This post honors the success of a determined adult with severe autism named Nathan Young. Having been placed in segregated workshops at a young age, Mr. Young was determined to change his destiny. And instead of letting his autism limit him, he has gone on to form his own non-profit company called Autism Candles. The purpose of creating this company is two fold:
1. to demonstrate the full capabilities of autistic adults to the wider society and challenge stereotypical assumptions about autistic people
2. to provide employment opportunities for autistic adults.
He has a sophisticated understanding of marketing and has developed his own strategies for expanding the range of opportunities for autistic people. His concept is called D2W, which stands for disability to working. The goal of the disability to work idea is to help autistic adults transition away from segregated workshops and into more rewarding professional opportunities that allow them to express and maximize the full range of their talents, skills, and abilities. Having suffered the negative effects of segregated workshops, he is a strong advocate of integrating autistic adults into the mainstream workforce as much as possible. He is working hard to change a system which has been designed to segregate, exclude, and stigmatize adults with disabilities. He will not take no for an answer, and he is a change-maker.
In the past few weeks, I have interacted extensively with Mr. Young on Facebook. I have found him to be a refreshingly honest, kind, and compassionate young man. He speaks his mind freely and expresses his opinions openly without beating around the bush. He also has the ability to reach straight to the heart of complicated issues and to see through the many sophisticated ways that society tries to deceive and suppress adults with disabilites. He is a role model for adults with severe autism, and I have learned a lot from him in a short time.