Sunday, April 17, 2016

Autism poem

Benjamin Giroux was given an assignment to write a poem called “I Am” for his fifth grade class. The poem follows a template: each student was given the first two words of every line — I am, I see, I feel, etc. — and then asked to fill the rest in. Benjamin used the assignment to describe what it feels like to live on the autism spectrum, and his finished poem moved his parents to tears.

Benjamin’s parents shared his poem on the National Autism Association’s Facebook page, where it’s quickly amassed over 11,000 likes and 6,235 shares. His dad, Sonny Giroux, tells the Huffington Post they decided to share the poem for two reasons: so other parents with kids on the spectrum could understand what their children are going through, and so Benjamin could understand that others accept him and feel the same way he does.

“I… wanted to show Benjamin that he is not, odd, alone, or isolated and that his diagnosis is something to embrace and not something to hold him back,” Sonny explained to the Huffington Post. “Each like, share and comment he’s received since has made him feel like not only he does fit in and belong in this world, but has also moved him beyond words that he’s touched so many.”

When I first read Benjamin’s poem, it took my breath away. Not only is he an immensely talented poet at only 10 years old, but he also managed to capture his unique life experience and feelings in a way that’s so universal. Everyone — whether they’re on the autism spectrum or not — can identify with feeling like a castaway, an outsider, afraid of what others think.

Benjamin connected with thousands of people, but he also made everyone who reads his poem understand what it’s like to live with autism in completely new way. When we consider other’s experiences and find the ways we’re all the same, that creates compassion and understanding — that’s what makes the world a better place. Benjamin inspired thousands of people to walk in his shoes. He’s an immensely talented and beautiful soul, and it’s exciting to think of the many ways kids like him are going to change the world.

I am odd, I am new

I wonder if you are too

I hear voices in the air

I see you don’t, and that’s not fair

I want to not feel blue

I am odd, I am new

I pretend that you are too

I feel like a boy in outer space

I touch the stars and feel out of place

I worry what others might think

I cry when people laugh, it makes me shrink

I am odd, I am new

I understand now that so are you

I say I “feel like a castaway”

I dream of a day that that’s okay

I try to fit in

I hope that someday I do

I am odd, I am new.
Courtesy of my daughter

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