There are roughly 50 million children and adults in America with a physical or mental challenge, making up nearly 20 percent of the entire population. Of these 50 million people, 3 million are children in between the ages of 5-17. The most common disability that affects children in the US is autism, which affects 1 in every 68 children. One of the hardest things for people with autism is forming relationships. For children on the autism spectrum, having conversations and staying focused in the classroom can be hard-- both mentally and physically. However, even though people tend to focus on the negative things associated with autism, there are many interesting traits that people on the spectrum show. For example, although it’s hard for some autistic children to focus on subjects they aren’t interested in-- they often have a massive understanding of topics that they do find interesting. While many autistic people have trouble discerning emotions, they might also be able to see situations/problems with a more logical perspective than the average person.
Although growing up with a developmental disability like autism, or a physical limitation may be challenging, they can also give people a uniqueness that can benefit them later in life.
Take Susan Boyle, a person with Asperger syndrome who has inspired millions of people around the world. In 2009, she stole the show on Britain’s Got Talent with her beautiful rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream.” Her success on the show instantly put her into the spotlight, and allowed her to sell over 14 million records! Boyle didn’t even learn of her condition until after her fame, and says that learning of her Asperger’s was actually a quite a relief!
Dan Aykroyd is another person who has achieved tremendous fame despite his disabilities. Aykroyd has both Tourette’s syndrome and Asperger syndrome. His disabilities caused him to be obsessed with law enforcement, and ghost hunting; which is what eventually led him to come up with the idea for his film Ghostbusters. “One of my symptoms included my obsession with ghosts and law enforcement-- I carry around a police badge with me, for example. I became obsessed by Hans Holzer, the greatest ghost hunter ever. That’s when the idea for my film, Ghostbusters, was born.”
Stephen Schuman was diagnosed with autism at a young age. Doctors suggested institutionalization because they believed Stephen would never speak, and grow up to be a danger to himself and to others. His mother believed otherwise, and decided to continue to support her son no matter the cost. Stephen said his first words at the age of six, and has since grown into a productive and well loved member of his community. He is a full-time cook at a local restaurant, and works to promote Autism Awareness.
Although there are millions of children with disabilities, many are accomplishing great things in their lives. People who were born with conditions that society tells them will prevent them from living to the fullest, are living fulfilling lives that touch the hearts of many. It’s important to remind children with disabilities that their disability doesn’t prevent them from living great lives, nor does it define them. In so many cases, it’s the disability that gives a person their specific talent that they then can use to give back to the world!