Thank you Tori Oliver.
Thank you for having the courage and the obvious talent to open your heart and your mind to our Compass readers.
Your essay on the front page of The Compass- (June 24th edition) under the headline "Autistic student finds her voice at Baccalieu College" was, and is, nothing short of brilliant.
And, to realize it is from a 16-year-old teenager is even more incredible.
I have seen first hand the challenges autistic children and their caregivers face every day in dealing with this somewhat hard to understand condition.
I say hard to understand because that is what it is (or was) for me until I read your essay.
Your inner voice
You carried me along on your journey of discovery and I am so glad the inner voice of yours that had been, as you said, "trapped in your head" has finally been set free and read and heard loud and clear.
Thanks too to The Compass editor for having the foresight to give your story star billing.
Your touching essay should be distributed far and wide amongst professionals and families dealing with autism especially in children. It could be the basis for your first book.
You have exposed the seeds to your future success. You made reference to a career as a scientist or assistant veterinarian- a hope your parents would dream (even though you were only two) would be impossible when you reach adulthood. Autism they thought would be the end of any dreams they had for 'their little girl.'
Now it is clear that is not so. In fact Tori, I feel your future is as wide and as bright and as successful as you want it to be. You can become whatever you want to be. You have the tools and you have the obvious determination and the smarts. I would like to present an inspiring and brilliant piece I read last winter printed in The New York Times. I hoped that sometime down the road I would find a reason to reprint it. So, especially for you here it is. Ponder these thoughts in your beautiful mind and heart. From The Opinionator, the letter was carried on the opinion page of The New York Times under the heading
It is written by Constican Bradatan, an associate professor in the Honors College at Texas University, U.S. The heading is "How failure holds seed of success."
Prof. Bradatan writes: "Our capacity to fail is essential to what we are. We need to preserve, cultivate, even treasure this capacity.It is crucial that we remain fundamentally imperfect, incomplete, erring creatures; in other words that there is always a gap left between what we are and what we can be. Whatever human accomplishments there have been in history, they have been possible precisely because of this empty space. It is within this interval that people, individuals as well as communities, can accomplish anything," Bradatan continued. "Not that we've turned suddenly into something better; we remain the same weak, faulty material. But the spectacle of our shortcomings can be so unbearable that sometimes it shames us into doing a little good. Ironically, it is the struggle with our own failings that may bring the best in us."
Tori wrote about her neurologists, paediatricians and others who may have hinted to her parents she would possibly be a "social outcast."
She wrote, "despite countless reassurances that my future would still be bright (and the jokes afterwards among professionals that each of my family members should probably buy a pair of shades) as the diagnosis was confirmed "high functioning," the delays in my development were fairly obvious compared to others my age. For this reason, neurologists and paediatricians alike confessed to my parents that the disability would likely prevent me from properly expressing myself, making me a social outcast for the duration of my journey through school."
What would the Professor think? Talk about proving people (including professionals) wrong. I wonder what author/Professor Bradatan would think of this.
No doubt he would reach out a reassuring hand to Tori and with a pat on her young back probably would say- "Well done Tori. Your "seed(s) of success" are firmly planted. Preserve, cultivate, even treasure this capacity".
The choice is yours.
A special person
The people of Gull Island in Conception Bay North and the entire student body and teachers at Baccalieu College realize they have a special person in their midst.
They must be so proud of her. Not only has Tori Oliver found her voice, she has demonstrated to the world her passion and skill with words. She is a "diamond in the rough" and I predict sooner than later she will find a career in writing, be it in journalism, publishing, radio or television and perhaps in screen play.
I look forward to her movie — "Tori's Story."
Autism is not an affliction. I feel after this literal journey with Tori — it is and will continue to be a unique stepping stone to her future success.
God Bless you Tori. Stand tall. The sky is the limit.
(Footnote: If you would like to read Prof.Bradatan's essay (In praise of failure) in full, go to tinyurl.com/tbtimes-fails.)
— Bill Westcott writes from Clarke's Beach.