Meet Patrick K.
Patrick K., 29
I push through every roadblock that I come across because I know I’m strong enough after all of the hardships I’ve faced.
When Patrick sits down to work on one of his verse novels, he enters a world of wonderment and mystery - one that puts him in control of the narrative unfolding through the pages. The highs and lows, wins and losses, he knows the path of each character’s journey like the back of his hand. But Patrick is still working on his own story, using each day as a learning experience on his journey to crafting his greatest masterpiece.
Since as far back as he can recall, the Missouri native struggled with fitting in among peers as a result of his autism. Often misinterpreted and misunderstood, he faced intense bullying throughout high school and was often made to feel like an outcast. With a strong support system of family, friends and recently his girlfriend, Britni, Patrick has cleared many hurdles to accomplish feats he wasn’t sure he’d ever reach.
Today, at 29, Patrick has a clear mind and has sights set on achieving big things. He plans to release his seventh book, “Frost,” in September, the beginning of his second series of verse novels and hopes to one day be a New York Times bestselling author. Writing has always helped him express himself and he plans to keep writing as long as people keep reading. Patrick’s story of perseverance to pursue his life’s work in the pages of his novels, shows that meaningful work can look different for everyone on the spectrum. As we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we take the opportunity to share the importance of equal opportunities in the workplace for people with autism and intellectual and/or developmental differences and celebrate the varied contributions in the workforce.
Learn more about Patrick in this month’s Spectrum Spotlight
At what age were you diagnosed with autism?
I believe I was 12 or 13 years old when I was officially diagnosed.
When did you realize what it meant to be on the spectrum? How did that news impact your life?
It was around the time I was in high school when I started to fully grasp that I was different. I started to understand why people didn't understand me, because I didn't even understand myself.
How does your autism affect your life? How does it make you unique?
My autism makes a lot of things challenging. On the other hand, it makes a lot of things better. I'm able to discern rhythms and patterns in a variety of scenarios, which makes me the go-to guy to call out plays in sports, mainly volleyball. Those who don't know me, don't usually like to listen but eventually learn that my predictions are often right.
In what areas has autism helped you excel?
It has made me resilient. I push through every roadblock that I come across because I know I’m strong enough after all of the hardships I’ve faced. I can take judgment, insult and negativity on the chin and shrug it away because I know it's just a part of life.
What struggles have you faced as a result of your autism?
I've been shunned, bullied, beaten up, abused and greatly misunderstood. I can fake “normal” pretty well and have done so for years, so when my autism does show, people think I'm just being rude or obnoxious. I’ve also had trouble holding down most types of jobs.
What are some of the things you struggle with as a result of your autism that have prevented you from holding down a steady job?
I can easily get overwhelmed, which certainly plays a role in this area of my life. It's really just an exaggerated version of what every person struggles with. Certain jobs fit better for certain people. For instance, I struggle with dealing with strangers/customers and sensory issues in most places. Certain smells, touching certain things, temperature fluctuations, etc.
What are some of your proudest moments to date?
Publishing my books, definitely. That goal has been in the making since 6th grade. And finally having books I can say I wrote and are for sale is the greatest feeling ever! If anyone is interested in checking out my work, you can find all of my books for sale online!
How important has it been to have a strong support system of family, loved ones and friends in your life?
Greatly! When the world tells me that I can't, they tell me I can. Their belief in me is more valuable than gold and keeps me moving forward. My girlfriend Britni has been especially impactful in my life as well. Being able to love and be loved by her sparks in me a joy in myself that I'd forgotten I had.
What would be the best advice you could give to another autistic person entering adulthood?
Believe in yourself! The world sucks sometimes and is not going to understand or support you in most cases. Believing in yourself against all the odds and voices telling you that you can’t accomplish something, is how you will eventually succeed. And proving the haters wrong and being able to say, “I told you so!” is a nice bonus ?
What was the best advice you’ve ever received?
The world doesn't care. Find that personal support system and believe in the path you've chosen. You can't control others, but you can change hearts and minds with your own actions and beliefs.
Why is advocating for yourself so important?
Being a self-advocate is vital because in some cases you can't help the way you are. Like I said, not everyone's going to understand you, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to educate them and avoid a misunderstanding. Being true to yourself is the key to happiness.
What are a few of your personal goals for the future?
Make it on a best sellers list! And complete my five-year plan to get four more book series out! Not to mention get married to the most beautiful woman ever, Britni! I’d also like to get off of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), because I don't wish to be reliant on government assistance forever. There are others who need it far more than me and I know I can survive without it.
Five words that best describe yourself?
Resilient. Ambitious. Logical. Hopeful. Loyal.