The Dinosaur Scholar

June 26, 2009
By Leah Gruen BRONZE, Lake Forest, Illinois
Leah Gruen BRONZE, Lake Forest, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

He was an erudite scholar of all things dinosaurs. He knew of the carnivorous deinonychus and ceratosaurus; there was no foreign dinosaur to him. For hours he could repeat even the most trivial facts about dinosaurs. “Did you know that dinosaurs first evolved in the Triassic Period which was about 250- million years ago,” he would casually ask. Among many, he was a very highly regarded paleontologist, and he would spend day after day strenuously digging for extinct fossils in the sand...He also happened to be Ethan, a six year old autistic boy.

It was my first summer that I was working as a camp counselor among a group of sixty-four rising first graders. The first day I met Ethan, he was sprawled out on the carpet drawing dinosaurs. He seemed to be in his own little world, too interested in talking to the dinosaurs to talk to me, but I never would’ve guessed anything was wrong with him. Later I was told that he was autistic. I was confused: maybe he seemed a little odd and different, but he was just a young boy who knew more about dinosaurs than anyone else I knew.

Ethan did have a few issues...He would stand up during the middle of quiet time and announce that he was going to play with his dog as soon as he got home. Instead of following the directions given at art time, Ethan would diligently make up his own project to incorporate dinosaurs. And every once in a while, Ethan would get upset and push the other kids. I would quietly but sternly talk to Ethan; I would tell him to be quiet, be patient, listen to others, keep his hands to himself, and sit down. I could endlessly list the commands that counselors had to tell Ethan; however, I am sure that Ethan taught us all a lot more than we could ever teach him.

I learned from Ethan, that autistic isn’t a bad thing...It’s just different. Ethan happens to be one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met, and he’s only six! Ethan demonstrated to me that it’s ok to be a unique individual, and the best way to live life to the fullest is to do what makes you happy. Yes, Ethan happens to be a six year old autistic boy, but that isn’t how anyone sees him. He is just a kid who loves dinosaurs and knows exactly what makes him happy; if only everyone could live like Ethan, the world would be a much happier place.

The author's comments:
Ethan is my hero

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