This guest post is by Josh Dushack, a young man on the autism spectrum.
Last year – if some of you don’t remember – I wrote a blog about growing up with autism and graduating from college in spite of what doctors told my parents. It was called They Told my Parents I Wouldn’t Talk; Now I’m Graduating from College. The blog received a huge amount of attention I did not expect, and had inspired thousands and thousands of people. Now, I want to share with you the achievements I’ve made this year that may inspire you more.
First off, I graduated at Seton Hill University! I walked the ceremony in December, but couldn’t officially graduate that month due to the fact that I couldn’t turn my grade in at a specific due date since I was finishing a course at another school. Instead, I officially received my Bachelor’s in the Arts in May of this year. Such an exciting year for my family and I! But that’s not all!
I said before I would be starring in a play last year in Thanksgiving. That didn’t happen because the pastor barely had time to finish the play. Instead, something even better happened to me. Around October last year, my aunt invited me to Akron, Ohio to watch a lecture hosted by Temple Grandin. I was happy to accept the invitation, and my aunt set us up for V.I.P. tickets, which included a picture with Temple, and receiving a free book written and autographed by her, titled The Way I See It (which is definitely worth a read).
It was there that I met Wendy S. Duke, an acting teacher and co-founder of Center for Applied Drama and Autism (CADA). She was interested in hearing my experience on the autism spectrum, and I even told her I was writing plays. She gave me her business card, and we stayed in contact through Facebook after the Temple Grandin Lecture (which was amazing!).
After I finished my play on bully prevention, I sent it to her and she enjoyed it! She invited me for a reading of my play and to teach scriptwriting exercises to her class, and I was even more than happy to accept. When I showed up (which required me returning to Akron), I was asked to cast the actors for the reading and sat next to Wendy to enjoy it. Of course, the actors did a good job reading and acting it out! They knew how to make my characters come to life, even though it wasn’t entirely a performance. It received nothing but an enthusiastic feedback from the cast and the small audience that came to see it.
Before and after the reading, I have been traveling to schools as an advocate for bullying and autism, accepting speaking engagements at least close to my home, as well as being invited by Wendy to travel to Cleveland to speak about how theatre can teach those on the autism spectrum how to stand up to bullies. That was fun because another speaker and I were asked to use improv as an example, and having some audience members reading a few scenes of my play.
It doesn’t end here, however. I was invited to watch CADA’s performance of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, to which it is performed through the “prism of autism.” It interprets the character Laura Wingfield of being on the autism spectrum. I was not only there to be a guest speaker for the post-performance, but also to for CADA to announce a full production of my play!
Although I knew beforehand they were going to announce that, it was exciting for me because it is officially decided! The date for my play has not been set as of yet, but it will be soon and I am excited to finally have the rare chance of becoming a professional playwright.
I believe the message I’m sharing with everyone on the autism spectrum – or maybe even anyone in general – is that if you are good at something and enjoy it, you should just do it, because that’s what makes you who you are. Because having autism is not who you are primarily, but only part of you. At least that’s my opinion. I may be autistic, but I’m also a performer, theatre artist, professional playwright, writer, public speaker, advocate, and most importantly, a human being. I am honored to be all these things, and I don’t want to trade any of that for the world. Let your heart guide you, and never let anyone say you can’t achieve anything. Nothing is impossible.
Have a story of growing up as someone on the autism spectrum? Email us at InOurOwnWords@autismspeaks.org and you could be featured on our website!