Special

A poem about autism.

Artist’s Statement: I consider it a gift and a privilege to have Asperger’s syndrome. It has helped me see the world through a unique lens. Having Asperger’s has given me my exceptional memory and my ability to notice things that others often overlook. Obviously, there have been some challenges, but I’ve worked through them over time, and have come out better. I wouldn’t trade my autism for the world. It makes me, well…me.

Many “Aspies” have one or two areas of interest in which they excel, but I find all of my subjects easy to learn. That makes school an opportunity to absorb more information about interesting topics. Even outside of classes, autism has major perks. One of my closest friends was one of the first people to have candid conversations with me about representations of autism in the media, which I find to play a little (or a lot) into stereotypes. Having autism has motivated me to informally research mental illness in our society, particularly regarding the stigma surrounding it and how we can change that. This research led to my work with Project Here.Now., a mental health organization that’s equally focused on these issues.

The greatest benefit of having Asperger’s syndrome is my unconventional perspective on the world. I have very different insights into problems than my peers, which I enjoy sharing in my classes. On the Executive Teen Board of Project Here.Now., I’m one of the few people with a neurological disorder rather than an emotional one. This allows me to speak to a very different side of mental health and illness than other board members. What I love about being autistic is best explained by the famed theoretical physicist Erwin Schrödinger. To paraphrase him, to be autistic means “not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.”

Special

I’m a special flower.
People always tell me that.
You’re special.”
“How…special.”

Special is a knife that cuts down to the marrow of my bones.
Special is not good.
Special is different.
Different is bad.

When I tell people I’m on the spectrum, I become a mind reader.
I read their thoughts like a horror novel.
They’re thinking the same things as everyone else:
I’m mingling with a monster.
I’m friends with a freak.
I know a special person.
You’re not like me.
You’re different.
You’re bad.

Their words are daggers to my heart
Bullets to my soul
Their thoughts hurt me.
I cry from their explosive landings in my mind and on my heart.
No one sees me for who I am.
They don’t see me for my accomplishments or my personality.
To them, I am my autism.

I’m autistic.
I get a different perspective on the world,
But I can’t share it.
That makes me feel isolated
Like I have no one to talk to.
I’m autistic.
That doesn’t make me less.
Less human
Less deserving of respect
Less intelligent
Less feeling
Less hurt by your words

I am autistic
But I am real
I’m not a character
I’m not a superhero
I’m just me,
A real, human autistic boy

I don’t need your pity
I don’t need your validation
I need what everyone needs
Food
Water
Shelter
Respect
Friends
Family
Love
Dignity

Humanity
I’m not normal.
That’s okay.

Max Greenspoon is a senior at Ardsley High School. He’s an active participant in the school’s drama program, performing in every show the Drama Club has presented since his freshman year. Outside of drama, Max participates in Academic Challenge, Math Team, Chamber Orchestra, and Jazz Ensemble. He also plays many instruments and practices legerdemain. He’s been honored to serve as the Vice President of both the Drama Club and Academic Challenge, as well as having his dramatic work presented by the Irondale Ensemble. He has been working with Here.Now. on the Executive Teen Leadership Board for the past year and a half.

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