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Calls to Action

Heart of Autism: 17-Year-Old Advocates for Others with Severe Autism

Ido Kedar is a 17-year-old young man with autism, and a champion and advocate for individuals of all ages with severe autism. Ido is nonverbal, and for the first seven years of his life, was unable to communicate with the people around him. Just as many others would, the people in Ido’s life assumed his lack of speech and sometimes erratic behavior meant he was unable to understand the world around him. It was at age seven that Ido’s mom, Tracy, realized that though he was unable to hold a pencil, he could spell. With the help of a letter board, Ido began to share the words, thoughts and feelings he had been forced to keep inside for so long.

After seven years trapped inside, Ido was able to escape what he refers to as a prison. “He was locked in internally,” says Tracy. His mission became to make sure that other nonverbal individuals could unlock their prisons as well by spreading his message in the autism community and beyond:  “Not speaking is not the same as not thinking.” His dream is to release non-verbal people from their lives of solitude and being misunderstood.

In order to share his thoughts, feelings and message with the world, Ido began to write. And more recently has learned to type on his iPad. At age 12, Ido realized he could begin to explain non-verbal autism to others. Writing became a chance to deal with his situation and the challenges he faced. He created a blog and began to write a book, Ido in Autismland, a collection of essays conveying his message by detailing his thoughts and experiences. The book was published last October!

Ido shares his insights in an early blog entry:

You need to try to imagine my situation as a young non-verbal boy with no way to express my ideas and see that it was like a nightmare. Not only was my mind fully present and understanding everything, but I read fluently. I thought of retorts, jokes and comments all day long in my head. Only no one else knew.

Nine years later after first revealing his intelligence and ability to learn and share his thoughts, Ido Kedar is on the honor roll in a mainstreamed high school with the help of a 1:1 aide, communicating and writing using only his iPad. He plans to go to college and continue doing what he is doing – writing, consulting and educating the community about autism, so he can open people’s minds and change their understanding of severe autism. His ultimate goal is to help unlock the thoughts and potential of the many other nonverbal individuals on the spectrum desperately trying to communicate. On May 23, via his iPad, Ido delivered the commencement speech at California State University Northridge Department of Education for special education teachers. At the Vista Del Mar conference in 2011, one of his many speaking engagements, Ido concluded:

My goal is to help you parents connect to your children in real communication, and to help professionals understand the real experiences of your clients, and to burst open the prison door of my fellow travelers in Autismland. The time is now to advance our understanding of autism. This is my mission. Thanks for joining me on the way.”

You can check out Ido’s blog here and order his book Ido in Autismland: Climbing Out of Autism’s Silent Prison on Amazon.com

Do you have ideas for our Heart of Autism series highlighting individuals on the autism spectrum giving back to the community? We would love to hear from you! Email us at heartofautism@autismspeaks.org. Check out previous Heart of Autism stories here.