21-Year-Old Autistic Man Becomes An Eagle Scout After A Decade Of Hard Work

Timmy Hartgate is a 21-year-old young man who has just achieved a goal he’s been working toward for a very long time: becoming an Eagle Scout.

It’s an honor that very few Boy Scouts end up achieving, as it takes years of hard work to earn the 21 merit badges it requires. Scouts can pick from over 100 different topics, but 13 of their merit badges must include: First Aid, Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, Citizenship in the World, Communication, Cooking, Personal Fitness, Emergency Preparedness OR Lifesaving, Environmental Science OR Sustainability, Personal Management, Swimming OR Hiking OR Cycling, Camping, and Family Life.

Photo: WKYC

“To be an Eagle Scout, most scouts it’s like 3-4 percent of scouts nationwide attain the rank of Eagle Scout, so it’s a very unusual honor,” said Timmy’s dad, Ed Hartgate.

Timmy has autism and is mostly nonverbal. When he was 11 years old, he joined Boy Scout Troop 461 in Highland Heights, Ohio.

Photo: WKYC

“He’s very intelligent, and he understands you, but he cannot speak very well,” Ed said. “It was extremely difficult [for him to become an Eagle Scout] because he couldn’t do it in a typical way most kids can.”

One of the trickiest hurdles he faced was earning the merit badge for communication. Timmy ended up making a PowerPoint presentation rather than doing a verbal presentation to the troop.

Photo: WKYC

Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner School for Autism has been helping Timmy improve his communication skills since he was in third grade.

Using a tablet with preprogrammed words and phrases, Timmy is able to communicate by tapping buttons or typing out words. Working with the therapists at the clinic has had a huge impact on Timmy.

Photo: WKYC

The last milestone Timmy had to reach was his Eagle Scout service project. With the help of teachers and therapists at the Lerner School, Timmmy planned and organized the Lerner School’s Summer Field Day, which is an annual event. He was responsible for overseeing his troop members and programmed their names and pictures into his iPad so he could identify them all.

“What the Boy Scouts have done is important not only in giving him outdoor education and experience but giving him the opportunity to interact with and relate with other people his own age,” Ed said.

Photo: WKYC

Learn more in this video.

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