Meet Josean

His life story led to a calling to serve

Josean S.

I made history as the first candidate with Autism to seek elective office in Puerto Rico.

Josean’s birth and first year were smooth sailing; he hit all his milestones and even took his first steps at 14 months. However, signs of a speech delay started cropping up, prompting his mother to seek advice from various professionals. Concerned that her baby boy wasn't developing a vocabulary like his peers, she pursued different evaluations, leading to Josean's autism diagnosis.

Josean Santos with Puerto Rico's flag.

This is the story of Josean Santos, a Puerto Rican diagnosed with Autism

Josean received help for his developmental delays through the Head Start program.  Professionals who worked with him were amazed by his intelligence because he exceeded expectations for all the tests. He could already write words on a magnetic board at three years old. His mom remembers on one occasion when he was five years old, Josean got back to his house after attending Head Start, went to his magnetic board, and wrote the following sentence: “Jesus, please there be peace” (at that time, the Persian Gulf War was happening)

Josean's unwavering determination and relentless efforts continued to illuminate his academic journey. At his sixth-grade graduation, he dedicated the ceremony to his first-grade teacher, a testament to his gratitude and resilience. He was also chosen to read the dedication, leaving his teacher astounded by his improved verbal skills. His high school graduation with honors further underscored his commitment to growth and his ability to overcome barriers.

In August 2004, he was admitted to the School of Social and Human Sciences in ​​Communications at Ana G Mendez University in Gurabo. He not only excelled academically but also found joy in participating in all the university's cultural or artistic activities. One of his unique talents is his ability to capture moments with fellow attendees and befriend young enthusiasts at these events through his photography, a skill that has brought him and others much joy.

Upon completing his bachelor's degree in social sciences with a concentration in Communications, Josean's dedication to community service blossomed. He actively participated in social, cultural, religious, and community initiatives, leaving a lasting impact. Renowned for his generous spirit, Josean has consistently made a difference in his community. Beyond advocating for autism awareness, he fervently champions the causes that are dear to his heart, instilling a sense of pride in his island and its people.

We enjoyed sitting down with Josean to learn more about his advocacy.

Josean Santos does presentations sharing his story and advocating for Autism

Tell us about your diagnosis:

I was diagnosed with autism in Puerto Rico when I was two years old, and in adolescence, psychologists discovered that I have Asperger's, a milder form of Autism. Unfortunately, this disorder is often misunderstood in my home country, so we must continue raising awareness. Autism is a spectrum, and each person with autism is unique.

What makes you want to advocate for the autism community?

Thanks to the fight for inclusion, I have engaged with society across the territory, promoting awareness and providing support to families with loved ones with autism. Through the barriers, challenges, and victories, I have demonstrated that nothing is impossible through my story. This has made me a prominent figure in my Caguas and Puerto Rico hometown.

Since receiving recognition from the International School of Autism in Kissimmee, Florida, as an ambassador for autism in Puerto Rico, I have been spreading autism awareness nationwide. I have shown autism to the world, breaking stereotypes, leaving a mark, and making history for our island and beyond. I am an entrepreneur and successful in every facet of my life!

What is your greatest accomplishment in helping others in the Autism community?

 In 2016, I participated in the primaries, and the New Progressive Party (PNP) elected me as a candidate for the municipal legislature of Caguas for the general elections in November of that year. I made history as the first candidate with Autism to seek elective office. However, I was not elected in the 2016 general election and finished fifth. In 2020, I again aspired to join the municipal legislature of Caguas during the August 2020 primaries, but I did not succeed in that election.

Josean Santos in his hometown

My work as a representative of people with disabilities in the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Department of Education in Puerto Rico began in September 2018. I have been attending meetings for five and a half years where disability-related issues are discussed, and services for Special Education students are provided in the Department of Education.

I work as a clinical clerk at the Regional Pediatric Center of Caguas, which is part of the Health Department of Puerto Rico's Division of Children with Special Needs. My work is excellent, and I value serving and working from the heart.

Another of my most outstanding achievements has been the launch of my first coloring book, "Knowing and Coloring Puerto Rico with Josean," in two volumes, which includes 78 drawings of each municipality in Puerto Rico. This venture began five and a half years ago, on August 22, 2017, and has impacted many people inside and outside the island. These books have been very successful for five and a half years. Four months ago, on April 2, I launched my third coloring book dedicated to the countries of Latin America and the United States.

The story shared above represents the experience, views and perspectives of the individual(s) highlighted. We aim to share stories across the spectrum and throughout the life span, but the information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals.