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‘You have autism—that’s not who you are, but you have it’

Drew Abetz is quick to introduce himself, eager to learn about others, and dedicated to lending a helping hand.

Drew also happens to have autism.

“From the moment I met him in 6th grade, there was an instant connection,” Klein Oak Assistant Principal David Sherman, longtime educator turned family friend, said. “Drew’s never met a stranger. Every person with Autism is so unique. It’s truly a spectrum with no mold or one size fits all. My goal when working with students in any kind of special population is to create exposure and let them experience the world in a safe environment.”

For Drew’s current teacher, Mrs. Cheramiee Wiltshire, teaching students with special needs is what she considers a dream come true, and knowing Drew is like icing on the cake.

“It’s the best job in the world,” Mrs. Wiltshire said. “The kids make it the best part of every day. In my classroom, you’ll learn a lot more than you’d ever imagine. You’ll learn to never judge a book by its cover. My students deserve love, to be taken care of, guidance, and direction. It’s all about building a relationship with each child—that’s what happened with Drew. All I had to do was listen to him and he opened up and began trusting me to be there for him.”

Drew found a second home at Klein Oak, surrounded by people who accept him for who he is. It took time for Drew’s family to understand how to ensure Drew would have the best life possible.

“We knew Drew was going to be different before he was born,” Amanda Abetz, Drew’s mom, said. “I would ask, ‘Is he autistic?’ and no one wanted to say ‘yes.’ No one really knew back then. Now, there’s so much more information out there that’s easier to get to, and there are programs available to help. We’ve been fortunate to have had a really good experience during his school years. It didn’t start out that way because we didn’t know where he belonged, but Klein helped us figure it out with testing. We’ve had a great support staff and team in Klein.”

For Mrs. Abetz, seeing her son surrounded by love and care at Klein Oak is something she’s grateful for beyond measure. She knows that so many people have nurtured Drew, and he is ready for his next chapter in life. 

“It’s a privilege to be Drew’s mom because he teaches me so much every day. No one has a bigger heart than him. He sees character, not people’s flaws. He sees your heart, and he sees you for who you are. I tell Drew, ‘You have autism—that’s not who you are, but you have it. If you ever find yourself lost or need anything, you can tell people that you think differently and need an extra hand.’ I’m confident that he’s going to do great after he graduates.”

The most important thing Drew wants to be remembered for is something we all can use a little more of—kindness.

“Being kind is important, and it’s always a good thing,” Drew, current Klein Oak senior, said. “Some people in life won’t be kind to you, but you have to be kind to them back anyway.” 

Drew teaches us we are all capable of amazing things regardless of our differences. Drew makes people feel important by showing interest in what they care about. It doesn’t take much for each of us to do the same—five minutes of listening to someone’s story can make all the difference for them.

April is Autism Awareness Month, and in Klein ISD, we’re all about every. Learn more about autism and help raise awareness by visiting


Klein ISD is AAA in Academics, Arts, and Athletics.

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Klein ISD has an established 84-year history of excellence and innovation in education with unique pathways for EVERY student in our care to ensure learners are college, career, military, and life ready. With recognition for STEM, athletics, fine arts, and academics from highly-esteemed organizations, it is clear that Our Shared Vision of every student entering with a promise and exiting with a purpose is a reality for EVERY student who walks through our doors.

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Klein ISD is a school district in Klein, Texas, located in northwestern Harris County. The district spans approximately 88 square miles and serves more than 53,000 students in 33 elementary schools, 10 intermediate campuses, one high school program of choice, and 5 high schools.

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