North Shore brother-sister duo raises autism awareness, inspire hope

DANVERS, Mass. — A Danvers brother and sister are raising awareness for autism and inspiring hope for people on the spectrum as well as their families.

Jackson Skane, 18, who was diagnosed with autism at three years old, was often bullied in school as a kid. But he found sharing his story, as early as fifth grade, educated his peers and the greater community and fostered compassion.

Jackson volunteers as an assistant dance instructor for “Dancer Within,” a class for teens with various special needs at North Shore Dance Academy. He is also an advocate for the autism community, serving as a youth ambassador to the Northeast Arc’s board of directors where he speaks about the interests of young people with disabilities.

“Growing up, I always focused on [having autism] as a negative,” Jackson said. “But I think for these young kids and adults, they need to focus on it as a unique ability and embrace themselves and be able to be proud of who they are.”

Jackson’s best friend and biggest supporter is his sister Taylor, 16. Inspired by her older brother’s courageous journey, Taylor also volunteers as an instructor for the Dancer Within class and is a member of the Youth Board for Rock the Spectrum.

“He’s made me a stronger person,” Taylor said of her brother. “He’s made me gain so many skills with patience, with responsibility, with passion. And he is just an incredible person.”

The Skane family has been raising awareness for autism for 13 years, first providing blue light bulbs for neighbors and supporters outside their Danvers home. They would later bring them to schools, give speeches, volunteer and fundraise for organizations supporting the autism community.

This Friday, celebrating Autism Awareness Month, Taylor and Jackson will speak to kids at local elementary schools about autism and spreading kindness. Jackson will share his journey, including his challenges and how he has thrived. Taylor will discuss how to be a great sibling, friend or peer to someone on the spectrum.

Jackson, a senior at Essex North Shore – Agricultural & Technical School, plans to study special education in college in the fall, hoping to provide guidance and mentorship similar to what he has received from special educators, speech therapists and social workers during his journey.

“Having my own perspective of having special needs is so important, because I know what these kids and other adults are going through,” Jackson said. “I do have that perspective, and I do have that understanding of feeling different but also being unique.”

Taylor, a junior at Essex Tech, envisions herself in special education or starting her own non-profit.

“I’m kind of in the middle of figuring it out,” Taylor said, “but I just know that impacting someone’s life like someone impacted [Jackson’s] is what I want to do, and it’s my passion.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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