Q: How would you describe what you do?
A: I make my living working through a company called Full Access, and I support people with developmental disabilities in independent living. I’m a chapter rep for the ASO for the Lane County Chapter, and I’m also the president of KindTree: Autism Rocks. For the Autism Society of Oregon, I organized a social skills class for adults because they expressed a desire to get more involved socially. People come up with what we want to do, we vote, and then I make that happen. I would guess that I’m kind of a spokesperson for the autism community, giving talks at various places- the university, various schools, and various institutes of higher learning. I think I’m president because I have autism, and that was the goal of KindTree when it started, to have autistic leadership.
Q: So, as someone with autism yourself, what does it mean to you to use your background to help others in the autism community and why did you decide to do it?
A: Oh, I’ve been wanting to do this since I was eighteen. I was diagnosed when I was three and a half, and I was saved. I was really lucky all along. I got a lot of support, not special ed support, but I mean really small classrooms, and my grandmother took me when I was three and a half, and she basically figured out ABA and floortime. Basically what she did with me was what turned out to be these things. So I was able to go to school, you know, to normal school, from kindergarten on. And I got to go to college, got to do all these things. So, at the age of eighteen I asked my grandmother what I could do to repay her for rescuing me, and she said, pass it on to somebody else.
Q: What would you say are the overarching goals for KindTree and the ASO?
Well, we celebrate people on the autism spectrum, and we celebrate the differences, because there are good differences, as well as deficits. It’s a liberation movement, and our thing is not to be stigmatized- to be able to enjoy the things that non-autistic people enjoy. Our thing is not about the reasons why people have autism but about getting out and having fun, being creative, and just facilitating that.
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