Agora Student Creates “Egg”straordinary Egg Hunt
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (WTAJ) — A Johnstown teen created an easter egg hunt that is specifically designed for kids with special needs.
Dylan Laverty is an 11th grade special education student at Agora Cyber Charter School who has been dreaming of creating an event like this for years. Dylan wanted to create an Easter Egg hunt so he can help meet kids similar to himself. Dylan is autistic and diagnosed ADHD and his idea for starting this Easter egg hunt revolved around the idea that “If they’re socially awkward and don’t have friends, I can be their friend. I’m a nice guy, I won’t judge you,” says Laverty.
He began working on this idea with his Middle School teacher but then Covid struck and 4 years later the idea has taken off and Dylan will be hosting an Easter Egg Hunt with Moneyman at Sargent’s Stadium on April 2nd.
Dylan even designed ways that kids in wheelchairs can participate and be a part of the hunt too. They will put eggs in fences so kids can reach them. Dylan and his mom Robbi stopped by the studio to explain more about the special eggs that can help kids with vision and hearing impairments participate as well. They’ll be giving out different sensory toys with texture and sound that participants will enjoy too.
Dylan started at Agora in 4th grade after it just didn’t work at his local brick and mortar school. He was bullied by kids, and a teacher said he was ‘unteachable’. This was before he was diagnosed with autism and ADHD.
“He could read the word blue but couldn’t tell you what letters were in it. Now he’s above and beyond all expectations that we had at his prior school. He now reads well and he’s a whiz with history. His demeaner and focus has been so much better since we’ve been with Agora,” says Robbi, Dylan’s Mom.
His dream job is to work at the Flight 93 National Memorial. It’s his favorite place to go. His older brother, who also dealt with bullying prior to coming to Agora, graduated in 2017.
When he was first diagnosed they tried the cyber program with the district and it was entirely too hard. There were no special education classes at all. When they enrolled at Agora the teachers got to know him, work with him and then they met Lauren and Mrs. McDermott. “They were fantastic with him, shaped and molded him to what he is now, which includes perfect attendance in school. He’s never late and I don’t have to sit with him. He does it all on his own. Gets his work done. It has prepared him for life after school too,” says mom, Robbi.
The main reason he wanted to have this event for so long was that he wanted to meet friends like him – kids with autism who are socially awkward. They want others to think “I’m not alone in this. If Dylan can do something like this, I can do it. I can make things happen too. We used to have a big easter egg hunt and Dylan got this idea. It’s just so wrong that kids are being mistreated just from having a disability, they deserve to be accepted for who they are. Want them out without being judged,” says mom, Robbi.
“Agora teachers brought out his confidence and helped him to be more focused. He didn’t want to ask for help in his old school but the teachers here made him feel comfortable enough to ask for help. They wouldn’t make him feel bad for not knowing something.” – Robbi
Dylan really established a special relationship with Lauren Svonavec, his special education teacher from 6-8th grade. They always joked about Dunkin’ Donuts so each time he’d go he’d send a photo to her and years later it still continues to this day. They have kept a relationship all these years. It was during his middle school years that Dylan decided he wanted to put on a community easter egg hunt for students like him as well as for those who are physically disabled.
“There aren’t very many events out here for students like Dylan, and he wanted to meet more local people like him. His family is very passionate about Autism awareness, but they weren’t sure how to get it up and running,” says Dylan’s teacher, Lauren.
Lauren, who lives in Somerset, made calls to the city of Johnstown to see what was needed and tried and help to get it up and running. They even had an idea of where they wanted to do it, and then Covid struck. Dylan graduated middle school and they keep in touch, but there hadn’t been any more movement on the event, until this year.
“When we told her it’s a go, Lauren got so excited. She says she has to be there to witness it happen. It’s everything he’s been wanting and more. We want this to be an annual event. Maybe we can take it national too,” says Dylan’s mom, Robbi.
Lauren always encourages her students and tells them to not hold themselves back. “Don’t be afraid to put what you’re thinking into practice. If you make a mistake, that’s ok. This was really big for Dylan. He was quiet and then he just came out of his shell. He was always very motivated. You can see that reflected here. When he wants something to happen, he goes for it. If that’s something that you want to do, go for it! Let’s work on the details.”
“As Special Education teachers we really want our students and families to be comfortable. Maybe they’ve come from areas that aren’t safe or they had bad experiences previously. They want their learning to be valuable and we want them to succeed.”
As posted on WTAJ.com. To view the full interview, click HERE.