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My Journey with Autism and Finding Independence in NYC

This post is by Dave Friedland, a young adult on the spectrum. This post is part of an initiative on our site called “In Our Own Words: Living on the Spectrum,” which highlights the experiences of individuals with autism from their perspectives. Have a story you want to share for the series? Email us at

Moving to New York City was originally my brother’s idea, but then I started to see it as a good fit. Now, I love it here, I couldn’t live anywhere else.

When I decided to move last summer, my family was nervous. I grew up in Georgia and then moved to Florida for a College Internship Program, which is a special needs school. There I learned how to cook, clean, and manage my money, but I was never fully independent. Moving to New York let me put those skills into practice. Living by myself was a big step for me—I was a little scared but now I’m used to it.

When I moved, I started Birch Family Services’ New Frontier Program where I worked with Andrew, a Career Counselor, on employment skills and travel training. I was nervous trying to learn the city and how to get around, but Birch really helped with that. It took about three months of training, but now I can go anywhere in the city on my own.

I began volunteering at GallopNYC, where I helped kids ride horses and made sure they were safe. Gallop helped me learn how to work with other people and how to communicate better.

My biggest goal once I moved here was to get a paid job. I worked with Birch for months on my interview skills, time management, and work place behavior. In March, Andrew helped me get a job at a sporting goods store where I now work three to four days a week. My co-workers are very friendly and I love interacting with people. Andrew is always available if I have any issues and checks-in with my manager regularly.

Since moving to New York City, I’m most proud of taking the subway by myself.  I’m more independent than I have ever been.  I used to rely on people to go places, but now I can go to work, see friends, or do activities in the city, all on my own. I feel very accomplished.

You can learn more about our Grant Program with GallopNYC here. You can learn more about GallopNYC here and Birch Family Services here

Have a story you want to share for our “In Our Own Words: Living on the Spectrum,” series? Email us at