Kerry Meets Jerry
A few weeks ago I had the amazing opportunity to be a keynote speaker for the afternoon session at the Asperger Autism Spectrum Education Network (ASPEN) Annual Conference in Iselin, New Jersey. The title of my speech was “Overcoming Obstacles: From Nonverbal to National Speaker.” In the presentation I discussed my diagnosis and what it has meant to me in my life until this point. In addition I went through topics such as transitioning to adulthood, finding fulfilling employment, how to succeed in college with a disability and much more. It was a “Wow” experience for me, made even more so by the “opening act” I followed that truly blew me away.
The morning of the conference I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Jerry Newport was also speaking. Jerry is an amazing self-advocate, now 65 years old, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s. He is a much sought after public speaker on autism-related topics nationwide, able to do complicated mathematical calculations in his head. The film “Mozart and the Whale” was adapted from one of the books he has written.
I was finally getting to meet one of my idols in the autism field! It wasn’t until he started his presentation that I realized how humbling an experience it was to be there. It made me think even more about the people I look up to in our community. Self-advocates such as Stephen Shore, Dena Gassner, and Temple Grandin among others are paving the way for our autism movement and up-and-coming self-advocates out there.
Almost halfway through Jerry’s presentation one of my college advisors who had come with me to the conference passed me a note. It said that my career was just beginning and that I should learn from these individuals as much as possible moving forward. With that advice, I decided at the end of the presentation to ask if I could take a photo with Jerry and exchange contact information. Since then Jerry and I have engaged in dialogue that I’ve found helpful to my work in autism advocacy.
Although I was very nervous to meet Jerry, I hope that by sharing my experience I can encourage other individuals in our community to always try to overcome any anxiety and seize opportunities to move forward. Some situations may be harder than others, but don’t lose hope of what you want to do in this life. Always put your best foot forward everyday and you will never be disappointed in yourself for your efforts.
So, Jerry, thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet you and I look forward to building a friendship with you in the future! I hope from what we can discuss we can make huge strides to benefit the future generations of Jerrys and Kerrys out there.