Isn't it awesome when you find something you truly love to do?
For Jordan Hilkowitz, an 11-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ontario who has autism, that thing is making science videos. And it's a hobby that has won him millions of views on YouTube - and helped him make friends and communicate with others.
When he was 18 months old, Jordan was diagnosed with autism. He didn't speak until he was five, and once he did, he would only use one or two words at a time.
His mother, Stacey, says at the time she wondered "if he would ever be able to have a conversation, go to school, or make a friend."
Well, Jordan's made a lot of friends in the past couple of years - and a lot of that is thanks to his alter-ego, Doctor Mad Science.
That's the name he uses in a series of science-focused YouTube videos he's uploaded since June, 2011. The videos feature kid-friendly science experiments, performed and narrated by Jordan, and they've received more than four millions views.
Since he was very young, Jordan loved science - he would collect rocks and build pulley systems around the house - but it wasn't until his babysitter Tracy Leparulo suggested filming one of his experiments that Doctor Mad Science came to be.
The first video they created involved a candle, a glass and a bowl of water, and it did pretty well - it's got over 80,000 views. But the second one is on another level. It's called 'MILK + SOAP = MAGIC' (check it out at the top of the page), and it's received over four million views to date.
Jordan's mom told Strombo.com that Leparulo became his babysitter thanks to a chance encounter at a mailbox:
"I ran into Tracy's father while I was getting the mail, and he just said 'you have two kids. Do you need a babysitter?'," she says.
She agreed to hire Tracy, who was in grade eight at the time, and ever since the babysitter has also been an endless source of encouragement and ideas.
But Leparulo is clearly much more than a babysitter. She still shoots all the videos on Jordan's channel, and edits them (with Jordan's full participation).
The videos they've created so far include experiments with exploding foam, home made slime, a heatless lava lamp, and a multi-coloured bouquet of flowers (for Valentine's Day, of course).
For Stacey, the creative relationship between Jordan and his babysitter is full of surprises.
"I'd come home and find a dry ice machine running in the house - that was the Hallowe'en episode - and they'd say 'we're shooting, you go in there," she told Strombo.com.
She gives the pair all the credit for the videos - but she does say she's done her fair share of driving to the store to pick up whatever supplies are needed for that day's experiment.
Since he started creating the videos, Jordan's become "a chatterbox," his mom says, and his ability to communicate has improved a lot. Kids at school are always asking him about his videos, and want to be involved.
As Stacey says, "autism will always challenge Jordan, but I've learned it doesn't have to define him."
If you're in Toronto this weekend, Jordan will be performing some experiments at the fifth annual Science Rendezvous at Yonge-Dundas Square this Saturday, May 11 from 10 am - 4 pm. Come out and see him do his thing if you can.
Social media and being online have helped other people with autism.
Last season, we had Carly Fleischmann, co-author of the book 'Carly's Voice', on the show to talk about how social media helped her find her voice through autism.
As she says in this video, "the moment when I typed on social media for the first time, a sense of belonging and a feeling of being heard came over me." Check out Carly's Defining Moment below.
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