Archive for the ‘Autism’ Category

ANCA World Autism Festival 2017: My Experience

Friday, October 20th, 2017
Receiving my INAP Award for Literary Arts, representing the United States of America at the ANCA World Autism Festival 2017, October 1, 2017

Receiving my INAP Award for Literary Arts, representing the United States of America at the ANCA World Autism Festival 2017, October 1, 2017

My Award

My Award

My Award

My Award

As I write this, it has been a little over two weeks since I returned from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and from participating in the 2017 edition of the ANCA World Autism Festival.  Participants from thirty-two countries gathered for the International Naturally Autistic People Awards and convention where we all learned more about the global autism community and the amazing things everyone was doing.  I was only able to stay for four days, but it was an eye-opening, hectic, surprising, inspiring, and overall positive weekend of interesting events, new friends, and many opportunities for personal growth.  It was one of the most optimistic times I have ever experienced.

Granted, I did not know any of this at the start, certainly not when I was first flying out of Syracuse, NY, with my former one-on-one teaching assistant and very good friend, Raylene Spriggs.  This was my first time ever on a plane, so I was a little nervous going through all the security and boarding the plane, but once our first hour-long “puddle-jumping” flight to Toronto was underway, I relaxed considerably.  The next four-hour leg to Vancouver was even better; when I learned we were able to watch in-flight movies, TV shows, and other entertainment options from screens built into the seats, I hardly even noticed time passing by!  I felt comfortable the whole way, and the return journey was just as pleasant (with the movie “Sing” and a few episodes of a long-running Canadian TV staple, the hidden camera prank show “Just for Laughs Gags.” It was supremely hilarious!).

I only have one slight regret from my time in Vancouver: we didn’t really have opportunities for sightseeing.  My schedule was packed with festival events right from the moment we got to the hotel.  Raylene and I quickly changed into somewhat formal attire in our hotel room, then headed down to participate in the ANCA Festival’s opening ceremonies.  The theme of this year’s show, and the Festival as a whole, was “Cultural Convergence.”  Representatives from each country demonstrated their talents, including many of the award nominees.  In keeping with the theme, several acts performed together.  For instance, I read one of my poems with musical accompaniment from the Indonesian blues band, “The Chord,” who performed “Indonesian Blues” (they, sadly, could not make the physical trip to Canada, but they did provide a video of themselves playing their original composition; I think it is a lovely piece).  I was, in turn, deeply moved by all of the other performances, especially some incredible piano players and delightful dancers.  I felt it was a great start to the weekend and an early indication of how amazing the rest of the Festival would be.

After breakfast the next day in the hotel’s restaurant area (Rice Krispies, a buttery crossiant, and a cinnamon roll), it was time for the trade show.  On the convention floor, each country’s contingent had a table space to showcase the products of their work/talent to everyone.  Some had art to display for the event, while others shared information on autism benefit programs, therapies, and efforts toward autism awareness in their home countries.  I shared my “Noah and Logan Children’s Book Series” stories, which seemed to please all who saw them.  In addition, some representatives had an opportunity to speak with the assemblage and further share their skills on “open mike,” which I happily joined in with, reading two of my poems.

Later in the day, Raylene and I were interviewed by Mr. Paul-Constantin Cojocaru, a therapist from Romania.  He told us there are few services for people with autism in Romania, so he was interviewing many of the Festival participants for a later broadcast on his country’s television in order to show that people with autism are capable of doing anything they set their minds to.  I enjoyed speaking with Paul as I described my children’s books and why I have written them.

This day moved surprisingly fast, capped off with an evening of spectacular musical performances from Indonesia (a native plate dance and a fun cover of the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna”), Slovenia (a succession of instrumental versions of “Phantom of the Opera” songs on piano, which I was surprised to learn they have been performing for over eleven years and counting; no wonder they sounded like virtuosos!), and Japan (far too many highlights to mention, but the wonderful piano rendition of “Sukiyaki” was a delight to me; I’m a big fan of Kyu Sakamoto’s version from 1961).  It was a great end to a very good day.

My final full day at the Festival played host to the 2017 International Naturally Autistic People’s Awards, in which  individuals and groups were recognized for their talent or dedication to helping the autism community.  In between each category, there were more cultural performances, as well as live rock-and-roll tunes from legendary blues artist Jimmy D. Lane and his band.  I was nominated in the Literary Arts category, representing the United States of America, for three of my poems concerning my life with autism.  I was greatly honored to have been even considered in the first place.  I was even more astonished to learn that I had actually won second place in my category!  I stepped up to the podium and accepted my INAP Award from Leonora Gregory-Collura, the Festival’s founder, principal organizer, and general guiding light.  I gave a short speech then shared with the audience two of my poems; I noticed during my second poem reading (and according to my mom it was even more evident from the event’s Internet video stream) that Jimmy was playing some improvised guitar licks in between each line of my poem, a very fun surprise!

On the award itself is a glass replica of a traditional Inuit inukchuk, meaning “in the image of man.”  They are traditionally made out of rocks and resemble human figures, and are placed in long lines along the shoreline to help Inuit hunters find their way back home to their village.  I think my tiny inukchuk looks very strong and sturdy…and cute!

