No one understands the Asperger/Autism (ASD) experience better than those who live with it. In recognition of the valuable perspectives individuals with Asperger profiles have to offer, AANE has assembled a Speakers Bureau of adults who are diagnosed with Asperger/Autism. Each with a background in public speaking, these bright and articulate individuals will visit you and tell their stories. Their presentations will enhance your understanding of the challenges people with Asperger profiles face, and the strategies that help them to succeed, all the while offering irreplaceable first-person perspectives.
Some of the topics that have been addressed in the past include:
- Considerations of diagnosis
- Work and employment
- Mental and emotional health
- Understanding and self-advocacy
- Social and vocational needs
- Friendships & relationships
Members of the Speakers Bureau have different areas of expertise in talking about their diagnosis. Please review the biographies below to select the most appropriate speaker for your organization. Contact Marcia Robinson at email@example.com for more information or to arrange for one of our speakers to visit you.
*Please Note: The Speakers Bureau consists of experienced non-professional speakers with Asperger profiles. To schedule a consultation or training by one of our professional Asperger/Autism specialists, please visit our Consultation and Training page.
Ashley & Gus
Gus and Ashley are a married couple on the Autistic spectrum. Gus was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at the age of 40. He is a Computer Engineering PhD with a nearly 20-year career in Microprocessor Architecture, but also has a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature and a passion for writing. In addition, Gus is the father of a precocious 10-year old boy, also likely on the Autistic spectrum (but not officially diagnosed). Although separated from his child's mother, Gus is a very active parent. Ashley was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder at the age of 30. She has experience working in political and union organizing as well as in education, and is pursuing a career as an instructional designer. Both of them are devoted aspiring novelists, each working on their first book. Ashley and Gus are in a committed, long-term romantic, artistic, and Autistic relationship. They share a household and all of the assets and responsibilities this includes: finances, cooking, cleaning, shopping, personal space and articles, calendars, etc., not to mention the care of an Autistic tuxedo cat. As a couple, they speak to the experiences both of growing up as Aspies, as well as raising one in a co-parenting capacity. They can also address the unique challenges and benefits of living as a couple on the Autistic spectrum. These include bridging inherent barriers to communication, coping with with emotional and sensory issues, and managing both shared deficits and complementary gifts. But it also entails the strong solidarity and connection that come from sharing an atypical point of view and confronting a world that, more often than not, fails to understand or empathize. They testify to the fact that it is possible to find companionship, intimacy, laughter, and love on the Autistic spectrum.
Elizabeth Avery was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2002 at the age of 37 and has been speaking for AANE since 2006. Elizabeth speaks on social issues. She has spoken at the State House about the importance of diagnosis in obtaining appropriate services for individuals of all ages with AS. She has spoken to legislators about the social and vocational needs of adults with AS and about the impact of bullying on children with AS. She would like to speak to employers in order to familiarize them with AS and with the types of environments that help employees with AS perform best on the job. Elizabeth is in a long-term relationship with a man who also has AS, and she has given talks and sat on panels that address dating and relationship issues. She also speaks regularly with 4th and 5th grade children as a part of the Understanding Our Differences curriculum in the Newton, Lexington, and Watertown public schools. Elizabeth’s talks are described as genuine and inspirational. She is soft-spoken with a gentle sense of humor.
Elizabeth & James
Meet Elizabeth and James, a uniquely wonderful couple who have mastered the many challenges that a relationship between two Aspergian individuals pose. Both diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome in their adult lives, Elizabeth and James talk openly and candidly about the importance that communication, respect, kindness and shared values hold in a relationship. While these qualities are at the core of every healthy relationship, Elizabeth and James explain the importance of very clear, explicit communication between individuals who have Asperger Syndrome. Elizabeth and James talk about the importance of developing friendships with a variety of people before settling into a long term intimate relationship with one person. Elizabeth and James live together and can talk about the importance of personal space and accommodations in the home that enable individuals with Asperger profiles to live comfortable and fulfilling lives together.
