Before the 20th century, nobody really took mental health problems or neurodevelopmental disorders as a serious issue. Everybody who had such a condition tended to be lumped into one group, and, unfortunately, did not receive very much (if any) helpful treatment.
In fact, it wasn’t until the 1940s that medical professionals began separating autism from other neurodivergent conditions, and recognized it as a developmental disorder rather than a mental health problem. And, even after that, it took a long time for scientists to really understand what autism is and how it manifests itself in different people.
Today, we have a better idea of the condition, but there are still tons of misconceptions floating about. Fortunately, some individuals with autism have taken the initiative to give us their perspective on things, helping to remove the stigma and educate the majority of people who don’t have first-hand experience of the condition.
And nobody gives a better explanation than George Yionoulis, a nine-year-old from North Carolina.
After his teacher set him the task of making a presentation to educate his classmates on autism, George went a step further and made a whole video about himself.
He starts with a simple introduction: “Hi everybody, my name is George. Sometimes I go by Geo, or – when I’m laying down phat beats – you can call me DJ GeoYio.” The fourth-grader then goes on to detail his talents and hobbies, particularly drawing, dancing, and music (and, if you watch the video, you’ll see he really does have some amazing skills).
And then he drops the bombshell: “I have this thing called autism.”
Despite seeming very confident in the video, George confesses that he didn’t start speaking until he was three, and sometimes he finds it difficult to make eye contact. He also explains that sometimes he might take a little while to respond to a question because he is hyper-sensitive to other noises around him, and that conversations with an autistic person could sometimes be interpreted the wrong way because the condition makes some people take things literally.
“Sometimes he’ll go over the top responding to something or he’ll get upset in class and other kids don’t necessarily know how to deal with it,” George’s mom, Lisa Jolley, said. “It takes him longer to process information — to see the big picture. Why should I be quiet? Why do I have to sit for so long while class is going? What we try and illustrate is that he has so much in his head.”
When George was first diagnosed with the condition, she didn’t quite know how to deal with it. “Everything you planned for goes out the window,” she explained. “But now I realize it’s not out the window, it’s just shifted. It’s in another part of your house.”
As for George’s video, he never expected it to reach as many people as it already has. Currently, it’s been viewed more than 40,000 times! “It’s amazing to see how many people it has touched,” Lisa said. “And his class loved it. They have been, according to his teacher, been taking it to heart and having more patience with him.”
George concludes the video by saying, “Thank you for hearing all about me and my adventures with autism.”