For a condition so common, autism remains poorly understood by many.  

The chances are you have a friend, acquaintance, or family member who has autism – or at least, knows someone who does. After all, 1 in 68 children in the United States is estimated to be on the autistic spectrum (1, 7). Yet, so few know about the symptoms of autism or how to respond to them.

Luckily for us, 9-year-old George Yionoulis of Raleigh, North Carolina is doing his part to change this dismal fact. George’s newest YouTube video, My Autism – a video summary of his personal experience with autism – has taught over 180,000 viewers the differences that make him both unique and ordinary (2).

“I’m a kid, just like you,” George explains in his trending video (3). “Because all us kids are different in out own ways, right?”

George’s Story: 9-year-old boy makes an incredible viral video about his autism

George Yionoulis is an ordinary fourth-grader from North Carolina (2). Just like any other kid his age, he loves having fun, whether by dancing, making music, playing computer games, or drawing (2).

But if there’s one thing that makes George stand out a little more from others, it’s his autism. Indeed, George struggles with certain things on a day-to-day basis, like making eye contact with others and staying calm when he makes mistakes (3). At the same time, George might express his emotions a little differently (3).

“I’m extremely enthusiastic about a lot of different things,” George explains in his viral video (3). “I flap my hands, or bounce up and down, or chew things, and bite on my homework.”

 

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autism autistic children

So George’s parents, Lisa and Mike, proceeded to talk with George’s fourth-grade teacher about how they might help the class understand autistic behavior – and were recommended that George make a video that explains his autism.

“We were like, ‘Oooooh, a video,’ ” said Lisa, adding that George loves to make creative videos (3). The family naturally accepted the proposal.

Thus, over the next month, George and his parents created a video about his personal experiences with autism – and My Autism was born.

My Autism: A First-Hand Account of the Autistic Spectrum

autism autistic children

Narrated by George over music that he has composed and performed himself, My Autism candidly and charmingly discusses what it’s like to live with autism.

On the one hand, George describes the difficulties he experiences with ordinary activities, like making eye contact with others and filtering out irrelevant sensory input (e.g. background noises, distracting sights) (3). But George also explains that he listens to music and chews gum to keep from getting overwhelmed by these issues.

George also addresses the eccentric quirks autism gives him, like his tendency to take metaphors too literally or his occasional unresponsiveness to others. But he explains that his autistic behavior is not always indicative of his feelings.

If you ever see me playing by myself, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t want to play with you, too,” he reminds his viewers (3). “Like a lot of other kids with autism, I may not have been looking [at you] but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t listening!”

But perhaps most importantly, George frames his autism as a personal challenge in his life that may be unique to others but ordinary to him, noting: “Those things are just kid things to be frustrated about” (3).

In this way, the video informs its viewers about autism while also describing it as just one part of George’s complex and multifaceted life. Witness George’s impressive work for yourself here:

The Response

autism autistic children

My Autism was shown to the class in October and was later uploaded on YouTube on November 27th, amassing 25,000+ views in its first week.

Now reaching over 180,000 views, this touching video essay has been hailed as an insightful look into personal experiences with autism by autism advocacy groups, news outlets, and the general public alike (2). George’s mother, Lisa, notes that most of the responses they have received have been positive (2).

Indeed, a top comment on George’s YouTube page reads: “George [this] is so great! I have a 9-year-old son with autism as well. He is nonverbal.” (3)

In another top comment, a nurse remarks: “That was more informative than anything I’ve ever learned about autism. Thank you! Keep up the good work and stay tough, kiddo!” (3)

Of course, “keeping up the good work” is exactly what George intends to do.

“Don’t be afraid to come ask me about [autism],” George reminds his viewers (3). “No, seriously – it’s okay. Just ask me about it.”

Learn More about Autism

autism autistic children

If you would like to learn more about autism, try checking out the resources below to read up on:

So if you feel that you know very little about autism, brush up on the subject – and remember that they are, like George and many others, just people!

Sources:

  1. Autism Speaks. (2017). What Is Autism?. [online] Available at: https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].
  2. Hobson, E. (2017). Little boy’s touching video explaining his autism to his classmates goes viral. [online] Global News. Available at: https://globalnews.ca/news/3898404/little-boys-touching-video-explaining-his-autism-to-his-classmates-goes-viral/ [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].
  3. YouTube:Lisa Jolley. (2017). My Autism – by George. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIK2yXfrCfw [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].
  4. Turner, T., Macaya, M., Turner, T. and Macaya, M. (2017). ‘I have this thing called autism’: A boy’s eloquent message to his fourth-grade classmates. [online] Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2017/12/07/wait-for-it-i-have-this-thing-called-autism-a-boys-eloquent-message-to-his-4th-grade-classmates/?utm_term=.ce7618a8d025 [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].
  5. Autism Speaks. (2017). Learn the signs of autism. [online] Available at: https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/from-first-concern-to-action/learn-signs [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].
  6. Autism Speaks. (2017). Is It Autism and If So, What Next? A Guide for Adults. [online] Available at: https://www.autismspeaks.org/adult-tool-kit [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].
  7. Cdc.gov. (2017). CDC | Data and Statistics | Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) | NCBDDD. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].
  8. Mayinstitute.org. (2017). Topic Center – News – May Institute. [online] Available at: https://www.mayinstitute.org/news/topic_center.html?id=1595 [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].
  9. Autism Speaks. (2017). What To Do When Your Friend’s Child is Diagnosed with Autism. [online] Available at: https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2016/08/25/what-do-when-your-friend%E2%80%99s-child-diagnosed-autism [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].
  10. Autism Speaks. (2017). How Is Autism Treated?. [online] Available at: https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].

 

Image and video sources:

  1. YouTube:Lisa Jolley. (2017). My Autism – by George. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIK2yXfrCfw [Accessed 12 Dec. 2017].

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