I have been emailed countless times regarding Jason McElwain. Some of the emails come from other parents with autistic children. Some come from folks that don’t have autistic children but know that my Tiger is autistic. Some have come from folks that just loved the story and have no idea that I have an autistic child.
Many of you have asked what I think about this boy and what he did. I have been reluctant to post about it because of my mixed emotions. Revka posted about him and his meeting with the president. Because of our autistic children Revka has a special relationship with Echo and me. She did a fantastic job on that post.
I have mixed emotions because this boy did something special but there is too much pity tied up in the story. The main reason this affected so many is that pity. Pity is natural and I have learned not to resent it. After young Jason met with the president I realized how I shouldn’t worry about that pity. I shouldn’t worry about it because this young man’s actions fly in the face of that pity.
First the coach let Jason play out of pity. He wouldn’t have done it if it were not the last chance Jason had to play and the fact that the team had a very comfortable lead. Jason answered that pity with a 20 point demonstration of how he should not be underestimated.
I think Jason’s autism helped him in that game. If it weren’t for the real effort he put into learning to talk, he would not have the confidence he needed to shoot 6-3 point shots. If it weren’t for the difficulties he has behaving in a way that is unnatural to him to assimilate with all of us neurotypical folks, he would not have overcome his height disadvantage in that game.
Jason is an admirable young man. I admire his attitude. I would still admire his attitude autism or no autism. I admire his shooting skills and his ability to get open and shoot quickly.
I would never expect Jason to compete daily with most high school basketball players. He is too short to do that without Spud Webb talent. I do however expect him to have a happy productive life that contributes richly to our world. All of us have our place in this world. Jason has the mettle and determination to find his. I won’t dare underestimate him.
I think Jason meeting with President Bush is poetic. Both of them are underestimated all the time. That doesn’t bother either of them. Jason’s accomplishments are a testimony to his unrecognized ability. It moved me to see him with the fella that coined the phrase, “…soft bigotry of low expectations.”
So yes indeed Jason gets a Big White Hat award. Not because he is autistic. Not because he made the news. Not because played so well. He gets it because he is going to continue to manage the team in the post season. He is not eligible to play in the post season because he was underestimated during the season. He was underestimated by everybody maybe even himself. But his attitude keeps him from being angry about that. He just wants to help his team win. He will act like that all of his life. And that will get many a job done. I want him on my team. I wish I were more like him.