- Luke Brassard
Back in my first year at Montpelier High School, I wasn't a very social or outspoken person. But at our Fall Harvest Celebration in 2018, I had an experience that changed my perspective of myself from an independent, talented adolescent to a capable, confident, talented young man.
I had always seen myself as an ordinary teenager — that is, an ordinary teenager with autism spectrum disorder. I also have a slow processing speed and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, aka ADHD.
As a young child, I struggled with communication skills. When I couldn't express myself, I became frustrated and overreacted by throwing tantrums, hiding or running away. This caused me to become separated from my peers and miss out on opportunities. My limitations in communicating with others proved to be a big obstacle. Over time, I learned step-by-step how to express my thoughts and feelings. Today, I speak and write effectively in my daily interactions. Occasionally, I still struggle with understanding indirect statements and tones of voice.
Also, due to my learning differences, I complete tasks at a slower rate than my peers. Others may find this sets me back, but I've turned it into a valuable skill because I focus more on quality of work, which is beneficial for tasks where accuracy is critical.
For example: coming up with song parodies. Just like other teenagers, I like listening to music and watching other people perform. But in the summer of 2018, inspired by "Weird Al" Yankovic, I started writing, singing and recording my own original parodies of pop songs.
I have to think about the song for quite a while. I mull over different combinations of words and rhymes until I find the perfect fit. This process takes a long time to complete, often months, since I do a lot of analyzing and generate a lot of lyrics.
When I started, I wasn't sure how I would share my ideas with the world. Then that fall, at school, there was a need for people to perform at the annual Fall Harvest Celebration, a unique event that features performances of various kinds by students and teachers.
I reached out to the advisor in charge of the event, shared my parodies with him and asked what he thought about the idea of me performing one. He said it would be great if I did that.
Still, I wasn't sure about the idea. I had never performed solo in front of that many people before. Then again, it was a great opportunity to share my song with the community. After thinking about it, I decided I was up for the challenge.
When the day of the Fall Harvest Celebration arrived, I was prepared. When it was my turn to perform, the MC announced my song, and I walked up onto the stage. I was nervous, standing up there with everyone's eyes on me. I had never done this before. Was I going to mess it up?
The music started, and I began singing "Tissues," a parody of the song "Issues" by Julia Michaels. I brought a tissue box with me on stage.
I tried not to focus on the audience, only on my performance. By the beginning of the first chorus, it was apparent that the audience liked it, in fact, they really liked it. They were cheering and laughing and clapping, and I was only one third of the way into my song.
Hearing the audience's reaction made me more confident performing and less worried about messing up. When I finished my song, the crowd stood up, cheering and clapping even louder than they had for others. It felt good.
Afterward, a lot of people came to me with compliments. That made me realize that my performance had entertained many people. I thought my song would be just another number, but instead, it was the biggest hit of the show.
Realizing how talented I was encouraged me to continue using my talents. I became more inspired to make and sing more parodies. And, in turn, I made and performed more parodies — often with my friends — and entertained more people.
Additionally, because of the experience, I became more outspoken and more apt to talk and socialize with people. I have become more willing to try new things. I've gotten involved with many new activities, like Masque, the school theatre club. The experience helped me grow and develop as an individual.
The 2018 Fall Harvest Celebration made me a more talkative, outspoken person. I had never done something like that before, but I took the chance anyway. As a result, my perspective of my talents changed, along with overcoming aspects of my autism, namely my struggles with communication. Now I can see who I truly am with my gifts and my disability, including as a valuable and creative communicator.
I am determined to continue embracing my identity and these skills as I go into college and my career beyond.
Luke Brassard is a 2021 graduate of Montpelier High School. He will attend the University of New Haven in Connecticut in the fall. A version of this essay appears on kerrymagro.com.
Click here to see Luke Brassard's 2018 Fall Harvest Celebration performance of "Tissues." Find more of Luke's song parodies on his YouTube channel.
Excerpt From "Tissues" by Luke Brassard
Parody of "Issues" by Julia Michaels
I'm jealous, of all you fellas
When I wanted to go to town
Couldn't even quite get around
I was sickly, I had a fever
Before you leave for the day yet
I need something for you to get
'Cause being, this way
I've been really congested here you know
And being, this way
I just can't quite get out of bed for those
'Cause I need tissues
And you need 'em too
So give a wad to me
So I'll catch my nose goo
I'll stay home today
Not on my basis
So that I don't get people sick
I'm quite contagious
Yeah, I need tissues
Because napkins or paper towels won't do
I don't sneeze on purpose
'Cause if that were just the case
Wouldn't need to cover my face
But you told me
Couldn't find the Kleenex
But strong was the growing need
'Cause my nose was starting to bleed