Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 5, 2013

Disorder demonstrates mind-boggling brilliance

Joshua Ball
For The Independent

Van Lear — Josh Osborne likes a lot of things, but there is no question NASCAR is at the top of his list.

His room is decked out with flags, including that of NASCAR’s in-state stop at the Kentucky Speedway. His closet is full of shirts depicting his favorite drivers and tracks. His floor has a stack of model cars and a binder features a DVD of nearly every race since 1998.

Sitting at the dining room table with Josh, wearing his Walmart shirt just hours before logging an eight-hour shift at the local Supercenter, his father, Kelly, said, “Ask Josh any question. Name a year and a track and he can tell you the winner of the races and even the name of the race.”

I was skeptical.  I couldn’t tell you what I had for lunch just yesterday.

I replied, “Pocono … 2009.”

Josh’s immediate response: “Tony Stewart won the Pocono 500 and Denny Hamlin won the fall race, the Sunoco Red Cross 500.”

My jaw dropped.     

Then his father told me of a story where they visited a track where a wrecked car was on display from a past race. Josh whispered to his father, “That wasn’t the car in that race because the sponsor on the hood was different.”

Brilliance? Yes. Amazing? You betcha.

Josh was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, in the autism spectrum, and is best classified as high functioning.

He works and he plays.  On the weekends, when his schedule permits, he’s cruising Paintsville and can often be found at Café on Main, a local hangout, singing karaoke.  

“It was something I always wanted to do, and I got up one night and sang,” explained Josh. “I like it.”

The lesson here is not about a disorder. It’s about order. It’s about thriving and living despite life’s obstacles and trials.

It’s also about opportunity.

Josh’s diagnosis came in the 1980s, when autism was relatively an unknown.  It was deemed as if those with the disorder were broke or disconnected.

In fact, there’s nothing broke.  It’s a different — and, sometimes, a more daunting — path to get to the place we all aspire to find — happiness.

I find happiness in sharing stories of incredible people across our region and walking in their shoes. Josh finds profound joy in racing. How much?

“Last night, I had a dream I met Alexis DeJoria,” Josh told me.

My response: “Who’s that?”

He went on to add she’s a part of the NHRA circuit and proceeded to spell her name. She’s also among the circuit’s most popular drivers.

Kelly can sometimes hear Josh calling races in the showers, particularly wrecks from those races.

“I didn’t know you could hear me,” Josh chuckled to his father across the table.

You see, we all can learn a lesson from Josh.

Search and embrace what makes you happy.