Living with autism

There are so many traits that make up an individual, some more visible than others.  From the outside anyone can see a person’s eye color, skin color, hair length, etc.  What cannot be seen is what is inside, and sometimes it is what is inside that truly makes up who a person is.


Elliot Jacques

Elliot Jacques is a 23 year old from New York who now lives in Sylva, NC.

Elliot lives with something that affects 1 in 68 children in the United States, autism.

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.  Autism is measured in multiple spectrums; Jacques falls along the lines of the Asperger syndrome spectrum.

Elliot has brown curly hair that makes it easy to pick him out in a crowd.  He always has a smile on his face, and is excited to meet new people.

Elliot at the farm

Elliot at the farm

Elliot is most known around town for his work at Full Spectrum Farms.

Located in Cullowhee, NC, Full Spectrum Farms is an organization that provides a friendly working environment to adults in western North Carolina that have autism.  Walking around the farm looking for Elliot was quite the experience in itself.  Almost every person at the farm knew who Elliot was, and had nothing but positive feedback to share about him.  It was immediately evident why so many nice things were said.

Full of energy, Elliot shared a little bit about what he does around the farm.

“I do a little bit of everything around here, anything to help people out” he said.  “I try to put my services out there so that the job can get done.  I help in the garden, I plant, pretty much fix broken pipes, and pretty much try to help so that it gets done right the first time.”

He gave me a tour of the 34-acre farm and provided details at each stop.  He was most excited to show the garden because he said it took a lot of time to get it to where it was today.   “My favorite part about working here is supporting the farm, getting it to where it needs to go, and try to help every way possible to try to get it to rise up!”

He mentions that hanging out at the farm is like hanging out with his other family.  “They’re the spectrum family, we support each other, we’re a team, and teams stick together!

Elliot looking up a program on his tablet

Elliot looking up a program on his tablet

Along with his work on the farm, Elliot has a few hobbies. On the top of his list is working with technology.  When he talked about his passion for working with technology, he described it as a gift.  He explained that people with autism have different gifts.

“Mine would be computers,” he said.  Elliot has a total of 4 computers at his home, and he goes online every day to watch videos to learn about new software or programs.  He is always happy to help anyone that is having problems with technology because it is something that he gets.

As he explained, he is a very visual learner; therefore he has to watch videos that have images to show what is being done on computers so he can do it.

Elliot drawing

Elliot working on a drawing of an owl.

Elliot’s mom, Jane Jacques, says that he learns differently than most people do.  She calls Elliot’s autism “a blessing and a gift.”

“Where he has deficits, he also has assets,” she said.  “He has the knowledge and ability to attain information on computers, computer problem solving, just the way he works on it, for hours and hours is incredible.”

She also shared that besides having the gift of computers, he is also an artist.  She talked about how Elliot paints three-dimensional portraits.  “He can do things from memory, he is very visual.”

With the help of Full Spectrum Farms, Elliot’s artwork does not go unnoticed.  The farm holds an “Arts Gala” which gives Elliot and others the opportunity to display their gift of art.  Life for Elliot has not always been so easy though.

Elliot with his mom, Jane Jacques

Elliot with his mom, Jane Jacques

Elliot’s mom had a lot to say about him and how life with autism has been.  She said that she began to notice that Elliot was not like the other kids when he was about 2-3 years old.  After taking him to doctors, she was given the response that he had many symptoms of autism.

As Elliot grew up he was put into special education classes, which she says has been a “godsend” for him because “in a school situation, he can’t learn the way most kids learn.”

When Elliot got to high school though, he was placed in quite a few classes with the rest of the students, and that is where some hard times came in.  Elliot had a couple of bullies throughout his time at Smoky Mountain High School.  His mom even shared about a time when Elliot got assaulted upon coming out of a bathroom.

“Elliot sees good in all people,” she said.  “We have to remind him that while most people may be good, he sometimes needs to be careful.”  Elliot shared that even though there were people that did not treat him well, most students didn’t even have a clue he had autism.  He said that when he told his friends, a lot of them were shocked.

Elliot garden

Elliot talking about the garden

Elliot’s high spirits are supported by his mom’s constant reminders to “never feel different or feel ashamed of what he’s got because it is a gift that God gave him.”

Elliot agrees with her completely and mentions that if anything, his autism has helped shape him into the great person he is today.

“I feel that my autism/Asperger syndrome has proven to be more useful and successful in my life, meaning that I can do things that actually benefit what people and the farm need.”

Elliot plans to continue working on the farm as long as he can, and he plans to keep helping people, and learn more about computers each day.  His goal is to create a computer program and be able to teach others how to use it.