To celebrate autism acceptance month, I’m going to post something positive about autism every day through April.
Allow me to introduce the Japanese classical composer Hikari Ōe:
Ōe was born in 1963
with a herniated brain, autism, epileptic seizures and visual impairment. The doctors described him as “severely disabled” and strongly urged his parents kill him, claiming that he would become a vegetable otherwise. His parents (including his father, famous author Kenzuburo
Ōe) refused the offer and Hikari Ōe survived the birth thanks to surgery.
Ōe didn’t speak a word until he was 6 years old when he identified a specific birdcall on television as that of a water rail bird. After buying him a record with tracks of various birdcalls, Ōe’s parents noticed his talent at memorizing specific sounds, so they hired a private piano teacher for him. While Ōe still doesn’t speak much to this day, he quickly learned to express himself through classical music. In the following years, he learned to play both the piano, flute and violin expertly.
He began composing his own music when he was just 13 years old and released his first album when he was 29. The album sold over a million copies and won Japan’s top prize for classical Japanese music. All his later albums would become commercial successes as well, both in Japan and America.
You can hear his first album on YouTube. Give it a listen, it’s beautiful:
While his music in itself is worth celebrating, there is a specific reason I wanted to talk about Ōe in particular.
Whenever anti-neurodiversity people try to argue against neurodiversity, one of their main arguments is usually the good ol’ functioning label. “Think of the severely autistic!” they say, as if being “severely” autistic means you can’t be happy or successful.
I wanted to share
Ōe’s story because it goes direcly against that toxic ideology. Despite being “severely handicapped”, Ōe
went on to live a highly successful, happy life. After his birth, he became one of his fathers biggest influences for all his later books. Absolutely nobody can argue that the world would be better off if the doctors had killed Ōe
at birth like they wanted. His existence changed both his parents lives and the world of classical music for the better.
It doesn’t matter if people are “low-functioning” autistic or “high-functioning” autistic. We’re all human beings and we all deserve respect. Even the most “severely handicapped” like Ōe
can often go on to do incredible things.
Happy April to all autistic and neurodiverse people! I hope you all have a wonderful month.
(Day 12/30, follow #aprilautismpositivity for more)