Autism Warrior: Brian Lyons
Eleven-year-old Brian, also known as Jr. Fire Chief Brian Lyons, is a vibrant youth leader with a heart of gold. Diagnosed with autism when he was three years old, Brian relied on sign language to communicate until he was around four.
Brian’s world changed one day when he and his mother Linda drove their local fire station and Brian spotted the truck being washed.
Linda said he started banging on the car windows YELLING. She pulled over and asked the chief if her son could see the truck. A few days later, the chief took him for a ride on the firetruck. “Brian didn’t talk a whole lot more than just pointing and small words, but it was this chief and that station who brought Brian out of his shell,” she said. And that’s when his life changed.
Brian is currently Elm Hill Hose Company #3/Youth Leader in his Plymouth, PA community. He has received recognition from Congress, earned more than 20 awards, and in 2019, his county declared July 12th Brian Lyons’ Day. Today, Brian can’t stop talking and helping others.
Brian spent his summer vacation raising money to purchase a Jaws of Life Rescue tool. With dedication and a knack for lemonade, Brian raised more than $10,000 in donations over five weeks. Brian was most proud to present the Jaws of Life tool to his fire chief for the department to use to save lives.
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Brian said he is inspired by “every single first responder on this planet!” Responders save lives, he remarks, and he wants to do that too. “Just because I am told I have autism, that doesn’t mean that there is no way I can be of assistance. In fact, there are many things I can do and have already done to help others in my community,” he said.
Brian encourages people to aid their local fire, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and police departments by collecting donations. “Not just money, but I mean things like giving water to our firemen. I like to write out thank you cards to officers and courthouse workers and I tell them how grateful I am for them all. That helps to make them smile and to go to work happy.
Their jobs are scary and stressful, but we can ALL help them feel good and we can tell them how much they matter to us,” he said. “Maybe I won’t be fighting in an active fire when I’m big as a fireman (or maybe I will) but I will no doubt be there to hand out water and snacks and refill air tanks or roll hoses. I can do so much when I put my mind to it. Even our local state senators and congressman supported me though my lemonade sales by trying to change the laws on kids needing lemonade stand permits! They call ME an inspiration, but it is them who make me want to keep going,” Brian beams.
Brian has an extensive list of goals including, but not limited to, meeting the president of the United States, touring the White House, and flying in a plane. “I want to purchase protective POPSHIELDS for police officers to help keep them safe. I want to go on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and ask her for help in our small community to better our fire, EMS, and police and help us kids have more to do, like a recreation center and youth programs for kids of all ages and stages and disabilities,” he said.
Advice for families affected by autism:
“My advice is that just because you have a diagnosis of autism or any diagnosis, that shouldn’t be a reason for you not to do what you want. We may have to work harder in some areas, but we can do it with hard work, we can do it with friends, we can do it with the support of our community. There are NO barriers that we cannot break with determination and persistence. Just keep moving forward and SMILE!! When you smile, others do too and that’s important! It brings people together!”
This article was featured in Issue 102 – Supporting ASD Needs Everyday