Influencing the Understanding and Acceptance of Autism

By Roger Powell | Published on August 6, 2020 | 5 Minute Read

I am Roger Powell and I influence the understanding and acceptance of autism. I aspire to become a special education teacher and my advocacy work has been a whirlwind of collaborating with celebrities, organizing an award earning fundraising team, working with a non-profit organization, and running neurodiversity social media platforms. My autism journey began in 2011. I had just graduated high school the following year and began working as a substitute instructional assistant for my local school district. I’ve taught different age groups ranging from preschool to high school and worked in different programs such as Autism, Multi-handicapped, Intellectually Disabled, Emotionally Disturbed, and in classes which serve visually and hearing impaired students. What drew me to the autism program particularly was their training in advancing effective methodology and behavior analytic treatments to improve outcomes of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The lives of countless children diagnosed with ASD could be changed forever with quality behavioral intervention, but that intervention is out of reach for too many children and their families which lead me to become an autism advocate

I began advocating by putting together a powerpoint presentation explaining that Autism is not a disease and offered a glimpse into ways how people with autism experience the world differently. I also took this moment to break down misleading stereotypes about autism and provided insight into common behaviors like stimming and masking to generate a more inclusive understanding of the spectrum. I want my audience to understand that we as people are complex and society tends to generalize everything into categories with specific labels so it is okay if you don’t “fit in”. Over the years more and more teachers wanted their students to hear this presentation resulting in turning this classroom presentation into an AutismTalk Assembly. Then, I teamed up with the Parent-Teacher-Student-Association (PTSA) to provide a lunchtime activity that student’s in special ed and general ed can come together and enjoy together. This also gave students the opportunity to use what they learned from the Autism presentation and apply it in this activity. Lunch time activities were every Thursday during the month of April and activities included Puzzle Piece Carnival, Glow Stick Party, Hand painting for inclusion and more. One day, our city councilman Jeffrey J. Giba visited our campus and witness our lunchtime activity and donated one hundred dollars for supplies to ensure the activities would continue. This presentation has also been converted into a professional development presentation to help instructional assistants and teachers better understand effective behavioral approaches for individuals diagnosed with autism. A couple of churches have also requested this presentation to help have a more inclusive Sunday school classroom.

Roger with his student, DaCarre

I have worked with a student DaCarre as his one on one aide since he was in second grade. DaCarre recently graduated high school this past June 2020. Together we participate in the Autism Hero Walk hosted by the Autism Society of the Inland Empire as Carre’s Crew. We have participated in this event for the last five years being amongst the top fundraising team every year earning us three plaques. In 2017, Carre’s Crew was the top fundraising team giving us the opportunity to lead the walk. Over the past five years, we have raised a total of $7,877 to help ensure programs, resources, and support provided by the Autism Society of the Inland Empire. We have celebrity support from Glasses Malone, Gina Brillon, and JJ Soria. Glasses Malone is a professional Hip Hop rapper who created a theme song for Carre’s Crew titled, ‘Stand Tall Carre’, blending Autism Awareness and Hip-Hop which is available on all streaming services. Gina Brillon is a stand-up comedy who creates videos for us shouting out Carre’s Crew and helping us raise money by informing people about our Hero Walk event and fundraiser. Gina Brillon has three comedy special, Pacifically Speaking, Easily Offended, and The Floor is Lava. She also tours with Gabriel Iglesias. JJ Soria is an actor who also makes videos for Carre’s Crew and is now on Netflix Comedy-Drama series Gentefied.

In between all of this, The Autism Society of the Inland Empire has asked me to volunteer by sitting on their fundraising committee and run their Facebook & Instagram social media platforms. In January of 2020, the executive director and director of programs recognized me for excellence in community service. I also run the IEAutismAwareness Facebook page and IEAutismAcceptance Instagram page further trying to normalize diversity.

We need to change the way we think about autism and make sure that they have access to resources and support so they can have the opportunity to live long, happy, and fulfilling lives while respecting their right to be authentically autistic.

About the Author

Roger Powell

Roger Powell also known by his educator name Mr. Roger is an educator, advocate, and autism enthusiast. He runs social media platforms for a non-profit organization, fundraises with an award earning team, Carre’s Crew that collaborates with celebrities, and educates students, professionals, and society through his presentations all for the purpose to influence the acceptance of autism.