Faith Jegede: What I’ve learned from my autistic brothers


Translator: Joseph Geni
Reviewer: Morton Bast Today I have just one request. Please don’t tell me I’m normal. Now I’d like to introduce you to my brothers. Remi is 22, tall and very handsome. He’s speechless, but he communicates joy in a way that some of the best orators cannot. Remi knows what love is. He shares it unconditionally and he shares it regardless. He’s not greedy. He doesn’t see skin color. He doesn’t care about religious differences, and get this: He has never told a lie. When he sings songs from our childhood, attempting words that not even I could remember, he reminds me of one thing: how little we know about the mind, and how wonderful the unknown must be. Samuel is 16. He’s tall. He’s very handsome. He has the most impeccable memory. He has a selective one, though. He doesn’t remember if he stole my chocolate bar, but he remembers the year of release for every song on my iPod, conversations we had when he was four, weeing on my arm on the first ever episode of Teletubbies, and Lady Gaga’s birthday. Don’t they sound incredible? But most people don’t agree. And in fact, because their minds don’t fit into society’s version of normal, they’re often bypassed and misunderstood. But what lifted my heart and strengthened my soul was that even though this was the case, although they were not seen as ordinary, this could only mean one thing: that they were extraordinary — autistic and extraordinary. Now, for you who may be less familiar with the term “autism,” it’s a complex brain disorder that affects social communication, learning and sometimes physical skills. It manifests in each individual differently, hence why Remi is so different from Sam. And across the world, every 20 minutes, one new person is diagnosed with autism, and although it’s one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the world, there is no known cause or cure. And I cannot remember the first moment I encountered autism, but I cannot recall a day without it. I was just three years old when my brother came along, and I was so excited that I had a new being in my life. And after a few months went by, I realized that he was different. He screamed a lot. He didn’t want to play like the other babies did, and in fact, he didn’t seem very interested in me whatsoever. Remi lived and reigned in his own world, with his own rules, and he found pleasure in the smallest things, like lining up cars around the room and staring at the washing machine and eating anything that came in between. And as he grew older, he grew more different, and the differences became more obvious. Yet beyond the tantrums and the frustration and the never-ending hyperactivity was something really unique: a pure and innocent nature, a boy who saw the world without prejudice, a human who had never lied. Extraordinary. Now, I cannot deny that there have been some challenging moments in my family, moments where I’ve wished that they were just like me. But I cast my mind back to the things that they’ve taught me about individuality and communication and love, and I realize that these are things that I wouldn’t want to change with normality. Normality overlooks the beauty that differences give us, and the fact that we are different doesn’t mean that one of us is wrong. It just means that there’s a different kind of right. And if I could communicate just one thing to Remi and to Sam and to you, it would be that you don’t have to be normal. You can be extraordinary. Because autistic or not, the differences that we have — We’ve got a gift! Everyone’s got a gift inside of us, and in all honesty, the pursuit of normality is the ultimate sacrifice of potential. The chance for greatness, for progress and for change dies the moment we try to be like someone else. Please — don’t tell me I’m normal. Thank you. (Applause) (Applause)


100 Responses

  1. rueven54

    November 2, 2012 3:48 pm

    My point is this….This issue needs real attention. Flowering up or dancing around the issues only helps people suffering from the condition (or their parents) feel better about their situation. I think instead of attempting to lessen the blow, we should be bringing it home how bad it is for some of the more extreme cases. It's exactly what the speaker said, we don't know the cause, not do we know of a cure. That should be addressed.

  2. Invalid name

    November 2, 2012 4:39 pm

    "Normality overlooks the beauty that differences give us."
    "You don't have to be ordinary when you can be extraordinary. "
    Well said.

  3. Some Dude

    November 2, 2012 4:53 pm

    Nice topic, bad speaker. I have Asperger's syndrome myself (Mild form of autism) and indeed a lot of the things she mentionned apply to me but she isn't a professional in the field of autism, she just has autistic brothers and that isn't enough to do a talk at TED. Although I love my siblings, they aren't ready to do a TED talk either, even though they lived with me their whole lives and they could go with the same emotional script as this woman but that is no where near a good TED presentation.

  4. Joseph K

    November 2, 2012 4:54 pm

    Well done talk.

    As a psych student I've often wondered if clinical psychology (psychiatry) is going about intervention all wrong as there is a concept of 'norm' for which those with 'mental disorders' are to strive towards to be 'cured'. This often involves rather powerful psycho active drugs, and extensive therapy of all kinds to fit an elusive model of 'normality'.

