Last month, just as the holidays were getting under way, I got to do this interview before my presentation at the opening gala event for BolderLife Festival. I had so much fun!
BolderLife Festival: We would love to learn more about you. Could you please introduce yourself with a few sentences?
Benjamin: I’m a senior in high school, and I have high-functioning autism. When I was a toddler, I developed classic, regressive autism, and I became socially isolated and non-verbal. My mom has worked therapeutically with me all my life, and now performing and connecting with people has become one of my strongest areas! The arts have always been a huge part of my life, and they feed my soul and spirit.
BolderLife Festival: You will attend our opening gala. What are you looking forward to the most?
Benjamin: I love celebrations and the great energy that goes with special occasions; I’m excited to be in that kind of a space, and to be contributing to making it happen.
BolderLife Festival: You are doing your presentations often and in front of audiences. Are you nervous before your presentations?
Benjamin: No, I just get really excited and happy. I love to perform. I’d love to have people check out the demo-video that we just posted on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GwXmHMlcM8&safe=active
BolderLife Festival: What do you think about autism?
Benjamin: It can be a really hard thing to live with; like when I can’t make my brain do what I want. Things that are easy for typical people can become a real challenge, like communication, or learning by imitation, or picking up on social cues. But I have splinter skills too; for example, I can remember jokes and tell stories in spoonerisms like no one else I know. Since I love to make people laugh, that’s a happy thing!
BolderLife Festival: Why do you want to tell the people how it is to live with autism?
Benjamin: I want them to develop understanding and compassion, not just for people with autism, but for anyone who is “different”. My mom has just finished writing a book about our journey together, and it could change people’s lives; her views, attitudes, and actions have had an enormous influence on me for sure. It is called Benjamin Breaking Barriers: Autism – A Journey of Hope.
BolderLife Festival: What do you want them to know/understand?
Benjamin: I have to work hard to compensate for my challenges, and even so, people notice that I’m different. I want them to have patience and empathy, and to relieve them of feeling uncomfortable around someone with “differences”; that’s easier to do when you understand where someone is coming from. Besides, being “different” can be a good thing; you can have insights that give a new perspective. Someone like Einstein might never have come up with amazing, world-changing ideas if his brain had been “typical”.
BolderLife Festival: What do you think about living a bolder life? Do you live a bolder life?
Benjamin: I definitely have a bold life; people often comment on my courage in speaking out for others, especially because most people with autism have a hard time communicating and sharing their views. I love being recognized as a role model by my peers and teachers, and I see many things in the world that I would love to help change for the better—especially in the area of environmental conservation.
BolderLife Festival: Thank you so much. We are looking forward to your visit.