Writing is one of the most powerful forms of self-expression known to humanity. It’s amazing what penning down a few words can do for your soul. When words form as your hand scribbles, it’s a different kind of therapy that not everyone can really understand.
For 10-year-old Benjamin Giroux, now 14, expressing himself verbally has not always been easy. He often answers questions with one-word answers and keeps close to himself, but put a pencil in his hand and the words would come flowing like a river. His deeply emotional poem about life as a young boy with autism went deservedly viral and is worthy of recognition as a prolific work of art. Writing at the brim of one’s emotions is a truly beautiful thing to behold.
Benjamin has Asperger’s syndrome — a form of autism with generally higher functioning.  He was a 5th grader at the Cumberland Head Elementary School in Plattsburgh, New York. To celebrate the National Poetry Month in April in 2016, Benjamin’s teacher asked her students to write a poem starting with the words “I am”. On April 7, the young chap came home from school unusually happy and excited. He couldn’t wait to get started on his assignment and immediately took his spot on the kitchen table.
A few hours later, when he showed his work to his parents, they couldn’t hold back the tears. Benjamin had used a pencil and a crumpled piece of paper to show a new side of himself and all they could do was cry.
From the bottom of his heart
“I am odd, I am new, I wonder if you are too,” Benjamin began, acknowledging that his condition makes him different in a special way.
I hear voices in the air
I see you don’t, and that’s not fair
I want to not feel blue
I am odd, I am new
I pretend that you are too
I feel like a boy in outer space
I touch the stars and feel out of place
I worry what others might think
I cry when people laugh, it makes me shrink
I am odd, I am new
I understand now that so are you
I say I, “feel like a castaway”
I dream of a day that that’s okay
I try to fit in
I hope that someday I do
I am odd, I am new.
His poem is a powerful depiction of what goes on in the minds of most young children who are considered “different”. Benjamin was able to find the right words to explain these emotions, writing that he feels left out and excluded. He writes about his insecurities, noting that he worries what others think of him and that he cries when they mock him. He strongly wishes that a day would come when people like him would be considered ‘normal’ so they would stop trying to fit in.
Benjamin’s father Sonny, said to Today about the poem : “At first, we felt sad and hurt that he feels isolated, alone, misunderstood and odd at school. As the poem went on, we realized that he understands that he’s odd and that so is everyone else in their own way, which is what Ben wants everyone to embrace.”
The poem was so beautiful that it was picked up by the National Autism Association and posted on their Facebook page with the awareness hashtag #oddtoo. Thousands of people were touched by the boy’s bravery and as the amazing comments poured in, Benjamin’s parents tried to show him how he’d inspired so many people.
“We try to read him as many comments as we can to show the impact he’s had,” Sonny said. “It makes him happy too, which is always nice to see.”
Benjamin’s poem also enlightened many parents on how their children may be feeling at school. Not many kids can express themselves so powerfully, but Benjamin brought all their emotions to a new limelight.
“Ben’s goal was to have people understand that being odd is different, and different is amazing, and people shouldn’t be afraid of who they are,” Sonny said. “And that makes me one proud father!“
Evolving with new talents
When Benjamin wrote that poem, he was only a 5th grader trying to work on his assignment. He never expected it would reach nearly every part of the world and inspire hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom even made songs from his words and tattooed parts of the poem on their skin. He’s also received many awards for his excellent work and his poem has been illustrated into a children’s book.
In an update to Bored Panda last year, his father said : “Benjamin is doing alright. He’s now in 8th grade and each day is a new day.”
However, he’s switched up to other forms of expressing himself since writing seemed to come with too much pressure. “Benjamin hasn’t written much lately. The anxiety of trying to write something as good as that poem is too much for him. So he’s changed medium and now enjoys drawing and playing music.”
Benjamin’s poem brought to a large spotlight the reality that many special needs’ children face today, especially at school and among other kids. Children should be taught the importance of empathy and unconditional inclusion from a young age, so they’ll learn to love everyone even if they may seem a little… different.
- “Asperger’s Syndrome.” Web MD. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
- “Boy with autism writes ‘I am odd, I am new’ in poem celebrating differences.” Today. Alexandra Zaslow. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
- “Autistic Boy Writes Moving Poem About How Odd He Is For A School Assignment, Leaves Teacher In Tears.” Bored Panda. Ilona Baliunaite. Retrieved October 26, 2020.