    I wonder if in fact it would be more effective to guide positive constructive development and offer coping mechanisms.

  5. Joseph K

    November 2, 2012 5:04 pm

    I quite enjoyed the talk myself. What sets TED apart from normal lectures is rather than offering a descriptive talk on a topic and a general idea of where research / development in the field / discipline is heading, TED offers novel approaches, ideas or perspectives.

    And while it is true that she is not 'qualified' to a offer specific approach, she does have an interesting perspective not many people are have. While I have a background in psychology, it is abstract an conceptual. cont…

  6. Joseph K

    November 2, 2012 5:06 pm

    She offers a rather personal perspective to viewing the complex disorder of autism.

    From the point of view of a sibling, which is rather different than say a parent's perspective.

    It was insightful and inspiring in my opinion. And actually got me thinking about a different approach to the current paradigm of applied clinical psychology (I explained it in a separate comment on this video).

  7. HigherPlanes

    November 2, 2012 5:44 pm

    As long as we continue to refer to autism a disorder, it will always carry that stigma of "abnormality"

  8. beachmountain80

    November 2, 2012 5:53 pm

    After working with autistic teenagers (severe autism, manifesting itself in a lot of anger and violence) for three years now, I totally agree with you. They are valuable and fantastic and we can learn a lot from them, but the struggle they go through when trying to understand our world, due to the problems with theory of mind, executive functions, filtering and so on, are so big minuses that no pluses can outweigh them. Then again, it's a spectrum disorder, and I might be biased towards one end.

  9. jasonlajoie

    November 2, 2012 6:55 pm

    There was another TED talk where a gentleman hypothesized that the sudden increase in autistic people is a rapid human evolution of our brains. That this is due to the immense amount of sensory input we're all subjected to these day. It's a theory I love…

  10. myfaith1969

    November 2, 2012 7:51 pm

    don't get me wrong,but whenever i see a black person talking with a British accent, it freaks me out.

  11. burny6666

    November 2, 2012 9:14 pm

    I've got asperger's syndrome, a form of high functioning autism. and i would not change my brain for a "normal" one.

  12. elbay2

    November 2, 2012 9:43 pm

    Strange… I was able to view this with Mozilla FF, but not in Opera … any suggestions to be able to view this in Opera?


  13. Phyrexious

    November 2, 2012 10:27 pm

    It's not a misconception.

    It's a rewiring in the brain. A slightly different configuration if you like.
    It's not a disease that just 'attacks' the social part of your brain or something. Those connections go somewhere and often leads to benefits elsewhere.

  14. Jolene Winckel

    November 2, 2012 10:57 pm

    What a beautiful description of unique minds enjoyed.
    To have it all, the talent and the social lights "ON", google the GAPS diet, it has worked for me!

  15. princeofexcess

    November 2, 2012 11:13 pm

    I think its normal not to want to be called normal. Most people are even if they dont realize it, the social pressure to be normal and not to claim to be normal is extreme. The social convention tells you to claim to be an individual to be unique yet to still behave like everybody else.

  16. kaupaxup

    November 2, 2012 11:29 pm

    Thank you. I couldn't 'like' this because of the way she ended it. People are trying so hard to be "Not Normal", and in so doing they are just demonstrating how very normal they are. Then when they find someone genuinely not normal, or discover how their friend or family member who seemed normal has really just been pretending so as not to upset, they get distressed at facing the fact they are in fact quite normal. And that other person? They are just as ostracised as ever. It's a disservice.

  17. MotionArtist3D

    November 3, 2012 3:21 pm

    Autism is Scientifically proven to have been and is still being caused by MMR Vaccines.
    Mercury additive added to these atrocious cocktail of poisons administered to helpless babies causes irreversible damage to the brain. That is why your Beautiful Brother cried a lot when he was a baby. I bet it was soon after he received these shots. The Sad thing is the poisons added to these vaccines are on purpose to create generation of sick people who depend on Pharmaceutical companies for medication.

  18. Pierre Fouquet

    November 3, 2012 3:48 pm

    If someone with 2 autistic brothers and has obviously done a lot of research into it says there is no know cause, that is not a cause….it may be an idea..but is not proven.

  19. Joshua Duclos

    November 3, 2012 5:00 pm

    Brain "disorders" are the worst thing we've ever come up with. I'd like to meet the person that doesn't have some kind of brain "disorder" I would bet he is the least interesting person to be around.

