Jack-Jack is 15 years old and is autistic. One of the first questions we get asked is if he is high or low functioning. But I cannot answer that question. All I can tell you is some information about him. Do not think that because you know one person with autism, you know anything about autism. However, I will try to help you in your understanding of autism.

You see, no two people are alike, and that is the same for individuals on the autism spectrum. I, personally, am low functioning when it comes to line dancing or Zumba. However, I am extremely high functioning with math, writing, and reading. So if Jack-Jack was able to tell you some information about himself, what would he say? 

Understanding Autism

Understanding Autism Abilities

First, he reads and does math problems at about a third-grade level. He did not talk until he was over 5 years old. While the autism community and the ability to teach children with limited verbal skills have come a long way in the last 5 years, when Jack-Jack was non-verbal, we did not have the technology or “speaking devices” to overcome those challenges. At five, we began to teach him the alphabet and letter sounds. It took him 3 years to remember them. At 8, he was at a Kindergarten level; at 11 he was at a first-grade level, and at 14 he moved up to approximately second grade. He has made tremendous strides, but he definitely has trouble remembering facts, letters, and names.

But many children on the autism spectrum are absolute math whizzes just like typical children and adults. 

However, he has absolutely no trouble memorizing movie lines. He has an arsenal of lines ready for any situation. He also does impressions. His favorite movie is Beauty and the Beast, and he does an awesome Beast. 

But, many children and adults can not remember a movie line even after watching the same movie over and over!

Boy meeting The beast and belle at Walt Disney World

Another area that Jack-Jack struggles with is the names of people. He may absolutely love you, but may not be able to remember your name. The more he sees someone, the better he is at the name game.

But, many children and adults have no trouble remembering people’s names.


Additionally, Jack-Jack hates scary parts in movies. He loves the 7 Dwarfs but is petrified of the evil hag in the movie so Snow White is a no watch. He is scared of most PG-13 movies and is still talking about how scary Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker was. 

But, some children and many adults can watch even scarier movies and not be afraid, or some people even enjoy the feeling of being afraid!

He has many fears. At five years old, he was afraid of water on his head, most small animals including dogs, dentists, doctors, goats, and a host of other things. While many autistic individuals have therapy dogs, Jack-Jack is still over-the-top afraid of dogs. Ironically, he likes pigs, horses, and cows. It seems smaller animals are too erratic for him. However, onscreen animals do not scare him at all. In fact, Ratatouille is one of his favorite movies!

But, there are many autistic children and adults that love dogs or other small animals.

Dad and sun at sunset


Jack-Jack loves to visit Walt Disney World. In fact, he is obsessed with Disney. He can tell you all about his “happy place,” and he loves to talk about the parks, his favorite rides and attractions, and where the special effects smoke machines can be found on Disney property. 

But, there are many autistic individuals that get completely overwhelmed in areas such as Disney World and hate to go into the parks even though they love Disney characters.

In addition to Walt Disney World, Jack-Jack is completely obsessed with movies, movie lines, and nutcrackers. He has an extensive collection of nutcrackers. His tiniest one is about 8 inches tall and he has one that is over 3 feet tall.

Winnie the pooh and young boy


One of the biggest challenges he faces is taking things too literally. He doesn’t understand sarcasm or common phrases such as “it’s raining cats and dogs.” Abstract concepts are confusing as well.

But, abstract concepts are confusing to a lot of people. Have you ever been to a party and told a joke and most people around you laughed, but one person just looked confused? Even typical people don’t get sarcasm.

Additionally, practical jokes are just mean to him. He treats everyone with kindness, care, and compassion. He is known to hug someone if he thinks they are having a bad day. Furthermore, he does not understand personal space. When he is talking with you he will probably invade your personal bubble.

But, many autistic individuals hate to be touched or close to people, and some even hate to have people look them in the eye. 

Jack-Jack has two moods, incredibly happy and incredibly sad. When he is happy, everyone around him is happy, and when he is sad, it is such a soul-crushing sadness that it is hard to not be heartbroken being around him. 

Boy Smiling Autism

Some of the things Jack-Jack loves include:

Walt Disney World

Disney Movies

Beauty and the Beast

Toy Story

Animated Movies


Hershey Bars & most chocolate


Going out to dinner (but he didn’t always like this)

Spelling words

Asking you to spell words

Asking people the definition of words, but many of the words he already knows the meaning of. We think he is testing people’s intelligence.


Getting presents

Christmas, Easter and Most Other Holidays

Dressing up as Disney Characters or wearing Disney shirts

Playing the game Sorry

Leaving the house

The Beach

Hugging people

How many of these things do you like?

Autistic boy eating ice cream

Some of the things Jack-Jack hates:

Dogs, Cats, and Most Small Animals


Bananas, Cheese, Pizza, Spaghetti, Sauces & Gravies, Mashed Potatoes

Angry people, Getting Punished and Getting Yelled At

Going to the doctor or dentist

Seeing a photo of Pennywise or Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove

How many of these things do you hate?

Things that cause a meltdown:

Not eating for a long period of time

Getting yelled at

Thinking someone is mad at him

Being overstimulated

Angry people

Parties with lots of people and nowhere to escape

How many of these things cause you distress?

As you see, Jack-Jack has common likes and dislikes. However, his brain processes information differently. Finding ways to make a connection with him requires time and effort. And having a relationship with him is not easy, but it is filled with joy. There are moments that he is incredibly draining, and then there are times that he is so energy-producing!

Boy and Giant Stuffed Mickey Mouse

Understanding the Statistics on Autism:

One in 59 children has been identified as being on the autism spectrum. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder is 4 times more common in boys than in girls.

Approximately 40% of people with autism never speak.

Savant syndrome is found in some autistic individuals. This manifests as extraordinary talents that far exceed what is considered normal. These skills may include rapid calculation such as complex math problems, artistic ability, map making, or musical ability. It is estimated that only 10% of autistic individuals have savant abilities. Jack-Jack’s “savant” movie line memorization did not appear until he was about 11 years old.

The term “autism” was first used in 1911. However, many individuals were not diagnosed. Many of these people would have spent their lives in institutions. 

Many “experts” believe that “early intervention” is the key to helping children overcome some of the challenges, however, not all experts agree. There is no known “cure” and many therapies that work for one child, do not work for other children. 

It is estimated that between 14-30% of adults with autism are employed, and usually, those are low paying/part-time jobs.

The average life expectancy in the United States is 72 years old, however, for those on the autism spectrum, it is only 36 years old. Individuals with autism 40 times more likely to die from various injuries such as suffocation, asphyxiation, and drowning.  The risk of drowning peaks at about 5 to 7 years old. In fact, the leading cause of death for all children are auto accidents, however, the leading cause of death for children on the autism spectrum is drowning.

There are people that “outgrow” their diagnosis, but this is rare. 

Toddler face with green eyes

Famous people on the autism spectrum include:

Temple Grandin

Dan Aykroyd

Darryl Hannah

Albert Einstein

Satoshi Tajiri – Creator of Pokemon 


Positive Traits of Autism

Things That Trigger an Autism Meltdown

Before Autism: The Life I Took for Granted

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