They had Struggles Growing up with Autism but they Shined!

Inside: Growing up with autism might be challenging, but these 13 kids shined in their own unique ways.

By: NChua

We all know what the life of a child with autism is like. They do have struggles, especially in expressing themselves and relating to people and the environment.

However, it doesn’t mean that they stay that way, they can surpass these challenges, with the support of family, caregivers, therapists, and mentors.

Be inspired by these stories of our 13 special children with autism.

Christopher Duffley

Christopher now 19, was born prematurely to a cocaine-dependent mom, stayed in the NICU for 5 months, and had blindness because of retinopathy of prematurity. He was put in foster care, but his biological aunt adopted him later on.

Growing up, he had delayed speech and struggled with social interaction and cognitive abilities. He started to sing at 4 years old, diagnosed with Autism at 5, but beat the odds and became a sought-after musician, motivational speaker, and podcaster.

He says, “Yeah, I have blindness and autism, but it doesn’t stop me!” His love for music had been a drive for him to inspire others.


Kodi Lee

Kodi was born with optic nerve hypoplasia, had life-saving surgery at 5 days old, and was later diagnosed with Autism early in life. He was also diagnosed with Addison’s disease.

But in spite of this, at 2 years old, his parents noted that he could play the piano on his own. With this special talent growing up, he auditioned for America’s Got Talent and became a grand winner.

His blindness and autism did not stop him from gaining worldwide recognition because of his musical talent, having a perfect pitch and musical photographic memory.

Kodi continues to inspire his peers that even with autism, he can excel and be well-known in the music industry.

Related post : How to Tell if Your Child has Autism

Ben Gretchko

He was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at six months. Like ASD kids, he grew up to have challenges with communication.

But Ben graduated high school, and even gave a viral speech that inspired people over the social media. And it was only the beginning.

He got accepted to four universities and in Honors College, took journalism and became one of the school editors.

Ben had two broadcast-related internships and now he is interested in going into broadcasting. He showed his peers that even people with autism, one can excel in the things they were challenged with, especially in the world of broadcasting, and he is truly an inspiration.

Braylen Clayton

Braylen was quiet as a baby and according to mom “was in his own world”. He was officially diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder before he turned two.

He went into the early intervention program and along with his parent’s support, he said his first word, and progressed quickly.

Now at 7, Braylen is doing well in school math and writing, and reads well. He continues to see his therapist for evaluation. He even completed a triathlon sponsored by his school district.

This interest in sports as he grows older will surely help him to beat the odds of autism spectrum.

Tristan Braverman

When he was young Tristan was thought to be deaf but later on, confirmed to have autism. Like other kids with autism he had difficulty communicating and interacting with others. He underwent therapy but it was through basketball that he had developed and excelled.

He dreams of becoming a doctor and would like to play for his school while studying. But he would also like to be a professional basketball player. “If basketball disappeared, he would be completely lost.”

He is an inspiration that other kids in autism can also have a place in this world of basketball, maybe even go professional someday.

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Some helpful books about Autism:

Unmasking Autism            

Neurotribes - The Legacy of Autism.           


Parenting your Child with Autism





Related post : How to Support a Child with Autism

Jacob Barnett

Jacob grew up normally until he was two when he stopped speaking. He was found to have Asperger’s syndrome, a syndrome that has been merged with autism.

But his mother never gave up. She let him live a normal life, but also encouraged him to pursue astronomy, which fascinated him. Thus, Jacob achieved milestones even surpassing normal kids.

At eight he mastered high school Math. At 11 he went to University and at 15, took his Masters in Physics. Wow! How did he do that?

In one of the lectures in his childhood, he was asked about the reason about the elliptical moon to Mars and he answered “The moons around Mars are small, so they have a small mass. The gravitational effects of the moons are not large enough to pull them into complete spheres.”

With this special talent, he continues to prove that even with Asperger’s and autism, one can still excel in these difficult subject areas.

Ishaan Holloway

Like a typical autistic child, he was delayed in his speech.

At six years old, his family moved from Ontario to Calgary and placed him in a special school for autistic kids, but they said he was “too hard to teach.” So his mom quit work and had him home-schooled.

He spoke for the first time at 10 and at 17 he won an award in poetry. His communication progressed to using a standard keyboard.

He could solve complex math problems and study neuroscience. When interviewed about what he could change about the world, he replied using his keyboard “I would make the world treat people like me with dignity.

Another proof that non-verbal communication, through poetry in his case, is a good expression of self in people with autism.

Related post : Down Syndrom with Autism ( My son has both and he is a gift from God )

Clay Marzo

He was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome in 2007. Prior to this, he had difficulty connecting with people, like most persons with autism.

But at a young age, he already excelled in surfing and even did movies with notable surfers. At 10, he won in a swimming competition, and at 15 had two perfect 10 scores in surfing.

Now a professional surfer, he volunteers and arranges surfing camps for autistic kids in the US and Canada. He wanted to tell them how this sport helped him overcome autism spectrum disorder as well.

Related post: Spread the Word of Love ( Ten Songs to Celebrate World Autism Day )

Heather Kuzmich

Diagnosed with Asperger and ADHD at age 15, Heather was able to audition for a reality show in modeling and emerged as runner-up.

She also starred in a music video. Like others with autism, she had challenges of communication and delivery or finding her way around.

Yet she did public appearances to talk about these experiences and appeared in a magazine for families and individuals with autism.

She overcame autism and showed the world that they can be known to this kind of world too.

Joshua Deer

Born premature, Joshua talked and played like a normal child but was diagnosed with autism at 3. He stopped talking, had moods, and underwent therapy.

He became interested and played hockey and went to games and became a player.

