In the spirit of the holidays, a Hays County special needs high school student decided to dress up as Santa Claus and visit Foundational Learning classes at a few elementary schools this week.
William Ammann, from Hays High School, has had autism since he was about 2-years-old. Now, he's 19 and has been in Julie McCann’s Foundational Learning class at Hays High School for six years.
"He came in, and we quickly realized he had a social piece to him,” said McCann. “He really craved social attention and social interactions with his friends."
Though Ammann technically already graduated -- and was even prom king his senior year -- he can go to school until he is 21, due to his autism.
Friday, the final day of classes at Hays Consolidated Independent School District, Ammann made a visit to Negley Elementary School.
Looping the hallways, children greeted him with hugs before he made it to Nancy Cato’s Foundational Learning class.
He was also, not surprisingly, greeted with hugs and “Welcome, Santa!”
Ammann made an impact on usually shy children who read off their Christmas letters to Santa in front of the whole class.
Ammann discovered his love of being Santa after his mother bought him a fake beard a few years ago. His teacher, McCann, then bought him the Santa Claus suit and encouraged him to keep playing Santa. She said a teacher from Fuentes Elementary School had the idea for Ammann to visit Fuentes Elementary, and they continued the event at other schools.
Though Friday is the last day of class for 2017 in Hays CISD, this is a visit from Santa these students will remember even beyond the holidays.
"He loves to read the letters,” said Mccann. “He will go home and read them over and over and probably come back from Christmas break still talking about the letters."
Teenager with Autism dresses up like Santa for other special needs children
His mother, Kelly Grekowicz Ammann told KVUE, "My husband and I have always embraced the spirit of the holidays with our children. I think he started because he enjoys seeing people smile."
Ammann's mother doesn't think he would be who he is without the support of his teachers and peer supports at Hays High School.
"Him being Santa to a bunch of other disabled children, I don't have the words to express how happy that makes me," she told KVUE.