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Boy with autism writes 'I am odd, I am new' in poem celebrating differences

Benjamin Giroux isn't usually one to express much emotion.

"When we ask him how his day went when he gets home from school, we don't get much more than a one-word answer," Sonny Giroux, Benjamin's father, told TODAY.com.

Courtesy of Sonny Giroux
Benjamin Giroux

The 10-year-old boy, who has Asperger's syndrome — a form of autism — came home from Cumberland Head Elementary School in Plattsburgh, New York, on April 7 more excited than ever. To celebrate National Poetry Month, his fifth-grade teacher asked her students to write a poem about themselves, beginning every few sentences with "I am."

Benjamin couldn't wait to start writing, so he sat down at the kitchen table and didn't look up until he was finished. A few hours later, he showed the poem to his parents, who immediately got choked up.

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"I am odd, I am new," Benjamin wrote in the poem. "I wonder if you are too. I hear voices in the air, I see you don't and that's not fair."

"I feel like a boy in outer space, I touch the stars and feel out of place," he went on to write.

"At first, we felt sad and hurt that he feels isolated, alone, misunderstood and odd at school," Giroux said. "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."

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"I am odd, I am new, I understand now that so are you," the poem reads. "I say I 'feel like a castaway,' I dream of a day that that's OK."

Benjamin was supposed to read his poem aloud to the class the following day, but upon waking up that morning, his anxiety took over and he instead stayed home.

He didn't think his poem was any good, so his dad posted it to Facebook in hopes of getting some encouraging comments from family and friends. Once the National Autism Association saw the photo, they posted it to their page, where thousands of strangers shared how much the poem inspired them.

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"We try to read him as many comments as we can to show the impact he's had," Giroux said. "It makes him happy too, which is always nice to see."

The family has heard from hundreds of parents thanking Benjamin for shedding a light on how their own kids may be feeling at school.

"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," Giroux said. "And that makes me one proud father!"

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