“Dinosaur Whiz Kid” with Autism Wins at Kern County Fair for 5th time
At 5 years of age, Elijah began to development an extreme interest in all things prehistoric, especially Dinosaurs. He watched national geographic documentaries instead of cartoons, collected books, pictures and toys in this genera.
Elijah G. Stevenson was born in Raliegh, North Carolina to parents Douglas Elwood Stevenson and Nerissa Robinson Stevenson. Shortly after his birth, his father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He succumbed to the disease when Elijah was only nine months old. After this tremendous loss, Elijah and his mother relocated to Bakersfield, California, where Elijah would be surrounded by family, church, and friends.
Elijah was a thriving toddler, however struggled with his speech. At 3 years of age, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and a language impairment, which greatly affected his ability to communicate. His mother, Nerissa, sought early intervention and prescribed therapies to address his developmental delays and struggles. Early on she decided to focus on things he could do and not his shortfalls.
At 5 years of age, Elijah began to development an extreme interest in all things prehistoric, especially Dinosaurs. He watched national geographic documentaries instead of cartoons, collected books, pictures and toys in this genera. Thus, begin his dinosaur collection which would grow into the hundreds. Considering that Elijah was autistic, all were astonished to find that he knew the names and facts about these ancient reptiles. He began to create dinosaur structures and habitats for his collected dinosaurs and built his first display.
At 9 years of age, Elijah created and submitted his first exhibit to the Kern County Fair in the junior hobbies category. Since that time, he has created five different fair exhibits, five years running. Each year, he has captured first place ribbons and more. Elijah’s accolades include: 2018, First Place ribbon, Channel 23 News feature story and local news articles in News Observer and Bakersfield Lifestyle magazine; 2019, First Place ribbons, “Judge’s Choice” plaque, feature story in Bakersfield Family magazine and local newspaper article; 2021, First Place ribbons, “Best of Show” ribbon, “Judge’s Choice ribbon, feature article “Dinosaur Whiz Kid with Autism Three-peats at 2021 Kern County Fair” (Bakersfield News Observer), feature article “12 year old takes love of dinosaurs to victory at fair” (Bakersfield California); 2022, First Place ribbons and the Kern County Fair CEO award; 2023, First Place ribbons, a cash award and Chairman’s award.
Today, Elijah is a bright, kindhearted, and gentle 14-year-old. In August 2023, he became a freshman at Liberty High School. At 6’4”, he stands tall and confident. Elijah says, “Mommy, I have autism, but autism doesn’t have me!” Although, still today, Elijah faces many challenges related to his condition, he passionately embraces this life that God has given him.
One writer said, Autism is a different operating system, comparing the brain to a computer. The implication here is that autism is not a defect or disorder but a variation in how it affects the whole person’s thinking, feeling and interactions. Elijah’s mom Nerissa says, call him different, not disabled. He is blessed by the best, praise God!