A Young Teen Explains Autism on Snapchat

April 19th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

An Irish man and his nephew are doing Autism Awareness Month right.

The "Autism Awareness Snapchat Show" stars Irish man James Kavanaugh and his 13-year-old nephew Sean, who is living with autism.

The viral video features funny and touching moments, but it's also an illuminating look into Sean's life and the challenges he faces on a daily basis.

James Kavanagh and is nephew Sean

Kavanagh originally posted the video on Snapchat under the username JamesKava, and it's also been viewed more than 300,000 times on his Facebook page. He told ATTN: that he wanted to use his social media reach to raise awareness about autism.

"I have a large Snapchat following in Ireland and I always do a 5 question interview with interesting people. My followers tend to love it. As it's Autism Awareness Month, I thought it'd be a good idea to interview my nephew about what it's like to have autism from a child's perspective. We usually hear what experts and doctors have to say, but I wanted to hear it from the horse's mouth, as it were."

About 1 in 68 children have some form of autism and it is more common in boys than in girls, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The three minute interview covers a range of topics, but most of them focus on communication and relationships.

Kavanagh jokes that although he started speaking late, Sean doesn't have any trouble talking now.


"I don’t think you have speech difficulty anymore because you tend to talk ’til the cows come home. So when did it all end?" Kavanagh asked.

Sean says that he didn't start speaking until age 5 or 6, and that when he did start talking it was hard. He refers to senior and junior infants which would be similar to first and second grade in the United States.

"I remember in junior infants and senior infants I was really nervous going into the classrooms and sometimes I had a bit of difficulty talking to strangers," Sean said.


He also talks about his aversion to hugs, which many autistic children share.

"Stuff like loud noises and loud music does really get to me," he said. "Stuff like personal space, I don’t like people when they go too close. It makes me a bit uncomfortable when people go too close to me, and I get uncomfortable sometimes when people that aren’t my family hug me," he said.

Sean also makes it clear that not all autistic children suffer from intellectual disabilities. For example, he said he scored 120 on an IQ test, which is above average for both children and adults.


"Autistic kids are quite intelligent and they’re very good on a certain topic," he said. "My specialty is probably spelling and maths."

After a brief interruption for hugs from Grandpa who just arrived, Sean tells people without autism how they can be an ally.

Sean and his Grandfather

"One of the most important things is to be understanding, try to let them into your activities, always use literal language never be sarcastic, he said. "Some kids with autism don’t get sarcasm or irony and also be aware of your sensory environment because they can be sensitive to some things."

But the most important way to help, is to realize that not everyone is like you.

"And most important just understand that they’re different and they see the world in their own perspective," he said.

Kavangh told ATTN: that he agrees with Sean. Autistic people are different and that's ok.

"I hope people will realize that we shouldn't be forcing autistic people to live in our world, we should be adapting around them. Too often we try and force autistic kids into the 'normal' way of life rather than changing up our own 'normalities'. We must learn that they see the world from their own, unique perspective. And I also want the world to get to know Sean. He, like many other autistic people, are fascinating and brilliant people."

You can watch the full video of James Kavanagh and Sean here.



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