The Many Routes to Brilliance

It was World Autism Awareness Day on the 2nd April, so I wanted to write a few words for anyone who might be beginning the journey. A very good friend once told me that there were many different paths to brilliance, and autism was just one of them. He was such a positive person. I remember feeling terrified at that point. My darling boy. No one could tell me what his future might look like, what his struggles might be, whether he’d become independent. But I fell in love with that idea of different paths. Different paths to empathy, different paths to understanding, learning, interaction, affection, joy. And not brilliance as in a brilliant mind, although there is that too in all of us, but brilliance as in a bright light in the world. Our children, our brightest lights, always lead the way to the future, after all.

What came out of our son’s struggles and triumphs were relationships built on support, and the relief of shared experiences. He had lots of help: a good primary school and a nurturing 1:1 to help him through; the support of an excellent and positive ASD unit to maximise his potential in a fully integrated Comprehensive School. Jill Grange of Bridgend NAS and the late artist Sol Jorgensen co-coordinated an exhibition of art and words by people with autism and their carers called ‘Light and Dark’ in Butetown History and Art Centre in 2012, and got me involved. And that was the moment I realised – creativity can be a way of working things out – even the darkest emotions which have no clear route through. It’s something we’ve taught to our boy – to work out the feelings – write them down, get them out, make them solid. It’s a tool in his box of tricks for life, and we all need some of those.

And now, we have a young man in the house, so affable and good-natured, so full of chatter and at ease in the company of adults that we sometimes forget his struggles because he strides on through regardless. He’s amazing in the real sense. And like everyone, both on the spectrum and off, he’s taking his own path to brilliance: bright light in our lives, that he is.

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