Dear Will Smith,
When I was a kid I had to go out of district to help me receive supports to help succeed due to my challenges with autism. I wasn’t very comfortable with the transition but something that helped was when I first started watching reruns of your hit-show ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’.
There was something about your character’s transition that stood out to me. How you got into one little fight and your mom got scared and the next thing you knew you were off to Bel-Air from West Philadelphia. As a fan of the show, its how I looked at my transition to going out of district. I was leaving my town and going some place new.
You gave me a great deal of inspiration by watching your character because when you arrived to Bel-Air you remembered to be yourself. That was something I wanted to mimic in my time going to a new school where I knew absolutely no one and was nervous of what would happen. That uncertainty frightened me.
You were always a role model to me for being able to be yourself both on and off the screen. Later, what I found interesting was when I learned that you had a learning disability just like me in ADHD. There were several interviews where you mention not liking to read and how growing up you were the “fun one who had trouble paying attention.” I had similar challenges. When things weren’t what I wanted to do, my key interests, my attention span would suffer.
When I learned about all of this just a few years ago I started sharing your message with my mentees who also have different types of learning disabilities such as autism. For many, they see leading autism advocate Dr. Temple Grandin as an advocate but so many of them instantly became attached to you. They love sci-fi and have your roles in Men in Black and Independence Day stuck in their heads. Your films such as the Pursuit of Happyness, I Am Legend and Hitch today are a few of my personal favorites.
When they learned that you too have a learning disability you become a role model to them on great things being possible. A message I often share with them that you’ve quoted is “The first step is you have to say that you can.” I found that very inspiring. I believe we all need something to look up to in this world that great things are possible.
Thanks for being that person not only to me but to the kids I work with. I hope our paths may cross one day.