TEMPLE, Texas — Jordan Darensbourg is autistic.
While that's not a surprise to those who work with him and love him, it's a part of his life he's proud of. Diagnosed with Asperger's at 3 years old, Jordan had an 18-month cognitive delay.
"At that time we determined that as long as the 18-month delay didn't widen, then as he got older it wouldn't be as noticeable," said Jessica Darensbourg, Jordan's mom, adding one of the keys to Jordan's success was early intervention.
For Jordan, it's been a continuous learning curve every day.
"What I've learned about my Asperger's is that I've really had to think about, what does the world feel like and what does the world think like because a lot of times, people on the spectrum, we like to think about the opposite of that," he said.
His love of weather started early and instead of cartoons and other kid shows, Jordan watched the Weather Channel very early on.
"From day one, from day one he was the weather guy. Crawls up to the TV set turns it on to the Weather Channel and he would just watch the weather and he would watch it until it would crawl back around," said Randall, Jordan's dad over Zoom from his Georgia home. "He would look where the crawl is going at the bottom of the screen and he would follow that and when it got to the end on the right side, and there's no more picture, he'd go around the back of the TV set to see where his letters are."
Jordan said he was fascinated by storms, especially lightning, even though it scared him.
"I'd try and hide behind somebody and I'd freak out and then I'd look at the forecast and see it's only a light shower and it's over," he said with a laugh.
Jessica said they eased Jordan into storms knowing on the spectrum, it would take some time.
The term "autism" first appeared around 1911, according to Mass General for Children. A few facts about it:
- Autism spectrum disorder now affects 1 in 68 children. Boys are nearly 5 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with ASD.
- ASD is one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the United States. ASD is more common than childhood cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined.
- ASD affects all nationalities, all creeds, all religions, all races and both sexes. It doesn’t differentiate or affect only one group or another.
The Darensbourgs' only focus was making sure to surround Jordan with the people that would help him thrive. A village of supporters that would help him, teach him and guide him while allowing him to be like every other kid.
Jessica Darensbourg said that Jordan had no preconceived ideas that others would laugh at him or make fun of him. Jordan didn't understand words but only emotions, she said. For his family, that was one of the biggest challenges when it came to other people.
"Since he had no preconceived inhibitions, he was learning to read emotions and non-verbal cues," Jessica Darensbourg explained. "He didn't know if people were laughing at him so we had to grow thick skin if we saw it."
The simple solution and as hard as it was, Jessica Darensbourg added, was if it didn't bother Jordan, they wouldn't let it bother them.
"Some of the hatred in middle school, I didn't really pick up on that," Jordan said. "I just told myself they were sipping 'haterade' and I would just laugh at them, move on and focus on being the best version of myself."
That best version included trying every sport he wanted to without limitations. His parents volunteered to help but were as hands-off as possible, allowing their son the chance to learn, grow and flourish at multiple levels.
"I used to tell him he's the most sociable socially delayed person I know. Just to have that courage to pursue anything he wanted to do, I'm just so proud and overwhelming and I am posting and talking about him all the time," Jessica Darensbourg said.
While the road from Georgia to Texas hasn't always been smooth and littered with words from others, Jordan admits he's never forgotten; that they carry little value to the man he is now and will be in the future.
"I'm just forever blessed to do what I love to do despite the, you know, challenges, and I'm saying 'challenges' because I believe autism to be a superpower but despite everything, I'm doing everything I love to do and you can too," he said.
If you or someone you know is on the spectrum and would like to reach out to Jordan, he is happy to connect over e-mail, just click here.