This post is from Cody Clark aka "Cody Comet", an adult on the spectrum and professional magician. This post is part of a initiative on our site called “In Our Own Words: Living on the Spectrum,” which highlights the experiences of individuals with autism from their perspectives. Have a story you want to share for the series? Email us at InOurOwnWords@Autismspeaks.org
Hi, my name is Cody Comet and I am a professional magician. I am a Junior Marketing major/Theatre Arts minor at the University of Louisville, a patron of the arts, a fan of classic country music, a roller coaster enthusiast, and a collector of Lionel trains. And I have high functioning autism. I was diagnosed at 15 months and I was non-verbal until right before I started Kindergarten. In spite of all the odds being stacked against me, my parents made sure I got all the help I could. They took me to therapy at U of L’s STAR Autism Research center on a daily basis, worked with me through all of my difficulties, and gave me their constant encouragement. And because of this, I have had a wonderful life.
Out of all of the interests that I have, I’d say that magic is my core passion. I absolutely love being able to work hard developing a magic routine and then being rewarded for my hard work by successfully performing it. I feel that being a magician has actually helped me with my autism. Being able to socialize with other magicians at local Society of American Magicians assembly meetings and at magic conventions has helped me develop my social skills to the point where I have several successful friendships. Being able to work at mastering complicated sleight of hand moves has helped me work through some of my motor skill deficiencies. And magic has helped me be okay with being autistic.
As much as I hate to say it, at one time I didn’t want to tell anybody that I had autism. I felt that I was “normal enough” to where nobody could tell that I was autistic. I was afraid that if I told people about my diagnosis, people wouldn’t take me seriously anymore now that they knew about it. I was essentially trying to run away from who I really was. Fortunately, my mentor in magic saw past that. My mentor is Richard Ribuffo, an awesome magician from West Palm Beach, FL and a former Graduate Acting student at U of L.
On the way home from a magic event in Cincinnati, I decide to tell him about my autism and he gave me some advice that I will never forget. He told me the old actors adage that “There are no secrets on stage”. He said that even though I am high-functioning, my autism is still a major part of who I am and it inevitably comes out on stage. Therefore it is better for me to be upfront about it and earn the audiences respect rather than keep it hidden, yet leave the audience wondering for my entire show whether or not I have a diagnosis.
I was initially skeptical about mentioning my autism in my show. But after a night of brainstorming, I came up with a magic routine that incorporates it. I won’t give my entire routine away, but to sum it up I casually mention that I’m autistic and after the shock laughs subside, joke about how everyone expects me to be just like Rainman. I then perform a magic routine involving blackjack to “tounge-in-cheek” prove the Rainman stereotype. I am pleased to say that this routine has been a hit.
Just as Richard predicted, by mentioning my autism, I won the respect of my audiences. I’ve gotten more shows than I’ve ever had, my first few standing ovations, and it’s encouraged me to write more routines about parts of my life. But most importantly, I am finally okay with having autism. Incorporating it into my show has taught me that my autism is what makes me unique and I should be proud of that. It does cause me some problems, but it also gives me plenty of advantages as well. It is one of many things that has made my life awesome!
You can learn more about how you could hire Cody for your next event at CodyComet.com. You can read more of our In Our Own Word entries here. If you have a story you'd like to share for the series please email us at InOurOwnWords@autismspeaks.org.