EXPERIENCES

To me, working the field of self-advocacy has been the most rewarding part of my life. I get to do what I love to do anyway for a sporadic living! I get to educate people about my diagnosis of Autism and how it is not a death sentence. I did a conference for Kennedy Krieger Institute in Timonium this past Friday. At first, I was shitting bricks and sweating bullets thinking about what I had to do. But I eased into it and kept thinking, “Oh my God! I’m actually doing this” and “OK. This is just another day at work.” At the end of the day, that’s what it was to me. Just another day at the office, so to speak. I do not want to sound self-centered but one thing I am very proud of is when I did the Washington Post interview. It’s not the fame I got from my name being put in a nationwide newspaper and the article being picked up by other papers and websites around the country…to me, that’s miniscule compared to the biggest thing. My grandfather died a few days after the article came out. So without sounding selfish, I take comfort in knowing that my grandfather got a chance to see me succeed before he died. I take comfort in knowing that he was proud of me. But educating people and advocating, I feel, really is my life’s calling. I have to say, again not to sound full of myself, but I am a good person and I am a Goddamn good advocate. I have to thank my sister Caroline for going to the conference and talking with me. Also thanks to my parents for their support. But going back to the original question, I just feel so fortunate and so incredibly lucky. Not just because I get to talk to people, but it’s the feeling of knowing people are actually listening, taking what I have to say and applying it to their lives and own experiences, and most of all, the feeling of knowing I am making a difference. There really is nothing else I can compare the feeling to. I know I will face some resistance and I will cross that bridge when I come to it. But from what I have heard from PFA and my co-workers, it’s all positivity. At the KKI conference, I made world-renowned Autism researcher and speech therapist Dr. Rebecca Landa cry. (Sorry Dr. Landa!) She told me at the end of my presentation that I am the person she and everyone she works with strive to be. That is the biggest compliment I have ever gotten and meant the world to me. Here’s where she cried. I told her that without her, I never would have gotten into self-advocacy in the first place. I literally and figuratively owe Dr. Landa my career. I am so happy to know that Dr. Landa, and everyone else pulling for me, are on my side and are all pulling for me. To my girlfriend, business partner, and love of my life, Allie: thank you for always being by my side. Knowing that I have support is flattering. I know I cannot do this without help. I feel like I am in my happy place and my element whenever I present! So if any advocacy business out there are reading this: Contact me! I am open to talking with you. Thanks and goodbye!
-Tom

 

Author: AuTom Spectrum Blog

I have Autism and am a self-advocate and public speaker. On the side I do stand-up comedy. I live in Baltimore County and have an AMAZING girlfriend

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