Jefferson Award winner, August 2017: Paul Braun

MIDDLETON (WKOW) — There’s a local group helping kids with autism thrive and a Middleton man is behind it all.

Paul Braun’s 14-year-old son, Mitchell, has autism. 

The two have an incredible bond that’s been strengthened in a pretty unique way.

Paul’s a geographer. Four years ago, he realized the drones he was using for mapping, could give kids with autism a different view of the world around them.

"People on the autism spectrum are visual learners, visual thinkers," says Paul.

He started the non-profit, Taking Autism to the Sky, known as TATTS.

Drones are used to teach social skills.

"How to help youngsters on the autism spectrum really engage and become folks that can hold down jobs and really become independent."

They learn the basics of flying.

"So we talk about what yaw is, pitch and roll and all the mechanics of flying."

They also learn how to use the tools and test their skills actually flying the drones. 

Then, the kids edit the video captured by the drone to create their very own movies.

"It’s self esteem, it’s confidence, it’s an awareness that I can do stuff, I can really do something unique. And that’s what every parent wants in any child."

For dozens on the autism spectrum, of all ages, TATTS has been life changing.

Paul says, "I had one mother tell me, a couple seasons ago, she said, ‘My daughter hasn’t spoken a word in days.’ Once we put her on the stick and she flew the drone, I was completely flabbergasted. She just changed. By the end of the 2 hours she was talking to kids and her mom was in tears."

Paul has been so successful in his mission, that TATTS has grabbed attention around the world.

"I’ve had inquiries globally, people asking for TATTS in a box. I’d love to be able to put that together so you get the box with the drone, curriculum, the ‘how to’ instructions."

For the kids involved,  their development takes flight and the sky’s the limit.

"It’s ok to be different. It’s just a matter of refining skill sets so that young folks and adults on the spectrum can play a viable role in the community."

Paul holds those flying sessions 6-8 times a summer, with the help of many volunteers.

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