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Esquimalt's 10-year-old math prodigy has message of hope for kids on autism spectrum

Vancouver Island Free Daily - 10/19/2019

A 10-year-old Esquimalt boy is shooting for the moon, literally.

José Rodriguez might look like any other 10-year-old, but he has nearly completed his Grade 11 courses and is already diving into Grade 12 calculus. He'll likely get his high school diploma in the next year or two.

Rodriguez is unconventionally brilliant, with a foolproof photographic memory and a keen interest in astronomy, mathematics and languages, of which he can speak four: English, Spanish, French and Russian.

But even though his academic abilities are light years beyond the capabilities of many children (and adults) his mother Cynthia Rodriguez says there was a time when he was notably behind.

Ten-year-old Jose Rogriguez prepares to give a talk at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory at VictoriaAug 24. (Facebook/Lil Mathematician)

When her son was three, he wouldn't talk and had difficulties communicating. Doctors eventually told his parents that José was on the autism spectrum.

"We didn't know how he was going to be," Cynthia said.

But soon José was doing a lot more than talking. He developed a fascination with letters and words, watching YouTube to feed his interests. YouTube's suggested videos section popped up with content on the Russian alphabet, and before long José was fluent.

But it isn't just words that José memorizes and catalogs. His brain can calculate math equations at a seemingly impossible speed, releasing answers to math questions that a seasoned mathematician would need a calculator for. Whether it's text books, medical books, maps or equations, José's mother says all the information that goes into his brain stays there.

Now he has his own YouTube channel called Making Math Easy, where José discusses things like indefinite and definite integrals, functions and conic sections, ionic compounds, cell division and cloning. With the ease and enthusiasm of a career scientist, José explains complex concepts with an infectious fervor.

His current dream? To work as a scientist with NASA – and he's well on his way. José has given talks at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and regularly attends lectures and open nights put on by UVic's astronomy program.

But his mother shares his story with hope for other children on the autism spectrum. While the diagnosis left her with a lot of questions, she said embracing her son for who he is has made a world of difference.

"There is always hope with a diagnosis, you cannot feel discouraged," she said. "Believe in him. … If I give up on him… then he wouldn't be as far as he is right now."

 
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