This story is part of a Thanksgiving series recognizing those who do something special to give back to the community.

NORTH PORT — John Poplawski knows there are many things he can’t do, but he says with Jesus in his heart, the 26-year-old autistic man has mighty strength.

“In 2015, I planted a garden and sometimes I was overwhelmed,” he said. “I prayed and realized what I needed to do and not let others get in your head. A lot of people don’t understand people with autism.

“I know God answers prayers and I use God as an example why I keep going in life. Without him, I would not be here now,” he said.

Feeling so strong about having a relationship with God, Poplawski wrote a book called “Facing the Uncertainties of Autism with Christ.” He explains what it’s like to be autistic.

“Try to imagine that every ability that you have can be affected by one trapped door, and yet it can be released with a variety of hidden surprises that can hit you in some areas that you had never even thought out yet,” he wrote.

Poplawski wrote another book, “Knowing and Overcoming The Puzzle of Autism.”

Using his life skills, Poplawski gives tips to others with autism. For him, he avoid groups of people because these experiences can become overwhelming for him to enjoy the company of others.

“I can only talk to three people at a time without getting a sensory overload,” he said. “There is a lot of scented products that can be too much for me to tolerate. These smells can travel fast, like a large amount of energy, and suddenly exploding with flying particles all over the area.”

When odors are stronger, it takes him a while to feel better.


In 2013, Poplawski said he was “ignored and not understood” by others and didn’t have friends growing up.

“I was severely teased because my disability interfered with my appearance and movement,” he said, adding he always had trouble performing motor tasks because it was embarrassing when people were around him.

“I worked hard to be accepted, loved and understood,” he said. “Whenever there were parties or meetings, my body would be screaming you’ve got to get out of here. When I’m in a large crowd with stress, it can be too much for me. My body can defile me by silent things that can offend others, or maybe it may have other people rage anger towards me.”

Like an amplified feedback loop, Poplawski said, autistic people may experience more emotional extremes with bliss or grief responses towards an incidental occurrence and having trouble getting over their frustration than anybody else realizes in their daily lives.

Poplawski turns to God when he’s frustrated.

Poplawski, who lives in North Port with his mother, Sherry, and sister, said he hopes others with autism will read his books. He’s now working on another one, “Experiencing God’s Presence Moment by Moment.”

“I know what it’s like being different, but people with autism have to be champions who overcome their issues and make the opportunities in their life work for them,” he said. “I encourage other with autism to do what they want.”

In his book, Poplawski writes, “Could it be easily discovered if I could blink and not be autistic anymore? Well of course not! For the fact that I don’t believe in luck, but I believe in God. He is the one that determines the course of my life. All of us can call out to him and He will make our paths straight. I think it’s really fascinating how God can work through us to be a witness in a gifted way for Christ.”


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