Senior Drama Class students spent the first weeks of school working on a project to be shared at the Spring Fundraising Dinner. It was a selection of personal stories that highlighted how members of our class had felt like they were “on the fringes” but then found a place of belonging at HD. The stories were nearly ready for performance when life as we know it came to a halt, so they were never shared. Because they are beautiful and meaningful, we wanted to give you a glimpse of them in this format.
Nathan St. John’s story:
When Nathan was young, he was not like other kids. He and his parents decided to investigate what made him different, but they were frustrated by a number of specialists who did not value Nathan as an individual. In one instance, Nathan and his mother visited a doctor who observed Nathan with his nose deep in a book (a common occurrence both then and now). She was told that her son could not possibly be autistic because autistic children were illiterate. This sparked outrage in both Nathan and his mother and left Nathan feeling as if he were of little value.
Here is an excerpt of Nathan’s monologue as he reacts to the doctor’s judgmental belief that autistic people are not able to read or write or contribute to society meaningfully. He stands from his chair, puts down his book, and faces the doctor with these words:
Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson, Michelangelo, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Charles Darwin, and Bill Gates. Do you think they could have accomplished everything that they did if they couldn’t read? Do you think that doctors like you would use the tools and equipment developed by people who couldn’t read in a hospital like this?
The thing is, every one of those people I mentioned were different individuals. Their brains might work in different ways than yours does, but that doesn’t mean you can define who they are with just a label. It would never fit at all, and calling them by that label to their faces would have only made them feel hurt and alone. They were their own people. I am my own person. We deserve to be thought of as so much more than that. I am Nathan St John, and I am autistic.
Nathan decided to share this story because he recognizes that, though it is deeply personal and vulnerable to do so, he believes that others might recognize themselves within it. He also knows the power of drama and its ability to transform people’s assumptions by revealing the truth about who they are and why they are valued. Drama provided Nathan with a place to belong and to share his talents.
This is Nathan St. John. He is a member of our class, and we love him just the way he is.