Joshua Beckford is a 13-year-old boy living with autism, and despite his young age, he has been recognized as one of the top 30 most remarkable people in the world with autism. Beckford is certainly one of the most remarkable people in the world, even when judged alongside many successful neurotypical adults. Beckford has already accomplished so much since he first made international headlines at age six as the youngest person to ever attend the prestigious Oxford University. He now plans to someday be a neurosurgeon and has already conducted a live interview in front of thousands for Ted Talks. Beckford’s father Knox Daniel says that he could tell that his child was gifted before he was even a year old.
“I started telling [Joshua] what the letters on the keyboard were and I realized that he was remembering and could understand. So, if I told him to point to a letter, he could do it… Then we moved on to colors,” he says. Beckford has actually been training to be a surgeon since the age of 4 when he began using a body simulator on a computer. “Since the age of four, I was on my dad’s laptop, and it had a body simulator where I would pull out organs,” said Beckford. Beckford was able to read fluently by the time he was 3-years-old, and shortly after began learning Japanese and other foreign languages. He is even currently working on his first book, which he says will be a children’s book that focuses on Ancient Egypt.
Beckford seems to care a lot about the world and wants to use his gifts to make the world a better place. “I want to save the earth. I want to change the world and change peoples’ ideas to doing the right things about earth,” Beckford says. Beckford also wants to raise awareness about some of the challenges that people with autism face. Cases of autism are often very unique, and the conditions often vary from person to person.
However, it is common for people living with autism to have a mixture of challenges and gifts, that are simply a result of thinking a bit differently than other people.
Beckford’s father explains that even though his child is gifted, some social situations and even aspects of home life that most people take for granted can be very challenging. “He doesn’t like children his own age and only likes teenagers and adults. Parenting a child with high-functioning autism comes with its own challenges. He doesn’t like loud noises and always walks on his tip toes, and he always eats from the same plate, using the same cutlery, and drinks from the same cup,” he explained. Beckford has become a representative for his community, serving as the face of the National Autistic Society’s Black and Minority campaign.
He has also raised funds for numerous autism charities, two in Africa and one in the UK. There are roughly 700,000 people on the autism spectrum in the UK, which is more than 1 in 100, and it is likely that there are many more who go undiagnosed. Earlier this month, a woman with autism became the first openly autistic lawyer, but it is highly likely that there are countless autistic lawyers who either aren’t comfortable discussing their diagnosis or have gone undiagnosed. Many people on the autism spectrum are actually highly qualified for in-demand fields like coding. In fact, Microsoft has announced in the past that they are actively seeking out autistic coders to fill roles at the company.