You’ve Got a Friend in Me

April 09, 2014

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"Impossible is only an obstacle that we place in front of ourselves that stops us from achieving our goals." 

missing toothFor years this quote has resonated in my mind. How do you overcome the thought of impossibility when all the odds are against you? Meet Anakin. Anakin is a seven year old boy who has Autism. His entire life has been a shroud of impossibility. Anakin has had to fight to overcome the struggles that come when one is diagnosed with Autism to be known as a child whose capabilities are endless. He has fought tirelessly to show people that the things he has accomplished in his short life are not impossible but possible. Anakin was diagnosed with Autism when he was 22 months old. Most of the struggles that he has had (for a good portion of his life) are due to him being non-verbal. He could not speak to anyone (including his own parents). He garnered severe gut intolerance's to food and began to live a lonely and disconnected life. Anakin could not grasp the concept of socializing with other people. He detested hugs and being held. He wanted to be alone, in his own little world where he felt most comfortable.

You see, Autism can be a very lonely experience from the perspective of people on the outside. For the person with Autism, it’s more of a prison. Anakin was trapped inside his own body, trying to figure out how to let his inner self free and how to express his needs to others. His mother saw this struggle and it broke her heart. Day in and day out she spent endless hours researching therapies and biomedical approaches, which would help Anakin cope with his outbursts of behavior. In desperate need to find help to equip Anakin with any necessary skills which would allow him to step out of his isolated world of Autism in hopes that she would build a relationship with him. The hardest thing for her to realize was that ultimately he needed to try his best as he struggled to make his requests know and ultimately fit in to society. As years progressed, Anakin did his very best and pushed through numerous obstacles and stereotypes. Proving that even Autism can be conquered. He began to speak in broken sentences that started to show his inner emotions. It allowed him to assimilate with others. He began to seek friends and look for love in other people. He truly began to understand what it meant to have a passion for something in his life. This all came because of his desires and wants. Something that people say is hard to find in children with Autism. Just like any child, Anakin has determination, hopes, dreams, and even fears. When asked what Anakin would like to be when he grows up, he responds, “An Astronaut!” Even though he still has Autism, it is no longer his crutch but rather his cane into a new world of endless possibilities.

IMG_63272460243975From the very beginning professionals doubted what would become of him in the future, assuming that he would never speak, let alone amount to anything great. In these past  8 years he has amounted to many things that even I wouldn't have done as a child. He continues to set the bar high for himself, knowing that there is nothing that can hold him back. He has brought people together and has been able to break through the walls of discrimination against autism. He has given all those who were skeptical of his abilities something better; he showed them the skill of perseverance. Anakin has never given up on any challenge which has come his way. His fervent determination serves him very well when he wants to achieve something. He continues to try the best he can, as he pushes the envelope every single day, at home and at school. He never ceases to prove that the label society has given him does not define who Anakin is now and the greater things he will accomplish in life. His perseverance and conquering strengths have given a new definition to Autism itself.

IMG_20140330_194959Today, March 28th 2014 Anakin will push the envelope to another level. Out of his own desire he will perform in the renowned Highland Oaks Annual Talent Show in the city of Arcadia. In order for you to grasp how incredibly amazing this is, you need to understand how unordinary this is for him. Anakin still struggles with socializing with those around him. It still pains him to look at others in the eyes when communication. He has gotten better at speaking with sentences but his preference has always been to communicate in a broken matter, because it is much easier for him. He is timid when it comes to speaking to others and would much rather not have to do it if need be. His Autism would still love for him to be alone. But something happened. Something that both his mother and I have rarely seen over the course of his life. He showed interest in something which involves a whole lot of socializing. One afternoon he brought home a flyer advertising their school’s talent show. He looked at his mom and said “Anakin to be in the BIG show!” With great excitement he told us he wanted to sing. We then asked him what song he would like to sing and he responded, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” a song from one of his favorite Disney movies, Toy Story.

Normally, Anakin has a hard time waiting, especially if it is not a highly preferred item or activity. Up until this point he has already undergone a tryout, rehearsal and dress rehearsal, which he had to wait patiently for at least 3 hours until he could perform. So for him to wait that long, not once, or twice but three times is a huge feat in itself. This shows his steadfast perseverance. He wants to prove to others as well as himself that he is not the typical Autistic stereotype. He wants to prove to society that he may be different but definitely not less. He has sung in front of judges and other children. He did not care who looked or jeered. Today will be his final performance as he debuts his hard work and effort. This is not a special needs talent show therefore he is the only one with Autism performing. This will be his moment; his moment to shine a light on Autism. To show everyone that he can be as typical as any other child can be. He has broken down and put aside the barriers which define Autism. He has fought against all odds that have been set before him and has conquered. Tomorrow he will show the world that he can be someone great despite what others might think or say and it will all begin with a couple words that I believe all kids with Autism would like to say, “You’ve got a friend in me.”