David Barach was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 2001 at the age of 34. David talks passionately about his personal struggles growing up in a neurotypical world where he always felt different. He specializes in talking about adult issues, in particular employment. David has presented at several workshops at MRC to help vocational counselors increase their understanding of AS. He speaks about the values of disclosure and the benefits of having one’s diagnosis known in the workplace. He also speaks to teachers and employers about creating school and work environments that are welcoming to individuals with AS. David particularly enjoys talking to people who aren't familiar with Asperger’s and autism. He is a friendly, affable man whose commitment to helping and supporting others is evident in his talks.
Originally from Toronto, Canada, Karen Lean has been living in the Boston area since 2009. Karen has spoken about the sensory processing and central auditory processing disorders she struggles with as part of her Asperger's Syndrome. Karen's topics of interest are relationships, females with Asperger's Syndrome, self-awareness and mindfulness, the connection between sensory integration and the other aspects of autism, and the overall struggles of living with AS in a neurotypical world. Karen works in IT. She is an engaging speaker whose sensitivity and deep intellect are readily apparent in her talks.
Andrew Feldman was diagnosed with AS in middle school in 2001, launching his family on a journey filled with both challenges and joys. Together, Andrew and his parents explored different accommodations, services, and educational environments. After much searching, they found a high school program that spelled success for Andrew, and he later graduated cum laude from George Washington University. Andrew enjoys speaking and writing about his personal experiences. Students, professionals, and parents could all benefit from hearing Andrew talk about how his hard work and his family’s support enabled him to get where he is today. Andrew can address topics such as growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome, receiving and coming to terms with an AS diagnosis, what works and what does not work for elementary and secondary school students with AS, strategies for navigating college life with AS and increasing the odds of success, and expected and unexpected challenges that arise after college.
John Hattaway began investigating the differences in the way he behaves and experiences the world around him in 2011 at age 37. In January of 2012, John received his diagnosis and began an ongoing process of learning all he could about autism to improve his relationship with his wife and son. John and Erin decided to speak openly and honestly about their experiences with autism as a family, first to family and friends, and now as advocates in promoting healthy relationships between people with autism and neurotypical partners. Prior to his diagnosis, John earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. He currently teaches college composition. John speaks about being diagnosed with autism and having to work with his wife in adapting expectations and understanding within their relationship. He talks about how his knowledge of autism benefits relationships and the many lessons learned about communication practices and patterns. He also speaks about the choice to disclose and how it has helped enhance his relationships with coworkers and students, leading to shared successes in a neurotypical world.
Gary Hudson is a self-diagnosed adult with AS. Gary grew up in the 1950’s at a time when Asperger’s Syndrome was unknown to the medical community. The understanding that Gary developed about his AS opened a new world to him, as he began to understand and accept himself for who he is. Gary has used his artistic talents to develop a career in the helping profession. In his talks, he describes what it was like to grow up in the 1950s in a neurotypical world and to find his voice. Gary has spoken on several topics, including how he made his AS work for him, the power of disclosure, and the power of recreating one’s life after diagnosis. He encourages fellow “Aspies” to accept their uniqueness, find their niche, and make it work. Gary’s positive personality and positive attitude about life show that with hard work and realistic goals, individuals with AS can reach their dreams.
Since being diagnosed with AS in 2004 at the age of 20, Nomi Kaim has spoken to a range of audiences, including educators (elementary through college), mental health professionals, parents, adults and adolescents with AS, university students, and school children. She is fairly flexible about topics covered; previous topics include the effects of AS on friendship, self-esteem, anxiety levels, independent living, educational needs, life planning, and academic and vocational achievement. She has a particular interest in the mental and emotional health of individuals with AS. Nomi’s presentations draw from personal experiences supplemented by her extensive interactions with others on the autism spectrum as well as professionals. She is an active volunteer and community member at AANE and has also published several articles about Asperger’s.
