Dear Society… Signed, Autism | Daniel Share-Strom | TEDxYorkUSalon

Transcriber: Carmela Vieira
Reviewer: David DeRuwe Hi everyone. So I was invited to speak here today
because I’m autistic. And, you know, I’m also 26
and single, and kind of hope there might be some bright, funny,
video game-loving women in the audience. (Laughter) It’s a bit of a weird way to meet someone, but come on, it’s not that different
from an eHarmony ad: (Laughter) “Hi, I’m Daniel. I hate toothbrushes, loud noises
and washing my hair. (Laughter) Call me.” (Laughter) OK, maybe not the greatest selling point, but this is what happens
to autistic people. We are summed up by the things
that cause us problems. So I want you to think about the one or two things about you
that you’d rather keep private. So let’s say you are Brenda, the award-winning writer
and loving mother of two. Or Michael, the school teacher
who volunteers at the animal shelter. Now I want you to think what would happen
if I introduced you to someone like this: “Say hi to Brenda,
the disorganized control freak, and Michael, the lazy,
overdrawn couch potato.” (Laughter) See what I’m getting at? That is what happens
to people on the spectrum. We are actually judged by our distance
from so-called “normal.” And the things that we do
that are outside of the ordinary just get added to a list
of things that have to be fixed. So since we are a little bit different
in the way that we communicate, learn and interact with our environment,
that list can get pretty big. The consequence of that is that people
with autism grow up feeling broken, not believing in themselves
and not believing in their futures. So I think the recent surge
in autism awareness is fantastic, but what we’re really
waiting for right now are understanding and acceptance. Understanding will dismantle
preconceived stereotypes, and acceptance will
acknowledge the validity of the way that we experience the world. So don’t get me wrong, I’m super grateful
for the recent rise in awareness – the puzzle pieces, the blue lights,
the “I love someone with autism” t-shirts, that’s awesome – (Laughter) but it’s not enough. You want to know why? Because awareness
doesn’t necessarily translate into understanding or acceptance
in our community. Let me tell you a story. So I graduated university in 2013. I had trouble finding work. And I got hooked up with an agency
that helps people like me to find a job. I sat with the job developer
for hours and hours. I told her some of my strengths
and my weaknesses so that she could make
a good employment match. And now, for strengths,
I told her I’m a writer, a public speaker and workshop facilitator who has an honors degree
in communications. And for weaknesses, I said
I move a little slowly sometimes, and I have trouble with motor skills,
among other things. So basically, that means
that I’m a little bit clumsy, I have trouble working with my hands, especially when it requires using
a measured amount of pressure, like anchoring a steak with a fork
and then cutting it with a knife. So I left her with that, and I continued
my job search for weeks and weeks, and I checked in with her –
nothing, nothing. Then she calls me all excited. She had a job for me to apply to. I was pumped. “That’s great! What is it?” I asked, anticipating an entry-level
office or communications job. “It’s prep cook in a kitchen.” (Laughter) OK, so … (Laughter) I’m pretty sure that the customers wouldn’t want a side order
of my fingertips with their salad, so … (Laughter) So I said, “Well, thank you so much
for that opportunity, but I can’t do that job,
given my fine motor challenges. Is there any way you can find me something
that uses my communication degree?” And she said, “Daniel, you’ll be able to communicate
with the other staff in the kitchen!” (Audience) Ahh. (Sighs) So, let me be a little cheeky here. Awareness, check. Understanding, not so much. And with over 70% of people
on the spectrum unemployed, she may not be the only
supportive professional whose good intentions are hindered
by a lack of autism understanding. So consider our schools. They’re aware of autism. One in 45 kids may be on the spectrum,
so that’s not too surprising. However, understanding and acceptance
are still a work in progress. When I found out
about my motor skill problems, I started using a laptop. I have, since I was 10 years old,
for everything that I’ve ever written. And, when I was in grade nine, a teacher actually asked me
to write a unit test with pen and paper. So I actually was usually
an honors student, but I did very poorly on that test because I can’t compose
answers well that way. So my mom asked that I be allowed
to retake the test. The teacher said no. And he said that it would be an unfair
advantage to the rest of the class. I mean, it wasn’t a huge loss. The injustice of that
actually spurred on my advocacy career, but I digress. (Laughter) But people are denied support
for many reasons. I’ve been doing autism workshops
for around 11 years, and parents frequently tell me
that they can’t get support because there aren’t enough
resources available or that there are other kids
who need it more. Well, here’s what I think. I think that with the right
understanding and support, everyone will get what they need
in school at all times. The challenges of my friends
on the spectrum who can speak will be understood and supported, as will the strengths of people
on the spectrum who cannot speak. So, If we can agree that there’s work
to be done, where do we start? Well, I have six exciting ideas. Number one: let’s change
teacher degree programs to include understanding
the needs of autistic learners. Number two: let’s change curriculums
to match the strengths of the student and then tailor the speed and volume
of work to match the student’s pace. Number three: let’s develop
public awareness campaigns that actually feature autistic people and showcase our strengths,
our diversities and achievements. Number four: in those campaigns, let’s feature both speaking
and nonspeaking autistic people, shattering the notion that those
who can’t speak have nothing to say. Number five: let’s make changes in the law to ensure that people on the spectrum
get what they need in school, regardless of where the board
decides to spend its budget. And number six: let’s support employers
in developing autism hiring programs. We are creative problem solvers
who are good for the bottom line, so everyone benefits. Now, that’s an ambitious list,
but one whose time has come. These kinds of changes, steeped in understanding
and acceptance of autism, will mean the next generation of autistic
people will be able to grow up self-worth intact, believing in themselves and confident in a future
that can include them. Maybe they’ll be able to experience
introductions that don’t humiliate them, but instead, honor their humanity. Maybe they’ll go something like this: “Hi, I’m Daniel. I’m a student, a writer,
an autism advocate and I just finished my first TED Talk.” (Applause) (Cheers)

