Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A letter to Johnny B.

One of my favorite humans ever is a 14 year old boy on the autism spectrum. Because of how his autism is manifest people really don't see his full potential. I was disheartened to learn the results of some recent testing at school that I feel is so far off base with this kid that I worry it will do more harm to his future than good, which was the aim. I'm pretty sure it has been and will continue to be a pattern in this child's life to be misjudged and underestimated, and that is a tragedy.  I worry about how our society perceives people on the spectrum, and I worry that this kid will become a victim of our prejudices. In our conversations over the length of our friendship, I've tried to buoy him up as well as prepare him that he will have to work hard--harder than someone without the different processing of autism, because the world as a whole doesn't understand it. We see it as a disorder, but we are doing a great disservice to kids if that is how they are seeing themselves - as someone with a disorder, whatever this supposed disorder may be. The most heartbreaking thing you could ever hear is a child saying, "I wish I was normal." We are all human, we all have issues and things we have to deal with.

Being the end of the school year, I wrote this child a letter. I want him to know that I am in his corner. And I want him to remember that he is awesome. If you were to meet him, your first impression might not agree with me. But trust me - this kid, like SO MANY OTHERS, are worth getting to know. Get past the first impressions, because there is a lot going on there that we can learn from and contribute to.


I want you to know it has been an absolute pleasure to hang out with you these past two years! You are such an awesome kid! Since I’m not sure when I’ll get to see you next, I want to make sure you know just how awesome you are, so please remember that:

  • You are hilarious.
  • You are kind and a good friend.
  • You flirt with a lot of girls, but you always make sure your number one girl Jamie gets to her bus with your arm around her shoulder.
  • You are so smart! I love that you are using Rosetta Stone to teach yourself Japanese, and Khan to teach yourself Calculus. Keep going! These skills will come in handy.
  • You are a great problem solver. I love it when you beat me at Blokus.
  • You are awesome at coding and Video Game Maker. Keep working on these skills. Not everyone can succeed at coding, but you are a natural. That could be a way for you to find your niche and make the big bucks!
  • You know where every country in the world is. Most American adults don’t know where any other country is- but you do.  And you know most of their capitals--keep going, you only have Europe and Oceania left!
  • You are very strong and athletic. I know very few people who could pull themselves up and sit on a basketball hoop.
  • You are charismatic. Do you remember how many people cheered for you at the SOAR Smash dance off? Or how many girls you slow danced with?
  • You have great style. Maybe one day you can get those diamond earrings you want so much--just make sure it is cool with your parents first.
  • You are very helpful in the kitchen.
  • You make funny videos about getting grounded after ordering too much fast food.
  • You are insanely good at Dance Dance Revolution. How’d you get so good?
  • You are learning how to break dance. And you are probably the coolest kid to air guitar to Journey, or do cartwheels to Michael Jackson that Skate World has ever seen.

Some people are going to doubt that you are capable of great things, but they are wrong. THEY ARE WRONG! Just because you do some things differently than what they decided was normal doesn’t mean that you are doing them incorrectly. It means you are doing things differently- not wrong or less than just different. Your brain processes things in a different way, and that is great! The world needs people of all shapes and sizes to approach things in different ways. We need your point of view! YOU ARE NEVER LESS THAN. You are awesome. You are smart and capable. You can do great things and make the big bucks! I can’t wait to see what you will do! I am so proud of you! You are one of my favorite people ever. After all, you’re Johnny B, the coolest guy in town.

1 comment:

Melinda said...

I read this some time ago and meant to comment earlier. I absolutely love that you did this and it was really touching for me to read. Johnny is lucky to have you advocating for him and reminding him of his strengths. I love working with children on the autism spectrum. They are unique and their comments are always interesting. They always end up being some of my favorite kids to teach.