The month of April sheds light on breaking barriers and bringing awareness to the autism community for National Autism Awareness Month.
The Western Mass News and Lia Auto Group Surprise Squad are helping to do so by visiting one Western Mass News fan and his class in Ludlow.
Western Mass News first heard about Andrew Duquette through his principal at the Baird Middle School, Stacy Monette.
"He came to me a few months ago to have Channel 40 weather come in. I then got in contact with you and thought this would be a good surprise for him," Monette said.
Andrew, an eighth grader, has autism. His friends and teachers said that Andrew continues to grow.
"He's very passionate about the things he likes. He's very sweet and he's always working hard," said student Catarina Ferreira.
"He has had a lot of ups and downs since this year and this year, we've been on the up. His maturity and his passion for things have come out this year and he's really blossomed and it's so awesome we're doing this," said teacher Bonnie Boornazian.
Jacob, Jeff, and Jordyn stopped by Baird Middle to say hello to the class and as Andrew looked on, we pretended like we were getting ready for the news...then...we broke the news and surprised the students with a pizza party at the school.
"I'll hold my hands up and say I didn't know about this," Andrew said.
While Andrew and his friends enjoyed the pizza, the party wasn't over.
The surprises kept on coming and through all of this, we learned that Andrew is a huge Star Wars fan, so we had one more surprise - several Star Wars themed gifts.
Andrew told us that he doesn't let his autism define him and that he's grateful to his teachers for all they do.
"I have great teachers and they are only here to help," Andrew added.
Andrew's mother, Mariann Duquette, noted, "All children, even kids with autism, want the same things. They want friends, they want to be included, they want to be a part of things. Everybody's different, but we are all the same.
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