Stephen Kercel worked as a Development Engineer in artificial intelligence at Oak Ridge National Laboratory from 1990 to 2003. In 2014, while being treated for PostTraumatic Stress Disorder, he discovered that he is on the spectrum. Steve found that getting the diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome was lifechanging, and that his story could be helpful to others, especially those who learn about their Asperger's later in life. Since retiring, Steve has become a regular volunteer with the Midcoast Community Emergency Response Team and the Sagadahoc Local Emergency Planning Committee. He has extensive experience speaking at scientific conferences and ham radio conventions, and giving public safety briefings. Dr. Kercel can speak about the impact of getting a diagnosis late in life. He can also discuss techniques that emergency responders can use to gain cooperation from people "on the spectrum" without the encounter escalating—and how people on the spectrum can communicate effectively with first responders. Steve lives in Maine, and is available to speak throughout New England.
Aaron Levinger was born in 1989 and diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in his middle school years. Since 2011, Aaron has spoken to numerous elementary school students as part of the Understanding Our Differences program. In 2013, Aaron was given the Katie Lynch Memorial Award as Speaker of the Year. Aaron is particularly skillful at responding to questions raised by young students. His warm and honest style makes him a wonderful speaker for children. He has also given presentations for many other kinds of groups, including teachers, college psychology students, afterschool staff, and at several AANE conferences. In his talks, Aaron addresses many of the issues that he experienced as a child growing up with AS. Aaron is employed doing meaningful work in several settings.
David Levitan was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2005 at the age of 54. David speaks about growing up with autistic traits, as well as a severe Sensory Integration Disorder (SID). Dealing with sensory disintegration and overload can be perplexing for children and their parents. David unravels this complex condition with sensitivity and humor. He suggests coping strategies for those who are challenged by sensory issues. More importantly, David gives insights into the parent-child relationship that are geared toward preserving the child's self-esteem, feelings of acceptance and sense of well-being. Parents of children with SID will benefit from understanding this puzzling syndrome, finding relief from unnecessary stress. David earned a Doctor of Science degree in the field of Jewish Studies. He has taught adults at the adult education and college levels. David has taught English and Math to teenagers with developmental disabilities. In addition, he has several years of public speaking experience at regional and international conferences. David also made a presentation before members of the Massachusetts legislature on a topic of autism advocacy. David's presentation would be highly informative and instructional to parents, professionals and adults on the autism spectrum.
Mike Mayes, who was diagnosed with autism at 18 months, graduated from Mitchell College in 2013. Mike has worked as a classroom mentor and a summer youth leader. He has lived in his own apartment, has a girlfriend, and drives a car. Mike was bullied during high school, but with courage and determination he overcame the effects of the bullying. As a result, he is deeply committed to being accepted for who he is—a person with autism—and to helping others advocate for themselves. Mike has been a motivational speaker for over six years. He speaks on such topics as growing up with autism, bullying, transitions, and the impact of special education laws on people on the spectrum. His goal as a speaker is to give parents hope, and to encourage professionals to have high expectations for their students who are on the autism spectrum. Mike has been a keynote speaker for Autism Speaks, for the Flutie Foundation, and for Mass Advocates for Children. Mike has demonstrated how hard work, commitment and perseverance can lead to success. He is an inspiration to anyone who has an Autism Spectrum condition.
Note: Mike and his mother, Catherine Mayes, are available to present together about the challenges facing mother and son when a child in the family has autism.
Caitlin Medlar was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 1995 at the age of seven. She currently works as a volunteer at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Caitlin is committed to advocating for students with Asperger’s Syndrome. One of her goals is to educate young people about the challenges faced by their peers with AS, and she has spoken to elementary, middle, and high school students about her own school experiences. Caitlin also speaks to high school teachers about strategies and accommodations that benefit students with AS. Recently, she talked with instructors at the Boston Conservatory of Music about how both listening to and performing music can be calming for students with AS. Her practical approach and her genuine interest in increasing public understanding of AS students’ needs, challenges, and strengths make Caitlin a highly informative speaker.
