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A superhero we all can relate to. June 28, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Okay, so the Man of Steel is once again fighting greed and corruption, and the Lone Ranger is righting wrongs out West. But what if the wrong you need to fight is something you were born with, or something that happened to you?

Wouldn’t it be great to have your very own personal superhero, a superhero who was fighting to save you, a superhero who was you? The other day, our friend Ben wrote a post, “Making a difference” (check it out via our search bar at upper right or just scroll down), about three young men whose online presence, despite severe disabilities, was changing the world. Two of these are brothers, Kambel and Kantai Smith, both of whom battle autism.

Autism is a prison of fear and confusion: Behind its bars, your oversensitive system reacts to stimuli such as noise and touch with terror, and you fail to register facial expressions or the meaning behind vocal intonations or body language, so your interactions with other people are often fraught with misunderstanding.

Bestselling author, scientist and professor Temple Grandin, who herself has severe autism, has likened the condition to the feelings of a prey animal, in essence a sheep who’s always waiting for the wolves to close in. Imagine living in a world in which the chatter and music in a restaurant are as loud as a sonic boom, or someone’s touch on your arm is like an electric shock.

A person with autism can respond to these experiences with anything from rage and roaring to trying to protect themselves through hiding, arms crossed over their face or lifting a menu before them like a shield, or with soothing behaviors, such as rocking back and forth or squeezing themselves between rigid surfaces, where they feel protected and safe. (Dr. Grandin created a “squeeze box” to calm herself.)

If this all seems incomprehensible to you, I strongly recommend Mark Haddon’s bestselling novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. (The title is based on an episode from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s chronicles of one of my heroes, Sherlock Holmes.) Mr. Haddon’s mystery is based on his work with autistic children, and its autistic hero, Christopher, will win your heart even as he solves the crime.

The struggle autistic people face to find a place in our world doesn’t make them less human, less intelligent, or less creative. Quite the opposite. High-functioning autism (formerly described as Asperger’s syndrome) is characterized by very high intelligence. My own nephew, who suffers from this, knew the names and traits of every African ungulate (his favorite animals, such as antelopes) by age three and has taught himself Latin and Greek by age 16.

Lonnie Smith, Kambel and Kantai’s father, saw this genius and potential in his sons. Together, they created a superhero, Survivor, who bravely battles the dreaded League of Diseases, headed by his nemesis, Cheeo, whose chief weapon is depression. Kantai’s animated realization of Survivor, Cheeo, and the other characters in the ongoing animated series, “Survivor Evolution,” can be seen on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/KNSnetwork. Please log on and check it out and subscribe, it’s fantastic!

Kantai just graduated from high school, and both boys, thanks to Lonnie’s unfailing support, are now bound for associate degrees in media arts. May Survivor live long and prosper, and bring the family prosperity as well!

As Lonnie reminds me, and all of us: “Cheeo is the greatest enemy of all Autisarians because he comes from within. He is pure evil, but wherever evil exists there is always an overwhelming force of good to fight it. I AM SURVIVOR!”

As, God willing, are we all.