What began as a class assignment has turned into a work worthy of a distinguished author for young Benjamin Giroux, whose raw and emotional poem about life with autism went massively viral and moved thousands of people around the world.
The then 10-year-old from Plattsburgh, New York, was immediately inspired after his teacher asked students to pen a poem about themselves, starting every few sentences with “I am.” Benjamin, not usually one to express a great deal of emotion, approached this homework task with relish and got straight to work on it.
Image credits: GirouxBenjamin
“I am odd, I am new, I wonder if you are too,” Benjamin began, as he set out to try to express what it’s like to live with autism.
I hear voices in the air
I see you don’t, and that’s not fair
I want to not feel blue
I am odd, I am new
I pretend that you are too
I feel like a boy in outer space
I touch the stars and feel out of place
I worry what others might think
I cry when people laugh, it makes me shrink
I am odd, I am new
I understand now that so are you
I say I, “feel like a castaway”
I dream of a day that that’s okay
I try to fit in
I hope that someday I do
I am odd, I am new.
His parents were overcome with emotion when Benjamin handed them his poem to read, such profound and touching words are a rare and beautiful thing from such a young mind. “At first, we felt sad and hurt that he feels isolated, alone, misunderstood and odd at school,” Benjamin’s dad Sonny told Today.com. “As the poem went on, we realized that he understands that he’s odd and that so is everyone else in their own way, which is what Ben wants everyone to embrace.”
The poem was picked up by the National Autism Association, who shared it on their Facebook page. It quickly went viral and has been shared nearly 40,000 times, often accompanied by the awareness hashtag.
Benjamin has since gone on to win awards and watched with pride as his masterpiece has been illustrated for a children’s book (soon to be published), inspired songs, and even been used in tattoo designs. But the most rewarding part for Benjamin is when he receives letters from people like himself, who have felt empowered and inspired by his beautiful words.
“Benjamin is doing alright,” dad Sonny said. “He’s now in 8th grade and each day is a new day.”
“Benjamin hasn’t written much lately. The anxiety of trying to write something as good as that poem is too much for him. So he’s changed medium and now enjoys drawing and playing music.”
Given that people from all over the world were moved to tears by his poem, expressing their awe and gratitude for giving an insight into the mind of someone on the autism spectrum, it’s definitely understandable that he might feel apprehensive in trying to repeat it. However, even if he chooses never to pick up a pen again, he has already achieved more than many of us aspiring authors ever will. He has inspired people.