  20. TheDoobidoob

    November 3, 2012 6:27 pm

    No, that theory was debunked ages ago, multiple times. The study was retracted from The Lancet and Andrew Wakefield, for his unethical practices (such as taking blood and doing lumbar punctures without parental consent and purposefully distorting results) has now lost his medical license. They don't even use thimerisol in vaccines anymore.

  21. TheDoobidoob

    November 3, 2012 6:38 pm

    I see what you mean, however I think the point was to encourage people to value themselves on their own terms and not on some arbitrary idea of what normality is. You are right, though – there is a danger of trying to act unique and special to compensate for your averageness. I personally admire hard workers more than people with inherent specialness. I know too many gifted people that squander their talents, but not enough people that work hard to overcome their shortcomings. Sad, really.

  22. Kevinhillcrest

    November 3, 2012 9:32 pm

    The shit you're spewing from your lips almost made me throw up in my mouth.

    I'll tolerate people with disabilities not because you tell me they are extraordinary because you're autistic brother "never" lied, but because of empathy and humanism.

    Your reasons for accepting autistic people are unrealistic and it's not the case that every autistic person is a SEVANT!

  23. bluebanshee3

    November 3, 2012 10:21 pm

    i think i see what you're saying. it really isn't necessary to be extraordinary to be accepted, or at least it shouldn't be. and giving the picture of two autistic people as representative of every autistic person is really not that fair.

    i think she feels she has to work extra hard to combat negative stereotypes about autistic people. but a stereotype is really a stereotype, and have to be EXTRAORDINARY just to be accepted is a LOT OF GODDAMN WORK!

  24. jktsang

    November 4, 2012 12:29 am

    please look at recent scientific studies– the original study showing that autism is caused by vaccines was disproven by the NUMEROUS studies that shows no link between autism and vaccines. it is unfortunate that we do not know what causes autism still, but please do not blame vaccines, which have saved lives and eradicated diseases.

  25. Kevinhillcrest

    November 4, 2012 5:13 am

    You're right. I was barely serious when I wrote that comment but I am going to consider that comment as a mistake and learn from it. Thank you for pointing that out.

  26. Kathy Williams-Devries

    November 4, 2012 6:40 am

    I am 36 and only just diagnosed with Aspergers, having spent the last 15 years needlessly over medicated in the false belief I was bipolar. Having dealt with being odd all mt life, lack of friends, battling crippling depression, discrimination because I never seemed to 'fit in' at work and study. Because of lack of understanding I have suffered terribly. The more people are educated about autism the better, I have suffered enough.

  27. Belinda Rankin

    November 4, 2012 2:03 pm

    Your almost correct, even though I get where your coming from – every part of human society is normal, a normal reflection of humanity the mind and the environments which includes all that is. But the most important thing which you are doing is shining a light on it- good on you.

  28. MotionArtist3D

    November 4, 2012 4:48 pm

    Yeah sure! Scientific studies SPONSORED by the Pharmaceutical companies. All the independent studies has been ridiculed, suppressed and any credible doctors involved have been outcast and stripped of their profession. I have a recording of top U.S. doctors testifying and proving in front of the US Senate the link between rise in Autism cases and MMR caccines. There are many similar videos here on youtube too if you care to look for them.

  29. MotionArtist3D

    November 4, 2012 5:04 pm

    Debunked by the 'News media' that we 'so much trust these days' which of course being controlled by the same Corporatocracy which includes the Pharmaceutical companies isn't it? You ought to watch these videos for the real facts: watch?v=d40suCKnjbI and watch?v=n7NotxTg7jg And ask yourself, even if they don't use it right now, WHY did they put it in the vaccines in the first place??? They say it is used as a "preservative" right? Most toxic substance as a preservative? REALLY???

  30. ratholin

    November 4, 2012 8:26 pm

    You're entirely right. The man fabricated whole books full of results to steal grant money that could have gone to legitimate study. The antivaccer movement is based on a lie that resonates with boring people so frivolous they can't manage to make an actual enemy so have to populate the shadows with boogeymen.

  31. Simon Chang

    November 4, 2012 10:48 pm

    Uh no. Autism doesn't necessarily mean social problems either. Autistic people tend to be focused in their own world and derive results from their own experiences and think everyone else thinks the same way they do.