46 thoughts on “Dear Society… Signed, Autism | Daniel Share-Strom | TEDxYorkUSalon

  1. That was awesome! I'm a parent of two (maybe 3) autistic children. I've worked with your mom in the past through Kerry's Place. I love your 6 goals especially the ones related to teachers and schooling. I've always missed your talks before so I'm very glad this is available to everyone now. Thank you

  2. Thank you for doing this video. I like the idea of a customized education plan (I think they are currently called IEPs). I would like to see this customized approach applied to workplace and living environments.

  3. I'm a teacher for autistic kids and looking for some new views. This was great way of putting it in perspective of autism being pointed out.

  4. It's true, I didn't know what autism was until my baby brother was diagnosed. I want my brother to have the same opportunities in life as me. Hell the kid is smarter than me! As he starts kindergarten I know he can do it. He just needs the teachers who can understand him. And I'll make sure they understand him.

  5. Fantastic talk!!! Daniel Share-Strom is eloquent, poignant and hilarious! We especially love the part about advocating for non-verbal folks as well. #onpoint

  6. This is awesome, it really helped me to understand some actual issues from  the pov of an autistic person. Thank you

  7. This is probably one of the most underrated Ted Talks ever. It make such an important point that so few understand or see.

  8. I have an amazing 12 year old son on the spectrum. This talk will enlighten the way I teach my son from here on out. At times he shows signs of being anxious and a hyper focused concern on pleasing us and meeting our expectations. I drastically want him to "succeed", but not at the expense of his own happiness and comfort. I will make an effort to tailor his growth and development around his specific challenges and strengths….not on the expectations and judgements on the world around him. Thank you Daniel for the amazing talk an insight. You've made a difference in me and hopefully my son's life.

  9. ASD understanding & acceptance is sorely needed. That is why we need YOU Daniel! I really enjoyed your talk. My son is 17 with ASD, anxiety & depression. Hope, understanding and acceptance is on the horizon! Thank you Daniel. Keep up the awesome work. 🙂

  10. I think that Daniel s speaking honest and true about AUTISM because he tells the audience facts and I know about the autism spectrum disorder and I know what the ups/downs are to having autism. I know what the autism troubles are because I have AUTISM and I am on the autism spectrum disorder. I am proud of this young man because he speaks the truth. Well said Daniel!

  11. that's a pretty terrifying audience, I mean the way they positioned the people all around him instead of right in front.

  12. Thank you for making this as it needs to be said and isn't that funny if you are going through these issues!! But love the humor delivery!

  13. Hi, I'm Daniel. I hate washing my hair, loud noises and…
    ::Audience at end::
    Loud clapping and shouting. Clearly you are right, people listen but don't comprehend.

  14. And when we get broken and our self esteem goes in the toilet we are ripe for being targeted by predators and taken advantage of and abused…

  15. I enjoyed and appreciated your TED Talk. I have a question- during college, did you inform all your professors of your autism diagnosis, or only on a case by case basis if problems arose?

  16. What a marvelous, inspiring message! Thank you a thousand times and more, Daniel!!
    I am nearly 59 years old, and I just received my diagnosis. At first I was ready to identify with "Tevye and Golde" in "Fiddler On the Roof" when they realize that, after 25 years, they do love each other: I was all set to sing, "It doesn't change a thing, but it's nice to know!"
    It is more: I understand more about myself; I had more than one "Aha" moment; and now I can possibly head off a few "Meltdowns" and overreactions. Maybe I can even figure out how to recognize sensory overload and try to diffuse it! Now maybe some people won't think of me as too weird for words! Actually, maybe I can help people to learn to be more accepting of others.
    I wish for you the best success in all that you do, and that a more just, accepting world will be a reality one day soon: for the sake of all of you gifted, amazing young people!
    Again, many, many thanks!!!

  17. Forwarding this to my boss, my coworkers and the other 500 people in my company – so often I tried to make them understand what it is like being autistic, with no success… It will be my last message to them before I quit.

    What a great talk, well done!

  18. I wasn't really "aware" of autism until I found out I had it.
    I accidentally found this out. And unless you really go out and actively research and LISTEN to people who are on the spectrum, there's really not much out there to be aware of.

  19. is that the funniest joke ever ? thank you , so brilliant , well done, Autistic guy tells a crowd that he does not like loud noises , Then he asks them to not just be aware of autism, but to change the way they act to accommodate autistic's, because awareness and fully understanding what they are saying, are two different things So the crowd of NT's cheer and clap as loud as they can, this guy is a genuis

  20. I have a classmate named Daniel who is autistic and I want to be friends with him cause he is interesting and cool but I’m not sure how to communicate that to him. Advice?

    Post Script
    It is fairly obvious he has trouble reading social cues and I am almost completely sure he hasn’t picked up on me sitting next to him in homeroom and laughing at jokes nobody likes except me

  21. First; I don't want to be accepted by humans, anymore…
    You humans have outcaste me for half a century…

    You humans will never be able to get any more from me except for my Witness against you and I got the patience for 5D Chess.

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