Winning essay reflects reaction to autistic brother

TEEN GAINS AN UNLIKELY INSIDER'S PERSPECTIVE ON PREJUDICE

March 22, 1993|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff Writer

Being a Caucasian in Mount Airy wouldn't appear to give Kathryn "Katie" Bucher an insider's perspective on prejudice. But looks aren't everything.

Some of Katie's inspiration to write a winning essay, "Prejudice: Still a Problem," came from having an older brother who is autistic and seeing how some people react to him, she said.

Katie's essay won her $100 from the Mount Airy Lions Club essay contest, and she won on two more levels before being selected Western Maryland regional winner.

She is 13, and attends seventh grade at Mount Airy Middle School. In her grade, she said, she has counted one African-American, one Hispanic and one Asian student.

"The rest are Caucasian," she said.

However, she said, she has made friends and acquaintances of different ethnic backgrounds in the South Carroll Swim Club and in her dance class in Frederick County, and by visiting her parents at work in Baltimore and Montgomery County.

Katie's most personal experience with prejudice is the hurt she feels when someone makes jokes about disabilities, or discriminates against her brother.

"He doesn't look different at all," Katie said of her brother, Jimmy, 16. "You would be able to tell by the way he started to act."

Autism is a disability that affects the way a person communicates or interacts socially. Katie said other teens are thrown off by his behavior and are reluctant to behave normally around him.

OC She recalled a time when they played water polo with a group of

teens from their church.

"Every time Jimmy would get the ball, they would back away," she said. "They wouldn't even try to get the ball from him. And when he would try to get the ball from them, they would just give it to him."

Katie is the daughter of Richard and Patricia Bucher, of Vance Drive, north of Mount Airy. She has a sister, Suzy, 6.

Mr. Bucher is a past chairman of the Carroll County Community Relations Commission, an independent group that mediates disputes over discrimination. He also is a sociology professor and director of the Institute for Intercultural Understanding at Baltimore City Community College.

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