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A teen with autism won't be able to enjoy his essay contest prize because of his disability. Organizers rescinded Niko Boskovic's trip to the United Nations in New York when they learned he has autism.
Boskovic, 15, wrote a 500-word essay that earned the first prize in a national contest. United Nations Educational Pilgrimage for Youth, Inc. via the Order of Odd Fellows organized the said contest. Peninsula Odd Fellows Lodge chose Boskovic to represent Portland knowing he's a good writer and he won't fail the group.
For winning the contest, Boskovic was supposed to visit the United Nations office in New York as a youth delegate. His mother Loreta, however, received a letter from the Order of Odd Fellows a month after he won advising them of the changes.
"Sorry, he's no longer able to take part and chaperones are not allowed to take part either," the mother recounted the letter's content, as per KGW8 News. She said they canceled the prize because no one from the order knew how to handle students with autism. They didn't have a trained and specialized staff and her son had little inability to verbally communicate.
Boskovic, while a master of written words, uses a board to "speak" since his autism diagnosis at 3-years-old. It takes time for him to get his message across and it's part of his challenges in dealing with his disability.
David Scheer of the Peninsula Odd Fellows Lodge expressed disappointment over the national group's decision. The Portland chapter already raised money for Boskovic's trip but instead got a check back due to the cancellation.
"Not only is it a terrible thing that has happened to him, to Niko," Sheer said, per Katu. "[It's terrible] for all of the other students who could have had this amazing experience meeting him," he said. Sheer also demanded an explanation from the national group. He said they will still give the teen the money to use for another trip.
Meanwhile, Boskovic's mom sought help from Gordon Magella of the Disability Rights Oregon for her son's case. Magella already reached out to the Order of Odd Fellows to answer for its discrimination.