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Autistic, Amazing, Animator: PK Heads to Fourth Grade

Paul Keith and his mom, Mollie, thank the students for understanding his autism.

Paul Ellsworth Keith—"PK" to his friends—thanked his friends in his third grade class at  for dealing with his occasional outbursts, his sometimes erratic behavior, and still being a friend.

P.K.'s mother, Mollie Keith, brought in certificates to the Cahuenga Pass school Wednesday—and pizza—to his third grade class for helping her 9-year-old son make it into fourth grade. Valley View has one of the highest special needs populations—at 14 percent—in the entire San Fernando Valley PTA district in any public school.

P.K. has been helped not only by the teachers and students (and his assigned helper Erik Fujiwara), but also by two programs in Sherman Oaks, Exceptional Minds (www.exceptionalminds.org) and the Media Enrichment Academy (www.Mediaenrichmentacademy.com) which has helped nurture his artistic ability and his drive to be an animator (see his demo reel that he played for his class above.)

The Exceptional Minds group worked on the end credits for the just-released movie , which was shot in Studio City, not far from where P.K. lives.

P.K.'s friends didn't know that he was afraid of certain tastes, doesn't like loud noises or crowds, and although he loves movies, has never seen one in a movie theater. Mollie, who is an advisor and on the board of autism causes, said she uses this forum to help educate P.K.'s fellow students, and provide some understanding.

For the premiere of his work at the school, his third grade teacher Meghan Hanlon hosted the event and P.K.'s Kindergarten teacher Mary Alvy also attended.

"It was the best day ever!" said P.K.

(See the premiere, and also excerpts of PK's work in two videos above.)

Susan McMartin June 23, 2011 at 01:59 PM
beautiful, mike! pk has taught my daughter far more than she could ever teach him.
Meghan Hanlon June 23, 2011 at 11:39 PM
Thank You soooo much for including this!!! I have the most amazing students and parents!!! I am PROUD to be their teacher!!
Ryan Teves June 24, 2011 at 03:54 AM
What a cool kid... and while school usually does it's best to show you where your kid is deficient... I love that this kid is being recognized for his strengths. I particularly loved the interview with his friend and her incredibly wisdom for being so young. What a great school and what a neat group. Ryan Teves author of "In Defense of the American Teen"
Erik Fujiwara June 25, 2011 at 03:49 AM
Great article Mike I am honored to be PK's behaviorist. He is a truly amazing child and even though he has this debilitating condition, he has as much to offer this world as any other typical child. Autism awareness is extremely important and this article displays the amazing achievements to be made by those with this diagnosis. Thank you for bringing this to the attention of those who may wonder about the possibilities of achievement that can be made.
Nikki June 26, 2011 at 06:34 PM
This was so great to see :D I love seeing how PK, and the team that supports him, continues to grow. I frequently talk with parents about the benefits of being open with their child and the students in the class about autism. How teaching them the facts and letting them voice their feelings and concerns will help them connect as friends. I always tell them the story of how we taught the 1st graders in PK’s class about autism- great to see how it influenced them and their understanding. PK is an amazing kid- with an awe-inspiring team of caring adults and peers that work together. I have learned much from it all. Good luck in the upcoming years!

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