Danny Leideker is a special-needs senior at Linden High School. He's also on the homecoming court, thanks to the support of his classmates.

Several years ago, when the class of 2013 was in eighth grade, Danny, diagnosed with Asperger's Disorder, which is a form of autism, was befriended by a group of "popular" students. Perhaps atypical of what you would expect from middle school kids, they welcomed him into their group, inviting him to sit with them at lunch, and offering him a spot on the bench at basketball games.

Now they are all seniors, and this generous group of kids has set out to make Danny's last year of high school his best ever.

Danny has been appointed team manager for the Linden Eagles football team, maintaining equipment, and providing players with water, towels, and most importantly, camaraderie.

Wayne Leideker, Danny's father, speaking to Cars 108 in a phone interview, said this core group of kids has done more to help Danny than they'll ever know. Eddie Walterhouse, Shaye Brown, Blake North, Connor O'Connell, Mitch Juhl, Kimberly Cason, Kirstin Hendricks, Maija Satkowiak, Kaitlin Hurd, and Gabrielle Tomaszewski have "helped him develop and grow his confidence, personality, and social skills so much." Leideker went on to say that if these kids had not slid over and offered Danny a seat at lunch four years ago, he wouldn't be where he is today.

Leideker expressed some concern about the students' motives. "I told Blake [North] 'I just hope that you're not putting him on the homecoming court to be nice, or for fun, or because you feel sorry for him.'" His worries were quickly put to rest. "I got a lecture from a 17-year old! He came back at me and said, 'You don't get it, Mr. Leideker, we love Danny. We love him for who he is.'"

Danny is especially excited to be on Linden's homecoming court because of the parade, which precedes the game on October 5th. Now instead of watching the parade from the sidelines, he'll actually get to be part of it. Leideker said Danny's first question when learning he'd be riding on a float was, "I get to be in a parade, so can I throw candy?"

- George McIntyre
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For more on autism, visit the Autism Society of Michigan.

Asperger's Disorder is a form of autism in which individuals are characterized with eccentric behavior, social isolation, and the inability to read social cues. Experts estimate that two to three people per 1,000 may have Asperger's. More information is available here.

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