Photo sources: Inside Edition; SuBo Dreamed a Dream by Banalities (flickr)
Many people believe autism to be an obstacle that can hold people back from achieving their dreams. This is of course totally untrue, and the story of one PhD student shows exactly why this statement was false.
The story of Kelvin Smith
Kelvin Smith is a graduate of Auburn University who is pursuing his PhD in chemical and bioengineering at Georgia Tech. From the time he was 14 years old, he had always dreamed of being on Jeopardy. He was an avid fan of the show and had watched it routinely for almost ten years. Smith says his best subjects are those in the academic realm like math in science. He was always at the top of his class and had achieved great success in school, so these subjects were right in his wheelhouse. He says that his weakest categories are those having to do with pop culture, as he says that he doesn't get out that much.
Smith was diagnosed with autism when he was 10 years old. Smith says he has always struggled with social situations, which explains why he does not get out so much. Smith, with the help and support of his mother, says he has learned to cope with his autism. He emphasized that the best thing he learned to do was give himself some space and time to recharge, especially after being faced with stressful social situations. He does this through his favorite pastime, playing his Nintendo Switch and looking for new video games to try.
While Smith's autism diagnosis gave him plenty of challenges to deal with, he still had a lot going for him. His knack for studying and thirst for knowledge gave him a leg up in academics. Smith says that he studied and memorized multiplication tables by the time he was 2. This goes hand in hand with his fascination with Jeopardy, a game show that tests the knowledge on contestants on a wide variety of subjects.
Smith studied for years hoping to get his shot on the game show, and just last year he finally got his wish. Smith was overjoyed when he was finally given a chance to participate on the show. Even though he ended up placing third on the show, he said it was one of the most exhilarating experiences of his entire life. Smith's story exemplifies how autism is not just some obstacle to overcome, and autism should not hold anyone back from achieving their dreams.
The story of Susan Boyle
This next story might be a little familiar, as Susan Boyle became a worldwide sensation with her breakout singing performance of "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical Les Miserables on "Britain's Got Talent" in 2009. Her performance was so shocking and great that she quickly became one of the most famous singers in the world. She had always loved music and had dreamed of performing on a big stage. She had a very successful music career, with her first album topping the Billboard charts for six straight weeks. She fell out of the limelight however, after her fame and fortune led to a mental breakdown of sorts.
What many people didn't realize about Boyle was that she had a secret. In 2013, she revealed that she was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome the previous year. Boyle had lived her whole life believing that she had suffered brain damage as a child, which was supposed to explain her often erratic behavior. Boyle was bullied relentlessly as a child because the other children knew she was different. She was prone to emotional outbursts and mood swings, and says she has long lived with acute anxiety. Her rise to fame completely overwhelmed her, and having so many eyes and ears on her and her career only made her anxiety worse.
Boyle found herself in the news for a less positive reason in 2016, when police were called to the Heathrow airport located in Longford, England. As it turns out, Boyle had become overwhelmed by the crowded, noisy airport and caused a disturbance an outburst. There were no charges brought against her or anything of that nature. However, you could only imagine how much stress and embarrassment that may bring to Boyle.
She took it quite well, however, and said that managing these outbursts and their aftermaths was something she had been doing for a long time.
Like many others before her, Boyle did not let her condition get in the way of her dreams. She had a true passion for music and felt that the stage was her safe zone. What many people fail to realize is that certain people on the autism spectrum actually thrive when performing or speaking in front of thousands of people. In one on one or other social situations, these seemingly confident and outgoing people will greatly struggle. This brings up the important point that following her dreams not only improved her quality of life, but helped her deal with her condition as well. Finding that safe space or method of recharging is incredibly important for people on the autism spectrum. And for Susan Boyle, that place was the stage.
Years after receiving her diagnosis, Boyle is still doing quite well. Although she has tried to keep out of the public eye, she has talked somewhat about what she is doing now. She decided to take a step back from music to focus on her first relationship. While it may seem strange that she is having her first relationship at 53 years old, many people on the autism spectrum struggle developing serious relationships due to their social struggles. This did not stop Boyle, and she was still able to find someone special to spend her time with. In the interest of her and her boyfriend's privacy, she has kept quiet about who the man is and other aspects of their relationship, but she seems to be quite happy.
Boyle says her next goal in the near future is adopting a child. Boyle says she has always wanted children but was never able to have one. She says that she wants to give a child a life that she never had, full of love, laughs, and comfort. She says that she has a lot of love to give, and would like nothing more than to give her love to a child desperately in need of someone to care for them. Boyle's story and aspirations show that even through the trials and tribulations of autism, it is still possible for those on the autism spectrum to live a happy and fulfilling life.
These are only two of the thousands of stories of people with autism succeeding in whichever area they choose. Autism should never be thought of as a weakness or something that cannot be overcome, and those with autism should always remember to follow their dreams and to do what makes them happy. Our hope is that the story of these and other individuals will help enlighten the general public that people with autism are not some sort of foreign entity. They are simply regular human beings who happen to have unique struggles and obstacles to overcome. But that does not mean that they are destined to be alone, unhappy, or unsuccessful. We also hope that anyone reading this with autism or with a loved one who has autism knows that they or their loved ones can succeed in whatever they choose to pursue.
For more information on the autism spectrum, symptoms, therapies, and lifestyle tips, be sure to visit the rest of our website.