There’s a positive and negative side to articles showcasing famous people with Aspergers.
On the one hand, it’s encouraging for other young people and families on the autism spectrum to see positive examples of people on the spectrum who’ve made it to the spotlight.
On the other hand, Tony Attwood reminds us that Aspergers is part of the autism spectrum. The word spectrum means that there are all levels of functioning, from barely functioning, to nearly almost fully functioning.
No parent or individual should unrealistically compare themselves to others and expect the same accomplishments out of themselves. Rather, they should try to be the best possible version of themselves.
Wikipedia outlines Clay Marzo’s rise to fame in the world of aquatic athletes and surfing.
Clay Marzo was born on July 17, 1989 in San Diego, California. He was raised in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii where he currently still resides. Clay is an accomplished professional surfer and aquatic athlete.
When Marzo was 10 years old he won the Hawaii State 200m Freestyle in swimming. He has a natural talent in the water, and began to focus solely on surfing as he got older.
At age 11, he placed third at the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) national’s competition. NSSA is an amateur surfing association that focuses on student surfers. Originated in Huntington Beach, California, NSSA is categorized into seven regional conferences. One of these is located in Hawaii. When he was 15 he received two Perfect 10’s, (the first time in NSSA History) to win a National title.
Clay Marzo has such a raw, pure, and unique love for surfing and water that he inspired a movie/documentary made in his honor, called Just Add Water.
The movie trailer taught me a few lessons about parenting children with Aspergers, people with Aspergers who want to grow and reach their potential, and lessons for neurotypicals who are interacting with Aspies.
Parenting Children With Aspergers
Appreciate Who They Are
Individuals with Aspergers are first and foremost people. People are inherently amazing creations. As a parent, honor and respect your child’s unique temperament, characteristics, and strengths. Also, be willing to understand your child’s challenges within the context of how their brain is wired.
“I will not give my son a label: watch him, and you will see his raw intelligence.”
I love Clay’s mother’s attitude toward Clay and toward raising him. She learned, early on, that he was different than his peers. She also saw that he gravitated toward water.
So she built on his specialized interest toward water.
She also refused to label him. A label can be helpful to gain a framework within which to understand your child. But don’t let it define your child. Your child is a person first.
Individuals With Aspergers
Build on Your Passion
This may not be too difficult to do. Clay, for example, is literally like a ‘fish out of water’ when he is away from the surf. He struggles, like so many autism spectrum individuals, with the sensory and social stimuli around him.
He finds peace and joy in the water.
In the same way, individuals on the autism spectrum are often most calm and joyful when immersed in their specialized interests.
Along the way, as a child matures, it may be helpful to explore how to harness that specialized interest and passion into strengths that will pay off from a career standpoint.
This is a point separate from Clay Marzo’s biography. I don’t know what kind of coaching he’s received to relate to the social world.
But all of us, whether on the autism spectrum or not, need to take personal responsibility to grow and develop areas that are not our areas of strength.
As an Aspie, you may need to reach out for coaching or counseling to help you learn how to deal with the stress that living in a neurotypical world can create. Check out Brian King as one great coach, himself diagnosed with Aspergers, if you need a little extra help.
It is my contention…that Autism is the Gift of Specialized Thinking and Ability. The Autistic brain is more refined and focused by design not by injury or illness. What some may call special gifts accompanied by learning deficits or disabilities is in my mind indicative of a brain that by virtue of it’s specialized design simply has different and very specific priorities.
We can learn much from individuals on the autism spectrum: their refreshing honesty, their pure love of their passions, living free from ego in many cases.
I’ve included a clip from Clay Marzo’s official website to help you get to know him a bit better:
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