Thomas Edison, Autism Boy, and the Autism Question?


It happened last night on the drive home from dinner. Autism Boy asked the dreaded question. So what is Autism?

I had all these thoughtfully prepared answers. As we drove along, I realized all those answers weren’t cutting it. He didn’t get it. Till I told him this great story about his idol, Thomas Edison.  You see Thomas Edison was very much like you, I started to say. Well one day his mother received a note from the school teacher.His mother’s eyes were tearful as she read the letter out loud to her child: Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have enough good teachers for training him. Please teach him yourself. And that’s just what she did. She home schooled him.

After many, many years, after Edison’s mother died and he was now one of the greatest inventors of the century, one day he was looking through old family things. Suddenly he saw a folded paper in the corner of a drawer in a desk. He took it and opened it up. On the paper was written: Your son is addled [mentally ill]. We won’t let him come to school any more.

Edison cried for hours and then he wrote in his diary: “Thomas Alva Edison was an addled child that, by a hero mother, became the genius of the century.”

You see, Thomas Edison, was home schooled by his mother after performing poorly in the school. His mother refused to believe the teacher’s assessment that young Tom’s “brains were addled” (mentally slow). Clearly Tom was experiencing the world quite differently from his classmates. Just like those with Autism. Those with Autism experience the world differently. Thomas’ mother knew her son had the capability with great deal of nurturing and leadership, she gave him the basic tools to learn, both in the form of process and content; and empowered him to learn.

So what does that have to do with Autism?

Well you see you are like Thomas Edison. You experience the world in a different way. Noises, smells, textures are all felt computed differently in your brain. This sparked a tremendous conversation about how and why God made him the way he is and led us to why we home school. I told Autism Boy, that like Thomas Edison, he too needed the most special teacher God could provide with a custom education to unlock his hidden potential. Autism Boy loves home schooling and now he loves his Autism. Yes, he loves who he is. Sometimes it is challenging, but we all have challenges. Embrace them and don’t fear them.




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