    What I'm saying is a misconception is that Rain Man popularized the "idiot savant" just b/c the character seemed to be amazingly smart. The real fact of the matter is this is a oppressive misconception towards autistic folk and people then place the expectation that all autistic…

  32. Simon Chang

    November 4, 2012 10:51 pm

    people are socially inept but actual geniuses in certain areas like math or memorization. This isn't the case. So stop putting such expectations on people with autism. It is an actual problem so stop trying to praise the idea that autistic folk swap their social ability for intelligence.

  33. Phyrexious

    November 5, 2012 1:19 am

    I'm not sure what your qualifications on the subject are but having impaired social skills is one of the key features of autism. (That's not to say the lack of these social tools that others take for granted can't be learned though…)

    I'm in no way talking about rain man or savants. That's way to extreme.
    My statement about "autistic people" would probably be less confusing as well as more accurate if I had said "aspergers syndrome" instead. Which is basically a high functioning autism.

  34. TheDoobidoob

    November 5, 2012 9:36 am

    Sigh…..Really? You're really asking me this? Erm, I think it's something called "benefit over risk", which is what all healthcare professionals do? They didn't even use enough thimerosal to even cause any damage. We ingest WAY more mercury and other heavy metals in our everyday lives. If your infant drink water, eats fish, plays in the park, rides in the car, etc, a silly vaccine isn't gonna do much difference, cont'd

  35. TheDoobidoob

    November 5, 2012 9:44 am

    Incidentally, when I wrote "rides in the car" I meant "ride in the car with you". I don't mean that they drive the care (that would be funny, though).

  36. TheDoobidoob

    November 5, 2012 11:02 am

    Oh, yeah – I've seen those videos before. That was when wakefield was REALLY trying to cover up his bullshit and make himself out to be the victim. We already have evidence to prove that he's a pathological liar, so why should I listen to his words? Also, Mercola is a quack. Just thought I'd let you know.

  37. TheDoobidoob

    November 5, 2012 11:09 am

    Erm, it wasn't debunked by the news media. The news reported it. The scientific community debunked it. That's how it works. Corporatocracy? Okay, I'm gonna back away slowly…..

  38. XX2020XX

    November 5, 2012 9:26 pm

    God bless her and her family but I dont understand how she has an entire presentation that takes over 5 minutes to explain that "everyone is special and we all have something to bring to this earth" isnt ted talks supposed to be showing me something that ive never heard? I wish her the best and I admire her love and strength but no unique way of thinking was presented

  39. rjjackliki

    November 6, 2012 7:27 am

    I have a very similar story to her. I also have two siblings that are autistic, except one is a girl and the other is a boy. They do not know how to talk at all, they just make noises, scream and such. It has been difficult for my family, but we manage to live with it. I do love my younger siblings, but I too wish that they were people like me, and life would be so much easier.

  40. pennymac16

    November 6, 2012 4:38 pm

    But an idea was shared. And the more often an idea is shared the more value it is granted in the community.

  41. XX2020XX

    November 6, 2012 10:15 pm

    NOt trying to sound arrogant but most people who subscribe to tedalks dont need to b told such a basic idea. And people use the word "community" is used so vaguely that it honestly almost makes me mad

  42. Glutton For Sex

    November 7, 2012 9:30 pm

    It is really refreshing and hope-giving to see more minority women being represented on these TED talks.

    Basic progressive policy is to prioritize the underprivileged, yet the women in society who suffer the most from the pressures of the religious right and who lack social mobility most often are, time and again, being sidelined in favor of upper class Western white females.

    I'm really glad to see TED makes efforts to tear down that discrimination.

  43. 52111centrumcz

    November 10, 2012 9:27 pm

    What I find extremely funny is that black women are classed in the west as "minority" while the black population worldwide significantly outnumbers the white one. Yes, yes, I know locally its the other way around, but its still linguistically funny.

  44. pennymac16

    November 12, 2012 3:00 pm

    Sorry, should I have used "society"? Explain your problem here, please. Also, I don't think that people who don't need to be told such a "basic" idea are supposed to be the sole audience.

  45. Cristan Meijer

    November 20, 2012 9:31 pm

    I think "abnormality" or "condition" would be a better words as they sound less negative. Or perhaps it is a better idea to rewrite the sentence so you don't have to call it anything.

  46. Carlos W.

    November 20, 2012 9:57 pm

    Well, we use words because we have to give things names, but I see your point.

    Disorder is used in order to avoid the use of more negative words, if you will, such as mental illness, or cognitive deficiency.

