Life on the autism spectrum can have its moments, especially when you are higher functioning and “look normal.” For individuals like Isaiah, maneuvering through the unknown poses unique challenges. However, through the world and language of gaming, Isaiah has found his kindred spirits and is learning to face and overcome those challenges with dignity and awe.
This week marks the anniversary of Isaiah’s first trip to South by Southwest (SXSW) Gaming Expo. His adventures this year began much the same as last year with a bus trip through the city until he arrived at his destination. Even after a year away, Isaiah still remembered how to pay for his ticket and which stop he needed.
Although he is still working on his people skills, such as how to properly compliment people, Isaiah is definitely more confident in his approach to the event and is more willing to take risks and wait in line when necessary.
It is taking risks that I want to focus on here. Upon learning that a gaming tournament was going to be taking place, Isaiah immediately decided that he wanted to try it. He confidently walked over to the sign-up table and pronounced his intention. In the same breath, he also confidently announced that he was not going to get very far, but according to him, “I have to start somewhere, Mom.” As you can imagine, Isaiah was extremely nervous about trying something new. He was having difficulty directing his excess energy and occasionally shouted praise to someone for their costume or t-shirt. I had to remind Isaiah several times that while people might like the compliments, his delivery system seemed a bit unnerving and scary because people don’t like to be shouted at by strangers.
When he was finally able to begin his wave in the tournament, Isaiah eagerly approached the daunting task. He borrowed a controller and proceeded to familiarize himself with a game he had never played. I watched as he started up conversations with people, and they responded with genuine kindness. The community as a whole were happy to help someone who was just starting out and supported his efforts.
Isaiah didn’t win either of his matches, but he stilled walked away from the experience with a smile on his face. When I asked him how he felt about the whole experience, he said, “I knew I wasn’t going to get far, but I played some really nice guys. It was worth it. I need to get better, so I can try again next year if they have it. I had a really good day.”
As Isaiah continues to grow and learn more about himself, I could not be more proud of the man he is becoming. He is learning who he is and where he fits. He is seeking out and finding like-minded people who will one day comprise his tribe. He is realizing that maybe he isn’t so different after all.
Isaiah continues to “Conquer the World One Convention at a Time.” Stay tuned for the continuing saga of Isaiah Unmedicated.