Josh is a great help and support to his hockey team. He was also interested in golf and had a unique golfer swing and despite autism, was a good leader and won a lot of awards. He also was eager to help and teach others to golf. To both of these great love of his, hockey and golf, Josh offers bible verses to his co-players and co-workers, him working on the golf course.

It was an inspiration for them to see him, even with autism do these great things and still spiritually encourage them as well.

Adam Jones

Diagnosed with autism in 1987 when he was only two years old, Adam found it hard to communicate like other autistic kids.

Then he discovered his love for horses, rode, and worked with horses for 12 years. This helped him to improve and overcome his autism.

Now he is a barn attendant and a graduate of the Equestrian College and received two riding master certificates. He has shown how animals, horses in his case can be a big help to people with the spectrum disorder.

He now teaches his peers and wants them to be inspired by his achievements.

Related post: How to Actually Take Care of a Brother with Autism

Bobby Trundley

With an early diagnosis of autism at 4 years old, Bobby found his love for motorsport to cope with his autism.

At 10, he was awarded a trophy for being the most promising driver. Now, he is a hero in this sport with titles in karting and car racing.

Bobby says “I honestly believe my autism is my superpower on the race track. My focus and analytical mind give me an advantage over my competitors and I’m always pushing for the win.”

He is truly an inspiration, in that he can show his peers that autism is not a hindrance in driving and in the racing world.

Jada Braxton

Jada was diagnosed with autism when she was at the age of 7. It was hard for her to make direct eye contact, like when they were having their pictures taken.

But Jada entered a pageant and was crowned as Miss Photogenic. She wanted to show her peers that autism does not define who they are.

I want other autistic girls to know that they can do this too,” she says.

She is a true example and inspiration to many women with autism who think that having autism would take away their dream of entering the world of modeling and pageantry or even show business if they want to.

Continue to Shine and Inspire

A family’s support for children with autism is crucial to finding the talent/s of their special kids, so they can grow up to be the best that they can be.

Even non-verbal ones can express themselves through poetry, as shown by Ishaan Holloway.

Maybe not all kids can excel at once, but for sure they have something in themselves that can be discovered and nurtured.

As always, let us appreciate whatever our children with autism can do and celebrate them even in the smallest achievements.

Something big starts from nothing.

Do you know a special needs child who was diagnosed with Autism, but eventually shined later with his unique talent? Share his story below.

Credits: Vectors-

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8 thoughts on “They had Struggles Growing up with Autism but they Shined!”

  1. I love this article! Autism is looked upon with so much stigmatism, its great to see people who have it that have excelled! My cousin is autistic and he’s really special- smart in his own way. He takes care of his mom at 20 years old. I think he does as well as he does because of his autism! Maybe like ADHD, autism is just as much a blessing as it is a curse.

    • Hi Katy,

      People with autism are special in their own way and always a blessing to their families and others. 

      Your cousin is really smart for being able to take care of his mom. They have that special bond between them.

      Thanks for your nice comment.



  2. Having a child with autism can be a challenge, but once you realize how their minds work, it is really a beautiful thing to witness, because as all of these stories tell, people with autism can shine in so many ways!
    I know this young teenager, the son of my neighbours, who plays the harp as a boy. Very unusual for boys who don’t have autism, as mostly harps are played by girls, but when I hear him playing, it is like an angel singing and his fingers just seem to find the right cords like automatically without too much note learning, it just comes naturally!
    Thank you for this wonderful article!

    • Hi Lizzy,

      Indeed caring for children with autism can be so challenging, but with acceptance and understanding, they thrive and shine on their own.

      As I always say, a family’s support together with guidance of teachers and therapists, they grow up to be the best of what they can be.

      Your neighbor’s son with autism who plays the harp has that unique talent that lets him shine and make his family proud.

      Thanks for your nice words.


  3. This is so inspiring!  As the mother of a grown  (29)  autistic boy, it makes me so happy to read about all these excellent outcomes.  My son, Peter, did really well, too.  He didn’t have any of the physical ailments you showcase here, but, I’ve gotta say, I did a good job with him.  He is totally self-sufficient, supporting himself in his own apartment with a job he takes very seriously.  He even has a social life, of sorts.  Not what I would’ve wanted for him, but he likes it and that’s what’s important. 

    Thanks for this great article and the important work you are doing



    • Hi Anna,

      I always honor the parents, especially the mom for raising their kids with special needs. I know it’s really challenging for you to face their struggles that sometimes, you are so overwhelmed as well.

      Happy to know that your grown up son with Autism is doing so well and living independently, with a profitable job.

      I know you raised him well to be confident in what he does, thus being productive on his own.



  4. Your article about individuals who struggled with autism while shining brightly is both heartwarming and inspiring. It’s a testament to the strength and resilience of those facing unique challenges.

    The personal stories you’ve shared highlight the importance of understanding and embracing neurodiversity. These individuals have not only overcome obstacles but have also contributed to their communities in meaningful ways.

    I’m curious to know if you have any advice or insights for parents, caregivers, or educators on how to support and empower individuals with autism to help them shine even brighter?

    Thank you for shedding light on these incredible journeys and for promoting awareness and acceptance of autism. Your article is a source of hope and encouragement for many.

    • Hi Kiersti,

      Happy to know that you’re inspired with these individuals with Autism and what they have become.

      Truly, the parents and the whole family, play a very important role in encouraging them to nurture their talents. Every little accomplishment needs to be acknowledged and celebrated.

      Understanding their shortcomings and uniqueness are also vital, as well accepting them for who they are, and that they need not conform to the society, as a whole.

      Caregivers, mentors, and therapists all complete to the team to push them to be the best that they can be.

      Reading the accomplishments of these individuals, who were diagnosed with Autism early in life, really show that they can be somebody that their family can be proud of.

      Thanks for the nice comments.



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