Autistic Teen Saves Choking Classmate
He says he learned the Heimlich maneuver by watching SpongeBob
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 7, 2015 3:38 PM CST
Jessica Pellegrino hugs classmate Brandon Williams, who used the Heimlich maneuver he learned watching "SpongeBob Squarepants" to keep her from choking on an apple.   (Anthony DePrimo/The Advance via AP)

(Newser) – An Autistic teenager in New York is being hailed as a hero after saving a classmate who was choking on an apple, the Staten Island Advance reports. Brandon Williams, 13, was eating lunch Oct. 28 when he saw Jessica Pellegrino—a fellow special-needs student—struggling to breath. He tells the New York Daily News he knew what to do because he saw what SpongeBob SquarePants did when Squidward was choking on a clarinet on the popular Nickelodeon cartoon. He picked Jessica up off the ground and performed a perfect Heimlich maneuver. "He picks up on things that most of us would miss and files it all away in his head, and he can recall it all in an instant," Brandon's dad Anthony Williams tells the Advance. "That's how he knew instantly what to do. And we're glad he did. We're proud of him."

Brandon's paraprofessional, a retired police officer named Brian Griffin, was in the lunchroom that day and heard the commotion when Jessica started choking, the Advance reports. "I was ready to jump in, but Brandon had it," Griffin says. "He was amazing. I've never seen anything like it." Anthony Williams tells the Daily News it's a positive lesson for the autism-spectrum community. "There’s no limits to what these kids can do," he says. "Don’t ever think they can’t do anything as they go on in life and as they get older.” As for Brandon—who says he watches SpongeBob Squarepants all day—the hug and thanks he got from Jessica was enough, the Advance reports. "I don't need a medal," he says. "I'm good. I'm good."