What I learned from a real life superhero without a cape

A few weeks ago, amongst the CRAZY of end of school year activities, we traveled to our state’s capital Charleston, WV.  My youngest daughter won our county’s Young Writer’s Contest for her age and with that came an invitation to spend the day on the University of Charleston’s campus with published authors in writing workshops. Charleston is a 5 hour drive from our home and the event was on a Friday, but there was no way she was missing this one. My mom is an English teacher and literary nut and so for the two of them this was the Superbowl.  So my husband and I and both our mothers (super grandmas) escorted her to the event. Here’s a few pictures from the day.

At the awards ceremony at the end of the day, the winners from each division were chosen to read their entries from the stage into the microphone. As the host of the event gave us an overview of what we were about to hear, my ears (and heart) perked up when he said that the 3-4 grade winner had Autism and would share his entry that gave us a view of what living with Autism is like. My protective therapist nature kicked in and I immediately was concerned for the boy I did not know. Inside my head I thought,

“This room is filled with hundreds of people.”

“They want him to speak in a microphone?”

“There’s an echo in here and loud clapping, will that overwhelm him?”

As Sawyer Hinton from Mingo County approached the microphone, my worries all melted away. This was a composed, bright, confident boy. His thick Appalachian accent required me to intently focus to clearly hear each word, but his message was as clear as could be.  His goal was to share what he knows about Autism as an advocate not just for himself, but for others. He doesn’t consider himself to have a disability, but a superpower. As he finished, the whole auditorium stood and clapped for several minutes. I couldn’t stop the tears just like those around me – men, women, kids – all blubbering. It could have been a scene from a movie.  I was as proud of this kid as I have ever been for my own and I didn’t know him!

My daughter was blessed to be given the opportunity to spend the day with many inspiring teachers and authors, but we were all blessed to hear Sawyer Hinton, who in my opinion had the best sense of himself and the world around him  than any other elementary kid I have ever seen. I only wish I had had a video to show you the incredible moments.

Autism now affects 1 in 68 children in the US. You likely have a relative or a friend with Autism or someone you know has a child with Autism. Sawyer’s goal was to use his day to spread awareness. We’d like to use our blog to help him as he helps others. This boy will do big things in the world. Enjoy! (and please share!) And thank you Sawyer!

Superhero Without a Cape

by Sawyer Hinton

Grades 3-4 winner, Lenore PreK-8, Mingo County

Did you know that not all superheroes wear a cape? I have a superpower that makes me very special. I am completely different from every other 8-year-old that I know. The thing that I call my super power is what most people call Autism. I know that it is normally seen as a disability. But I look at it in a different light. I would much rather call it a special ability. Autism allows me to process everything in the world around me differently than the average child. My family has helped me cope with my diagnosis. So hopefully after reading my story, you will discover that there are superheroes all around you. They just don’t wear capes.

I have been called some really ugly names for being different. But being peculiar is just who I am. I want to explain how you could always turn a disability into a superpower by just looking at things in a different way. Take my obsessiveness of order routine for example. Most people consider that a disability. I, on the other hand, just think that I am more organized than everyone else. Now doesn’t that sound more positive by just changing the words? I prefer to be alone most of the time. But I really have more time to think, read and dream. I come around people in my own time and at my own pace. Is that not how most people get to know one another? I just take a little longer. My brain is larger than normal. Seems to me that is a positive trait. I have room to learn more. One of the stigmas placed on people like me is that we are mentally retarded. That could not be farther from the truth. I am a genius when it comes to certain things. Putting what I know on the outside is what I struggle with. However, the ability to retain information by just hearing or reading it once is definitely a perk. So, has it become more apparent that I am super special? I cannot bear the thought of certain textures, smells, tastes and things that have to do with sensory perception. Guess I am just set in my ways. But isn’t every single person that way? I am a little extreme but still not disabled.

I have not mentioned all the quirky things that I do. But what superhero reveals all his secrets? I just hope that I can make a difference to someone else like me. I urge you to take the time to look at the things that make you different and embrace them. Never accept something as a disability, look at it as a special superpower that makes you unique! Hopefully now you can see the superheroes living all around you.

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Autism is everywhere.  10+ years ago I remember someone saying to me everyone has been touched by cancer in some way.  Now I feel the same can be said of autism.  Most, if not all of us, either know someone with autism or are a parent of a child with autism or have autism him/herself.  The numbers are climbing, awareness is increasing, research is advancing and acceptance is nearing.

Every year the month of April is deemed Autism Awareness Month (learn how we celebrate here).  In celebration of this blogs are buzzing with personal stories to help us understand what it is like to live with autism and national organizations are highlighting facts in an effort to help us all better understand this complicated diagnosis.  Autism (or ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder) is defined as a group of complex brain disorders including varying degrees of difficulty with social interactions, nonverbal and verbal communication and repetitive behaviors.  Below are some staggering, ever changing statistics to highlight the impact of autism and its reach:


1 in 88 children are diagnosed with autism


1 in 5 of those children diagnosed will have a sibling who is also diagnosed with autism


1 in 50 school aged children are diagnosed


½ of those school aged children diagnosed have sensory integration issues (want to learn more about sensory integration disorder? click here)


4 to 5 times as many boys as girls are diagnosed with autism


40% of those diagnosed with autism have average to above average intellectual abilities


About 25% of those with autism are nonverbal but can learn to communicate in other ways


Autism can accurately be diagnosed as early at 2 years of age however most are not diagnosed until after 4 years of age


The most obvious signs of Autism emerge between 2 and 3 years of age


Research is proving a combination of autism risk genes and environmental factors that influence early brain development are the cause of autism.


Research is suggesting that a woman can reduce her chances of having a child with autism by taking folic acid or eating a diet rich in folic acid before and after conception


Below are listed the “red flags” to look for to know if your child may be at risk for an autism diagnosis taken from the Autism Speaks website (

  • No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions by 9 months
  • No babbling by 12 months
  • No back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or waving by 12 months
  • No words by 16 months
  • No meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating) by 24 months
  • Any loss of speech, babbling or social skills at any age


The Autism Speaks website also states that one of the best things parents and caregivers can do is to learn the early signs of autism and become familiar with the typical developmental milestones that your child should be reaching (1-2-3 Just Play With Me can help you get started!).  With this knowledge you will be better equipped to recognize warnings signs and advocate for your child by seeking help from a professional as early as possible.

Autism speaks…it’s time for us all to start listening, learning and accepting!

If you want to learn more or share with others what you know about autism, join us Tuesday, April 9 at 8pm as we tweet chat with Treatment Diaries all about autism. #treatdiarieschat