Lynne & Jason Mitchell
Lynne Mitchell, a licensed social worker and her young adult son Jason present a heartwarming and inspiring story of their journey towards self understanding and independence as mother and son. Jason Mitchell was diagnosed with AS at the end of 1st grade in 1998. He is now 20 years old, a full-time college student, and an articulate self-advocate. Lynne Mitchell is a clinical social worker by training with over 20 years of experience working with children and their families in specialized school settings. Lynne has been specializing in AS professionally even before she was faced with AS at home. This mother/son team has begun presenting to parent groups for AANE giving both the perspective of the child and the perspective of the parent as they face the ups and downs that comes with living with AS as both a child and parent. “Self-Understanding and Self-Advocacy” a second presentation focuses on the process of how a parent can give the child the self-understanding necessary to become his/her own self-advocate. Insights from the parent perspective include how to tell the child that they have a unique learning style and what that means for their interactions with the rest of the world. In addition Lynne shares stories of when and how to back off to begin to increase the child’s ability to self-advocate for their needs. Jason openly discusses what it was like for him to learn about AS across the years. He discusses the ups and downs he has felt about his differences and clearly points out the things his family has done over the years that help and that don’t help his journey toward self-understanding and self-advocacy. This presentation brings to life, through real stories and experiences the process one family followed as they all learned what AS means to them.
Stephen Shore is a distinguished speaker and workshop leader whose work is well known and respected in the Autism-Asperger Community. An adult with Asperger’s, Dr. Shore uses an autobiographical structure to talk about issues related to Asperger Syndrome. Dr. Shore’s presentations span every area of Asperger’s Syndrome including self-advocacy, disclosure, Hidden Curriculum, sensory issues as well as successfully navigating critical challenges of transition into adulthood such as relationships, sexuality, higher education, and employment. Dr. Shore’s presentations are often workshop based, always instructional and geared towards district in-services and organizational conferences. In addition to presenting on a wide variety of topics, Dr. Shore works with children, teaches at the college level and has written several books on Autism and Asperger’s. Dr. Shore is an exceptional teacher and speaker. His famous quote; “If you’ve met one person with Aspergers, you’ve met one person with Aspergers” has become one of the most highly quoted sayings in the Asperger’s community.
Andrew Whalen was born in 1983 and was told that he had Asperger Syndrome at the age of 7. Andrew lives in Rhode Island with his family, where he was born and grew up. He attended several schools in Rhode Island, changing schools because he was either bullied or schools were not meeting his needs. Andrew went on to Rhode Island College and graduated in 2010, an accomplishment of which he is extremely proud. Andrew states that “The most satisfying day of my life was the day I walked across the stage and received my diploma. At that point, I looked back and saw how far I had come.” Because Andrew knows how difficult it can be for students with Aspergers Syndrome to attend and graduate from college, he is passionate about sharing his story with others so that they can benefit from his experience. Andrew has spoken to high school teachers and students with the goal of helping to ease the transition from high school to college. Andrew offers ideas to help students with AS find colleges that will accommodate their needs. He has also spoken to students attending college describing how to advocate for the accommodations they need. An area of particular interest for Andrew is the social aspects of college life. Andrew feels that social connections are vitally important to success in college, and because this is difficult for people with AS, he gives specific examples of things young people can do to make this easier. Andrew has spoken individually and on panels about living with Asperger Syndrome. Because he lives in Rhode Island, he prefers to talk in the Southeastern areas of Massachusetts.
Since he was diagnosed with AS in 2007, Michael Wilcox has become a strong advocate for individuals with AS and related differences. He sits on several boards that represent the interests of individuals on the autism spectrum, and he has spoken at the State House to advocate for people on the spectrum. Michael has talked at length about the relationship between AS and anxiety. He has also spoken about romantic relationships and couples issues, and has participated in many panels exploring the challenges couples face when one or both partners has AS. Michael is an extraordinary speaker: the images he evokes in his talks are rich and powerful, creating a genuinely moving experience for his listeners.