“John the Backwards Dude” has thousands of followers on YouTube and is celebrated for his unique abilities. However, it took years before he learned that he has Asperger’s syndrome and to embrace his “superpowers.”
At age five, John Sevier Austin discovered he loved playing records backward, singing along. It “mortified” his parents, who worried people would think he was weird and that he wouldn’t have any friends. But, for him, it was irresistible to hear the sounds in reverse.
By first grade, his teachers told his parents he should be in a special needs class. Then, they sent him to therapy, where he discovered a player piano. Immediately, he was fascinated by a machine that could make music with a playback mechanism.
Naturally, he wanted to get the piano to play backward to reveal new melodies. Before long, he could play them forward and backward in his mind at will.
“Music is a universal language, and there’s some music, that when you play it backwards, it’s sounds just as beautiful that way as when you play it forwards,” he says. “And when you understand that, you can take those melodies and apply it to speech patterns.”
Although he remained obsessed with playing sounds backward, his father rejected the interest. Once, as John was playing a record backward, his father struck him. People would call him crazy, his dad said. Sadly, his peers avoided him as his father had once warned.
John the Backwards Dude Embraces His Superpower
Later in his teens, Austin discovered a home movie theater and became obsessed with watching reels in reverse. His interest grew, and after a visit to the local movie theater’s projection room, he was hooked. Unlike anyone else before, the projectionist recognized his unique talents and how quickly he learned to use the equipment.
Over the years, the man that would be known as John the Backwards Dude worked as a cameraman and editor in Charlotte, North Carolina. Finally, he found the friends he had always wanted who appreciated him. Finally, when he learned to embrace his unique abilities, he discovered it was his superpower.
“I never knew why I was different until I stood up and embraced my talent of talking backwards,” he said. “And, now I know. I wish my dad had known because some of my weaknesses were actually strengths, and some of my strengths – superpowers.”
However, to realize his powers, he needed compassion, understanding, and kindness.
“My parents were so worried what was wrong with me that they missed what was right,” he said.
Sharing His Talents
Today, he embraces his talents as John the Backwards Dude, sharing his abilities on his YouTube channel, talent shows, and television programs. His story has appeared in international news.
Thanks to smartphone apps, John can easily record a video for onlookers and play it backward. After saying something that sounds like gibberish, he reveals the hidden message.
Generally, people are astonished by his superpowers.
Impressively, people often give him requests and he can say whatever they want backwards with ease.
“For somebody that’s on the spectrum, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re stupid or that you can’t do something,” he said. “Talking backwards has allowed me to just go out and be myself – amazing people with how gifted my brain is. That’s what the spectrum us like, we can do extraordinary things so don’t let people bring you down.”
Learning About the Autism Spectrum
In 2018, Austin found out he was on the autism spectrum with Asperger’s syndrome. After all those years, it made sense why he had unusual abilities and was sometimes socially awkward.
Now, he says the label is one he’s proud of, giving him the freedom to change, learn, grow, and be himself.
“It’s a wide spectrum, and only now are we beginning to understand how diverse it really is. And, I have had many labels put on me in my life but this one I wear with pride because it gives me freedom,” he says.
After he became known as John The Backward Dude, he learned about others sharing his unique abilities. Now, he continues to make new friends and admirers who recognize and appreciate what makes him amazing.
See his video called “Almost Normal” below:
Featured images: Screenshots via YouTube