BY LORENZO PICON
Having a special needs grandchild can be an unwelcome surprise for a grandparent, but not to my grandpa. I was a blessing to him and he was my hero for 20 years. I can’t believe he passed away. Fortunately, all the things he taught me will live on in me, as part of his legacy. Here are some of the wonderful life lessons from my Grandpa Kenneth.
Don’t Always Believe What You Hear
When I was diagnosed with autism 15 years ago, many experts told my family I would never amount to anything. I would live in a world where no one could reach me and I’d never learn or function in society. How wrong they were! They didn’t know that I had a firm believer in the “power of possibilities” in my corner. My Grandpa didn’t accept that dismal future for me and made sure that my parents, relatives, and friends didn’t either.
My grandfather loved me for the person I am and not the one others wanted (or imagined) me to be. He never focused on my autism or the behaviors that accompany it. My Grandpa understood that nobody’s perfect and we all have idiosyncrasies that make us unique. My differences may have been on display more than others, but at the end of the day, what mattered most is that I was allowed to be myself.
Never Give Up On Yourself
“He’ll get there, just give him time,” my Grandpa used to say. That was his favorite saying whenever I didn’t meet other people’s expectations.
No one may ever call me a genius, but I’m persistent. It takes me a while to learn new things and sometimes I have to repeat the same activity several times to fully comprehend it. But Grandpa recognized I could succeed, in my own way and time.
Learning Takes Place In Unexpected Places
I always watched The Price Is Right and Wheel of Fortune with my Grandpa. All the game show sounds and screams of excited contestants kept my attention when other things didn’t. I saw contestants guess prize amounts or figure out a popular slogan. And, as I watched, I learned basic spelling and math. Who would have guessed?
My Grandpa is gone now, but I will always remember and follow the lessons he taught me. I hope that every special needs child is lucky, like me, to have a grandparent who looks past their disability to see and love the person inside.
About Lorenzo Picon
Lorenzo Picon is a young man with autism who attends a specialized high school. His mother, Deanna Picon, coaches parents of autistic and special needs children and is the author of The Autism Parents’ Guide to Reclaiming Your Life. She can be reached at www.YourAutismCoach.com or @yourautismcoach.