‘Winners never give up.’ Spelling unlocks once misunderstood Westport teen with non-speaking autism

Wynston Browne, a Westport teen with non-speaking autism and apraxia, likes to be called Winnie – because “winners never give up.” Mark Sudol shares how spelling has provided a life-changing breakthrough for the 16-year-old.

News 12 Staff

Dec 30, 2023, 11:55 PM

Updated 4 days ago

Share:

The following story won a 2024 regional Edward R. Murrow Award in the category of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
Wynston Browne, a Westport teen with non-speaking autism and apraxia, likes to be called Winnie – because “winners never give up.”
“People assumed because I couldn't speak I wasn't smart. Boy, were they wrong," he spelled out.
News 12’s Mark Sudol recently spent time with Winnie, 16, and his communication and regulation partner to talk about the challenges he has faced growing up.
Winnie has difficulty coordinating the use of his tongue, lips, mouth and jaw to produce clear speech. He also has trouble regulating his body. For most of his life, he felt neglected and misunderstood even by his own family.
"I felt very isolated just being able to observe the world around me,” he spelled out.
But a breakthrough came in the form of a simple letter board – and it changed his whole world. Winnie and his communication and regulation partner found a way to communicate with a keyboard to spell the words he wants to say.
Winnie's family and teachers soon learned that he could spell, read, write and was a math whiz.
According to Winnie, school has been difficult because he believes the school system has not recognized his potential. So he's had to advocate for himself at a school board meeting.
"I want to do things that all kids my age do. I want to eat lunch with friends in Staples cafeteria and laugh instead of being laughed at. I want to attend classes that are challenging," he spelled out for them.
He told Sudol through his keyboard he is “finally able to express all that he has been dealing with in his life.”
"What do you say to the people who don't think how you communicate is real?" Sudol asked.
"I say just ‘watch me’ and if you don't believe, maybe when non-speakers do amazing things, you'll change your mind. And if not, we'll keep going because we believe in ourselves and that is what is truly important."


More from News 12