INDIAN TRAIL – Mayor Michael Alvarez has invited Michael Wayne O’Neill to the Indian Trail Fourth of July Parade to receive the key to the town for his efforts in bringing more awareness to autism.
O’Neill wrote a poem, titled “Autism is a Miracle,” that puts the disorder into perspective. It’s not something that limits him but has made him stronger.
“Autism should be motivation,” O’Neill told the Indian Trail Town Council on April 9. “It should be a set of stairs an individual can climb to reach the light at the tunnel.”
O’Neill works part-time at the Indian Trail Chick-fil-A while preparing for a career in broadcast journalism at Central Piedmont Community College. With his permission, the restaurant posted O’Neill’s poem on its Facebook page, where it was shared at least 300 times and drew about 1,000 reactions.
The increased exposure led to O’Neill being featured on a WCNC-TV newscast, as well as an invitation to read his poem at the April 9 town council meeting in honor of Autism Awareness Month.
“Rather than reading a preprinted printed proclamation, we have a local resident who has inspired and brought everything to a whole new level and a whole new understanding of what autism is,” Alvarez said.
After O’Neill read his poem, Alvarez invited him to serve as “mayor of the day,” as well as greet citizens at the Fourth of July Parade. O’Neill, who was composed during his presentation, was surprised by the invitation, looking back to the crowd with his mouth open in astonishment and hand to his face.
“I’m not here to please people. I’m here to impress people,” O’Neill said. “It’s not because of the way autism defines me but the way I define autism.”
The council found the reading of the poem to be especially meaningful.
Alvarez described the poem as surreal. He mentioned how he was the father of an autistic child before getting too choked up to continue his thought.
Councilwoman Shirley Howe said O’Neill’s presentation got to her heart.
“I’m going to make sure I have another excuse to go to Chick-fil-A so I can shake hands with him,” Howe said. “Things like that make it a pleasure to be on this council and recognize people for certain extra things.”
Autism is a Miracle
Editor’s note: Here’s a transcript of the poem Michael Wayne O’Neill read during the April 9 town council meeting.
Autism is a sunflower, because it grows like a heart.
It does not bring disenchantment but bundles of love.
Does it allow people to see the captivation in themselves?
Yes, because Autism brights up our blue, blue world.
Autism is a sunshine, because it implants happiness in all people.
It is not darkness that limits the world from spinning.
It is a triumphant significance that sets an individual to see light.
Therefore, Autism is motivation to go far and beyond the small circle.
Autism is a blessing, because God made it special for other people diagnosed under the spectrum.
It is not a puzzle piece that is transformed into a serious label.
It allows people to see who they really are meant to be.
Autism prepares individuals to be lovable, diligent and precious souls.
Autism is a miracle, because it changed my identity from antisocial to truly known.
It said that I was a failure, I prove the devil wrong every day.
It prevented me to water happiness in people, I implant faith in others everywhere I go.
It made me socially weak, I am proud to say tonight and every day that Autism made me stronger.