When his prom night arrived on July 11, 2018, Brodie Smith got dressed and began making his way to the dance. The 16-year-old didn’t have a date and was walking alone when an SUV pulled over. Inside were five girls – and what happened next left him stunned.
Smith has been dealing with autism for many years. “Brodie was diagnosed with atypical autism when he was eight,” his mother, Dianne Smith, told the Daily Mail. “He has always gone to mainstream school but the condition affects his communication and socialization.”
Autism is a developmental disorder that affects social skills and communication and can also cause repetitive behaviors within sufferers. However, it’s not always obvious that someone has autism. And Ms. Smith, who works with kids in the special needs area, called it a “hidden disability” for her son.
“People would look at him but find it difficult to comprehend the struggles he was having,” Ms. Smith explained. In fact, it got so bad that Smith would be tormented by his peers. “He’s never had lots of friends and was always a bit of a target – the other children would tease him,” she revealed.
Ms. Smith told the Daily Mail, “He used to come home from school and cry, saying, ‘Nobody likes me, everyone picks on me.’ It was horrible.” However, she added that things had improved for her teenage son in recent years. “He eventually settled and has done really well,” she said.
Smith lives in Solihull, West Midlands, in the U.K., where he attends St. Peter’s Catholic School. The religion-led institute was founded in 1974 and has more than 1,250 students and 150 members of staff. St. Peter’s is a public school with the motto “Faith Is Our Foundation.”
The teenager had recently completed his exams and decided that he wanted to attend the school’s prom, held at the nearby Hogarths Hotel. So he put on his three-piece suit and said goodbye to his mother. “I cried my eyes out when he was leaving for the prom – I felt sorry for him not going with a bunch of friends but he was too shy to ask any of his mates if he could go with them,” the 48-year-old Ms. Smith said to the Daily Mail.
Ms. Smith added to BBC News, “I was so proud of him doing his GCSEs and I cried when he set off for prom because he looked so lovely, but I did feel really bad when I saw other parents putting up pictures of their children with their friends, I wished that could have been him.” Instead, Smith booked a taxi to take him to the venue. He was dropped off at the bottom of the hotel drive.
Hogarths Hotel is a four-star accommodation in Solihull. It is a popular choice for weddings and other occasions. The hotel is situated upon 27 acres of land and regularly hosts events such as the school dance.
Smith had stepped out of his taxi and was making his way from the hotel gates to the entrance when a black Range Rover pulled up beside him. Five girls who were also students at St. Peter’s were inside the vehicle. And they invited him to get in.
“We were all really excited and just saw Brodie walking on his own up the hotel driveway,” Lottie Byrne told the Daily Mail. “One of the girls said, ‘Let’s get him in,’ and I was shouting out the window for him to get in the front seat. He was a bit overwhelmed, to be honest.”
Byrne was with her friends Rosy Burns, Alessia Denby, Ellie Jones and Katie Redmond, who are all 16. Smith admits that he didn’t know the group of young women closely but had been taking sociology classes alongside two of them. However, he was touched that they asked him to join them.
“I get along with them well but we’re not really friends,” Smith explained to BBC News. “They saw me walking past and recognized me from the back and told me to get in the car. I thought it was pretty funny at the time. It was a nice thing to do.”
When they got to the venue, Smith and the five girls stepped out of the car. There, they were greeted by other students, who cheered for the autistic teenager. He also posed for photos on a rolled-out red carpet in the middle of the group.
After the prom, Byrne’s mother, Nicky, was sent an email. It was from her daughter’s head of year Sean Stowe, who wanted to take the time to praise the young women for what they had done. “For the girls to invite a student not within their friendship group to join them and have photos with them, proves what a genuinely kind and mature group of individuals they are,” it read.
Mrs. Byrne told BBC News, “We’re so proud of them because they haven’t wanted to make a big thing of it. They’re just a lovely group.” But the delighted mom decided to share the email on Facebook, and that’s how Ms. Smith found out what they had done for her son.
“It was just such a lovely thing for them to do,” she said. And she added to the Daily Mail, “It touched me – I was in tears. Brodie will never forget that moment.”
Ms. Smith continued, “He told me he didn’t know the girls very well but they had just stopped and asked him to get in. You can see from the photograph how pleased Brodie was – he had a massive, massive grin.” The story soon went viral and was covered around the world, and Smith and his fellow pupils even appeared on the television show This Morning.
And much like Smith’s mom, people were moved by the thoughtful actions of the teens. “As a mother of 3 sons with autism this fills my heart with joy!! What wonderful young ladies to do such a kind thing for him,” one commenter on the Daily Mail story shared. Another agreed, “Beautiful girls, inside and out, what a kind gesture.”
Ms. Smith told the Daily Mail, “He sat 15 GCSEs and is predicted to do well and is hoping to do A-levels and go to university. What happened at the prom was the icing on the cake.” She added to BBC News, “It has really boosted his confidence.”