I love superheroes. For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a super hero. Growing up in the 1980’s I can remember my excitement of waking up early Saturday morning and pouring myself a giant bowl of cereal and planting my self in front of the television so that I could watch all of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons. Wonder Woman. Super Friends. Spider Man and his Amazing Friends, and of course the king of all superheroes, Superman.
I’ve always had a fascination with Superman. I mean who doesn’t want to have super strength, super speed, the ability to see through walls, and the ability to fly. As a child I wished that I could be Superman but mostly because I wanted people to like me the way that people seemed to really like him.
Over the years there have been many movies, cartoons, and television shows starring the “man of steel” but one of my favorites was the most recent movie by the same title not necessarily because it was the best rendition of Superman, but because of one scene that has been extremely helpful in helping me understand my life after being diagnosed with ASD in 2014. Take a look at the scene below.
About a year ago I did a FB live Q&A session for The Mighty. I was grateful for the opportunity to share my story with the world and to answer questions from literally thousands of people who watched live and even some who watched later. As someone who lived decades without a proper diagnoses, I was encouraged by the out pouring of positive comments.
One comment however, threw me for a loop.
“You’re a hero.”
Not really I’m just a guy trying to live my life and share my story with others in hopes that it will inspire them to educate themselves about autism and find ways to become more inclusive and accommodating to those with an autism diagnosis.
I thought to myself, “I’m not a hero.”
On the other hand, the child in me that always wanted to be Superman, so desperately wanted to claim the hero status that some well intended and quite encouraging person wanted to bestow upon me. I mean I’ve waited my whole life to be admired like Superman. Perhaps this was my shot.
Over the last few years, I’ve learned that I am actually somewhere in the middle and that I am in fact something like Superman.
Like young Clark in the video clip above, I struggle with sensory processing. Noises that are normal to you are loud to me. That also means that I hear things in ways that sometimes other people don’t. I don’t have X-ray vision, but I do see the world in ways that others don’t. I see patterns and I am often able to predict the outcome of a scenario simply by understanding patterns, rhythms and systems at work. I am even able to understand human behavior in ways that others can’t because peoples behavior follows often follows a predictable pattern. I see it. Sometimes others can’t.
I see words in ways that create images. I can see the connection between words and their meanings and origins. I see patterns in conversation and writing styles. I can take in large amounts of written imagery and translate it rapidly into useful information. As a result I am an excellent story-teller and I have a gift for explaining complicated subjects in very simple and practical ways.
So maybe I am a hero. I may just be something like Superman, but like Superman my powers are really just a product of the environment that I have to live in.
When you watch the clip of young Clark, he struggles with sensory processing because in his words “The world is too big.” I can relate.
You see, if you know anything about Superman (and I am not assuming you’re a comic book nerd like me) then you know that Superman is actually from a different planet. Krypton to be exact.
On Krypton, where Superman is really from, he’s actually not all that special. He wouldn’t be super strong or fast. He wouldn’t have heat or X-ray vision. He wouldn’t be a hero at all. The thing that makes him the hero that we admire is that he lives in a world that his brain and body were not built for.
When you read the comics, it turns out that Superman is really just Kal-El and his powers come from the fact that on Earth the gravity is weaker than on his home planet (which is why he can fly) and the yellow sun’s radiation gives him super strength (as opposed to the red sun from his home planet). Simply put he is a hero because of the environment that he is forced to live in.
So maybe I am a hero after all, not because of me but because as an adult with autism spectrum disorder, I also live in a world that my brain and body are not built for. Like Clark, I’ve had to learn to “make the world smaller” so that I can manage life on this strange planet where everything is loud and people don’t understand me, I don’t understand this thing called body language, and perhaps in the process of me doing my thing I have unknowingly and unintentionally displayed some type of strength that makes you think that I am a hero.
In the end I am something like Superman because I am an ordinary guy doing ordinary things, in an extraordinarily difficult world to live in and while that may make me appear to be a hero, like Superman I’d much rather have an environment that felt a little more like home.
Ok, just so you don’t miss the punch line. I am only a hero because I have to be, not necessarily because I want to be, nor because it has to be that way. If you’re going to be inspired be inspired to change the environment so that people with disabilities don’t have to be hero’s they can just feel at home.
A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. -Christopher Reeve
-Pastor L #autismpastor