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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

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.