Autism means extra challenges but extra talents, too

By Reece Arnold
Reece Arnold in a kayak wearing a life jacket

This guest blog post is by Reece Arnold, a musician, writer and game inventor who is on the autism spectrum. You can find out more about Reece and his games on his website and keep up to date on his releases by liking his Facebook page.

Living with autism is a challenge for me because I struggle daily with extra problems like sensitivity to textures, loud noises and over-sensitive emotions. When I was a young child, I wasn’t hitting milestones like other children and I wasn’t talking at all. My regular doctor told my mother, “He’s just a late talker.” My mother began to worry, and I had several evaluations with different doctors and hospitals. I was given a lot of diagnoses such as Childhood Apraxia of Speech, PDD-NOS, Asperger’s, Anxiety Disorder, Fluency Disorder, Dyspraxia, and Puberphonia. I also had a seizure disorder and have always had sleep issues. I started having speech and occupational therapy at age two, and to this day, I still receive speech therapy two times a week.

Verbal communication has been the biggest lifelong struggle for me, but at the age of 15, I discovered a hidden talent and another way to communicate – with music! My father noticed how fast I could play Guitar Hero and thought with fingers that move that fast, maybe I should try the piano. With some piano lessons and practice, I found I could play some pretty challenging pieces by memory! But my real musical talent is composing my own original music and improvising.

Reece Arnold and Temple Grandin

Because of my piano skills, in 2014, I was featured on WCVB Boston’s TV show “Chronicle.” My segment was called Living (and Thriving) with Autism - “His Language is Music,” which was nominated for a New England Emmy.

In 2016, I obtained a Master Certificate for Orchestration for Film and TV from Berklee College of Music’s online program. Currently, I provide music therapy by playing piano at five different locations of day habilitation programs. Seeing how my playing entertains and calms the participants makes my day.

Another extra talent I have is inventing games. I have been coming up with games for my family and friends to play since I can remember. My favorite games to invent are board games, but I have also made up games that you play outdoors. I get great enjoyment watching people having fun playing them.

In life, I want the same things most people do, such as a career, friends and a family. These are very hard for me to achieve mainly because of my speech issue, but I am working to be the best person I can be and using my capabilities to the fullest and hopefully these things will happen.

Author and autism activist Temple Grandin is an inspiration to my mother and me. Recently we went to a presentation by her. I was impressed by how hard she fought to get where she is today. She would not take no for an answer throughout her life when presenting her ideas to people. She persisted. Her talk made us think that we could do more to make things happen for me. After her presentation, it was an honor to meet her, and we talked to her about my special talents. She asked us “Do you have a website?” “How are you promoting these talents?” At the time, we weren’t doing much along those lines, and it made us think “Why aren’t we? What are we waiting for?”

Reece Arnold holding up papers in front of a stone wall

It kind of gave us a wakeup call, so during the past year, we have worked very hard. My mother and I started a company called Reece-Cycled Fun!. The company name came from our desire to use recycled/sustainable materials as much as possible and combining it with my name. Our company website will feature my games, short stories, puzzles, music and much more. I also plan to host fun local events, such as game nights.

We want to make products that are fun and to host events where everyone is welcome and perhaps this can help people like me who have a hard time socially get out there and meet more people. My first two games, 8 All-In and Number Kruncher, came out in November.

We also want to benefit autism-related charities, so we will donate a portion of the proceeds to them. I think that bringing awareness about people with disabilities is essential for the world to adapt more for people in need, and I want to do my part to help make that happen.

Thank you, Temple Grandin, for giving us that extra push we needed to get this going! We now have a company, a website and real games I invented! It gives me a purpose and I am really excited about getting all my ideas out there and helping others. I follow my dreams and want to inspire others to do the same.

As Temple Grandin says: “I am different, not less.” Autism is hard to live with, but I also believe it makes me special. Thank you for reading about me!