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Anthony Kuznia was inquisitive, energetic

Anthony Kuznia, then 9 years old, visits with his grandmother Janet Luettjohann in 2012. JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD

GRAND FORKS — When Anthony Kuznia appeared in an April 2012 Grand Forks Herald article about autism, he was a happy and curious 9-year-old, busy exploring the lobby of a Grand Forks hotel where he and his family had spent the night as a special treat for the kids.

He liked swimming in the hotel’s pool, he said, and had gone to his gymnastics class the night before. He liked the trampoline best.

“He loves going to Red River Gymnastics,” his grandmother Janet Luettjohann said at the time.

Anthony stood near his grandmother and hugged her as she sat on a couch, with her arm around him.

Anthony’s body was found in the Red River on Thursday, a day after hundreds of volunteers and law enforcement officials searched the area around his East Grand Forks, Minn., home.

“He’s always on the move,” Luettjohann told the Herald last year. “It’s hard for him to remain still for very long.”

As a child with autism, she said, he would sometimes flap his arms or he would tap his fingers together or tap them on himself and along the sides of cars.

Anthony was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder around age 5, she said.

Anthony had participated in Special Olympics, she said.

“We thought he wouldn’t like it. When he got out there, he ran and ran.”

Outgoing and social

Anthony’s family encouraged him to make eye contact, Luettjohann said last year, but those who knew him described him as social.

"He loves to talk. He’ll say, 'Can you just sit down and talk with me?' "

Unlike many children with autism spectrum disorder who are withdrawn and resist physical contact, Anthony was more outgoing, she said. "He’ll seek out touch."

“When he first meets you, he wants to know your name, what you’re doing here. He’s very inquisitive.”

At times, he would pull away from a hug he didn’t initiate.

“Every day is different. Every day brings a new surprise for us,” she said.

In school, he was in regular classrooms through third grade, she said. “The kids in his classroom always like him. They’ll say, ‘Can I help Anthony do this?’ “

He was attended full time by paraprofessionals who knew him “so well,” she said, including “when he can handle things and when he can’t.”

In certain areas, he excelled.

“He has a memory like you wouldn’t believe,” Luettjohann said. He remembered the names of each specialist and nurse who had treated him during various medical appointments in Minneapolis.

Anthony also showed keen interest in science.

“He loves science, absolutely loves science and learning how things grow,” she said. “We have a big garden.”

He also was very interested in computers, she said. “He can sit down at the computer — he likes Google Earth — and take you anywhere. How many 9-year-olds can do that?”

Each child with autism is different, she said. “Every one of them has a special gift to give the world.”

Pamela Knudson | Forum News Service

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