    Actually, I think disorder is quite a harmless word, since it only implies a difference in the functionality.

    It seems to be much more of a matter of how you see it, though, the words "idiot", "imbecile" and "moron" were once not swearing but medical conditions, today, you can't use them.

  47. ChemicalChrisOttawa

    December 14, 2012 7:12 pm

    Tear to the eye…

    Also, love the hair, I hate it when Africans try to make their hair look western. You clearly are a powerful, quality person!

  48. princeofexcess

    March 2, 2013 11:46 pm

    and people still think they are accepting of differences and are very tolerant. It amazes me the capability to compartmentalize and believe in two facts which are obvious opposites. I am glad that there are those who understand.

  49. Martin Riley

    June 1, 2013 6:52 am

    I have nothing but respect and admiration for you. Well done for not giving up! πŸ™‚

  50. rossella di domenico

    July 5, 2013 10:33 pm

    Sono una volontaria di Cure Drive. Ho curato la dipendenza da sigarette, l'influenza, mal di schiena e ora sto curando l'enfisena e la COPD: E' possibili curare qualunque cosa. Non costa nulla. Se vuoi imparare chiamami al 3478316802

  51. Heather Gibson

    July 6, 2013 12:16 am

    I'll never forget driving my autistic teen son to school and telling him that he needs to be more socially aware so that kids don't make fun of him. His response was "Mom,people make fun of great people all the time" I was speachless and he was right and probably more "aware" than I was. I certainly have learned alot from my son.

  52. Fernando Hidalgo

    August 5, 2013 11:23 pm

    I"m curious as to how Remy and Sam feel with their inability to properly communicate with people. This video is more about what she got out of them but how do they feel about having that disease?

  53. Perennial Child

    August 7, 2013 4:05 pm

    This was an enjoyable talk to listen to, reminds me of the concept of neurodiversity and the emphasis that should be placed on acceptance of differing mental states rather than over diagnosing everything that doesn't measure up to a standard of "normal" that frankly too many people aren't. The concept of having a disorder is just a semantic tool–we've been inventing new disorders for years, simply by choosing to call them such. What if we adjusted the scales for mental retardation?

  54. Adam Stiles

    September 16, 2013 11:36 pm

    As a autistic person I can only hope my sisters feel the same way about me. But let me say that as a autistic person I am jealous of people who do not have it. You people seem to operate so easily in social situations. I wish I could do that.

  55. E Courday

    January 12, 2014 6:17 pm

    When people state "There is no cure" I think 'Why would you want to "cure" a Genius?" My youngest child is the most AMAZING person I've ever and ever will meet πŸ™‚Β 

  56. Gabriela Rivero

    April 11, 2014 4:50 am

    It breaks my heart to see people "dislike" this video. This TED talk has to be the most beautiful video I've seen about Autism. My little brother is one of the most extraordinary people that I have ever meet. He loves with all is heart and is just one of those people who you look at and just feel loved and you feel happiness. When I was little I was always dying for a little brother who I could talk to and protect, sure he's Autistic and is 11 years old with a mind of a 5 year old but he is still my little brother and I would not change him for anyone else in this world. Why be normal? being a normal person has to the one of the most boring things a person can be. We are all extraordinary. We all are different people with great and amazing talents and my little brother is one of those people.Β 

  57. Sarah Houghton-Birrell

    September 9, 2015 8:35 am

    amazing thank you ! I am going to use this in my training on autism to inspire others the way you have inspired me xx

  58. Vito Brinzo

    January 12, 2016 8:41 pm

    Thank you Lord…….Thank You Miss Jegede for sharing your story……..
    Faith, Truth and Love just entered my Heart……

  59. miz59

    July 22, 2016 7:30 am

    Thank you Thank you Thank you. Just like her name, I now have faith in my and my son's future. Yes, extra-ordinary!!! What an extraordinary talk Ms Faith Jegede gave to autistic and non-autistic community.

  60. QuaSyLaTic Andrew

    April 7, 2019 1:23 am

    Tantrum / Autism Not Behavioral Problem

  61. QuaSyLaTic Andrew

    April 7, 2019 1:23 am

    Is there an end to Autism definition?

  62. QuaSyLaTic Andrew

    April 7, 2019 1:23 am


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  63. QuaSyLaTic Andrew

    April 7, 2019 1:24 am

    Relationship between Autistic Child's Emotions Behaviors, and the physiological organs functionalities.


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