Nine-year-old Jathan Scott has a superpower.

Oh, he can't fly like Superman, and he can't climb buildings like Spiderman.

But what he can do, he said, is see and hear things a bit differently than others.

Scott likes to say his superpower is autism. 

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as it is currently known, is a wide-range spectrum, where people often have ongoing social issues, including difficulty in communicating with others, and show repetitive behaviors as well as limited interest in other activities.

Some are only mildly impacted by their symptoms. Others struggle with interaction or are considered severely disabled.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 68 children has been identified with some form of ASD.

Life with Autism

Scott's diagnosis came in 2017, near the start of his third grade year at Jay Elementary School.

His parents, Sara and Nathan, saw signs of something being different with their son. However, because he is considered high functioning, the diagnosis did not come until Oct. 17.

Some children are diagnosed as infants or toddlers. For others, the diagnosis comes as teachers or other members of a school staff recognize behaviors.

"He was struggling in school and social interaction was hard on him," Sara Scott said. "The bigger the classroom was, the harder it was on him."

In 2016, Scott was diagnosed with Sensory Integration disorder, which indicated he struggled with several issues including the sense of smell, sound, taste, touch and textures.

"A lot of it is social. He's always had a hard time in the classroom setting, often coming home saying his ears hurt, because of the loud classroom," Sara Scott said. "His senses are heightened. He hears and sees everything."

A further battery of tests, conducted in Tulsa, placed Scott on the ASD scale.

"At first the label was kind of hard," Sara Scott said. "Because at times, people only see the label. But I told Jathan and he embraced it."

Like many on the ASD, Scott often focuses on one or two things - and then learns all of the details about those items.

His current interests include Star Wars, science and learning to create code. He also likes to read books and play video games.

He once created his own video game and has talked with his mom about writing a book.

"He will zone out and focus on things," Sara Scott said. "He likes technology. His mind is always going - which is challenging to me.

"I'm always trying to keep his mind challenged."

This spring, he's started learning karate at a studio in Fayetteville, Arkansas, whose staff has worked with autistic students.

"It teaches him self control, awareness and confidence," Sara Scott said, adding the lessons work in conjunction with his occupational and speech therapy, as well as counseling. 

Sara Scott said all four things help him develop coping skills to deal with autism.

"They are helping him learn to stop and breath, as well as helping him learn to focus," Sara Scott said. "They are also teaching him to make eye contact."

Public awareness

Ultimately, Sara Scott said, she wanted to help her son embrace his diagnosis - rather than become it.

"I wanted us to bring as much awareness as we can," Sara Scott said. 

For Scott, his ability to see, hear and smell things at a heightened sense, is why he decided to call autism his superpower.

"I am so smart, I know stuff," Scott said, joking that his brain works like a computer.

Sara Scott said her son's life is like a puzzle, where he literally connects things together like a complex design.

Next week, on Monday, April 2, on World Autism Day, Scott will take part in activities to bring awareness to those living with autism. 

On that day, people are encouraged to "light it up blue" by replacing lights with blue lights and wearing blue t-shirts.

Scott's parents are also participating in a research project, which tests the family's DNA to determine if there is a link to autism through DNA.

Ultimately, Sara Scott said, she wants her son to learn the coping skills he needs in order to find his own career path - and function in the real world, much like Temple Grandin.

Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, who serves not only as a consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior, but also a spokesperson for autism.

"He's asked me before why he is different than most kids," Sara Scott said. "I just tell him it's because he sees things differently."