, Amy, emphasized that Tim probably makes the biggest impact with his volunteer work, which focuses on assisting young children with special needs who deal with many of the same issues Tim has dealt with over the years.
Most recently, he has been working with kids in the Rock.Out.Loud music program at Cornerstone Music Studios in Millstone. Rock.Out.Loud helps develop self-expression and social skills by simulating the experience of playing in a rock band with real instruments. Tim helps set up the instruments for the sessions, and then interacts and encourages the younger kids to participate.
This summer Tim will volunteer with special-needs students who attend the Extended School Year program in Millstone.
“Tim was there one day last summer and related very well to them, especially the young boys. He was a great role model and they looked up to him. He will work alongside their school social worker to help with social skills,” Amy said.
In other words, Tim is ensuring that these students receive the companionship and camaraderie that he yearned for as a younger student. He is being the friend they need.
Laura Hines Wittman, director of Cornerstone, sees Tim’s volunteerism and dedication to younger students only getting stronger.
“It’s not going to stop,” she said. “What he does is very unique, because he’s unique.”
Autism Ambassador Program
Ambassadors of all ages engage their communities by creating informational displays and presentations in their schools and workplaces, organizing successful fundraising events, and enlisting the support of legislators and state officials throughout April, National Autism Awareness Month.