Raylene and I left the Festival, the hotel, and Vancouver the next morning.  Ten hours later, we were back in Syracuse, eating a quick dinner at Wendy’s with my parents.  Then it was back home, where I soon settled down for the night (and yes, jet lag hit me hard).  After four days of constant travel and activity, the sight of a new live episode of “WWE Raw” on television was a welcome respite.

The 2017 ANCA World Autism Festival is a whirlwind of memories in my mind.  I made some new friends, learned a lot about the global autism community, travel, and myself, and was amazed by just about everything that happened.

I am happy to be able to share this experience with everyone who participated in the Festival, those who watched the various Internet video streams for different events from that weekend, everyone who has supported me, and everyone who worked to make the Festival the great success I feel it was.  I would like to especially thank Leonora Gregory-Collura and her husband Charlie for making this entire Festival possible and for being such warm, inviting, and incredibly kind hosts; both of you are simply too wonderful for words.  Thank you for this fantastic experience!

If you visit my website,, you can find videos of my acceptance speech for my INAP Award and poem readings along with my interview with Mr. Paul-Constantin Cojocaru during my time at the Festival.  I hope you enjoy them all.

The Noah And Logan Summer Tour, Part 1: Pulaski Public Library and Fulton High School

Saturday, May 30th, 2015
Here I am with the second "Noah and Logan" book at the Pulaski Public Library for their Disability Awareness Day.  The mural on the background wall is much larger than this photo may make it seem, and it is indeed very vibrant and colorful!

Here I am with the second “Noah and Logan” book at the Pulaski Public Library for the Disability Awareness Day.

I stand next to my first "Noah and Logan" book at Fulton High School, May 2015.  The classroom has a projector, very handy for showing my book to the entire class.

I am standing next to my second “Noah and Logan” book at Fulton High School, May 2015.  I love that the classroom has a projector.  It came in very handy for showing my book to the classes.

Hi, everyone!  I’ve got some news regarding the Noah and Logan series.  First of all, the third book in the series, “Noah and Logan Tie Their Shoes,” is coming soon!  I can’t wait to introduce it to everyone!  Secondly, I am beginning a mini-summer tour of local libraries and organizations where I’ll be introducing and reading  “Noah and Logan Learn to Clean” and “Noah and Logan Learn to Share” to audiences of kids, parents, and anyone else that is interested, and I will also discuss my life as a person with autism and being a writer.

The tour was inspired by a recent Disability Awareness Day event that I participated in at the Pulaski Public Library.   There were stations set up that helped visitors understand what it would be like to have certain disabilities by engaging them in activities designed to simulate certain aspects of diversified disabilities.

I really enjoyed discussing my life, how my books came to be, and, of course, reading my stories to the event’s attendees!  I loved being able to share my books with the children and adults this way.  I am quite comfortable with discussing my life and work with a room full of people, and also in one-on-one encounters such as those I had with the people who came to my table.  I didn’t feel anxious at all, not even with the thought of sharing so much of myself.

I took this as a great accomplishment, and discussed with my Mom the possibility of participating in more events like this.  We decided to see if other libraries and organizations in the area would be interested in letting me share my stories.  To our delight, quite a few libraries we reached out to expressed great interest in having me be part of their upcoming activities; many more than I had previously thought possible.  Many have slotted me in for spots in their summer programs, with a few others reserving my presence for next fall.  I will keep you updated both here and on my Facebook pages regarding how they turned out.

In fact, another opportunity for sharing my work came to me just this past week.  I shared my stories as well as two of my poems with two classes at the Fulton High School and fielded questions afterward.  The students and teachers seemed very interested in what I was doing.  They were very receptive to my stories and poems, asked good questions, and were a very attentive audience.  I hope the people I meet this summer will be just as enthusiastic.  Again, I was very comfortable sharing myself and my stories with these groups; by now, it feels like second nature to me.

This summer is looking very promising for meeting new readers in all sorts of places and with a third “Noah and Logan” book on the way, there will be plenty to talk about.   If you are interested in coming to one (or more!) of these events, please keep an eye on this blog and the Noah and Logan and Benjamin Kellogg Author Facebook pages for information on dates, times, and locations!

Thank You, SEPTSA

Thursday, April 18th, 2013
The biggest puzzle I'll ever have to solve.

Autism awareness: a cause close to my heart.

I would just like to say thank you to the members of the Special Education Parent Teacher Student Association (SEPTSA) for allowing me to speak at the most recent meeting for Autism Awareness Month.  It was an amazing opportunity that I was glad to take and it was great hearing what the other speakers had to say about their lives with autism as well.  Each of us had a different way of telling our story: one speaker had a conversation with another person to illustrate how their autism affects the way they communicate, another used a PowerPoint presentation to emphasize key facets of her speech, and I gave a written speech.  I noticed that there were a lot of similarities between their experiences and my own such as difficulty navigating crowded hallways, the need to maintain daily schedules, certain sensory issues, and slowly adjusting to big changes in one’s life.  It was interesting for me to hear about our shared experiences, and I admire the other speakers for having the courage to stand up and talk about their lives.

I was also impressed with the large number of people who came to hear us speak.  There were a lot less people at the last SEPTSA meeting, so seeing many more people was something I had not expected.  I am glad that so many people are interested in the welfare of special needs children in my community, and I hope they attend subsequent meetings.

It felt great to me to deliver my speech.  I had practiced it a few times, but seeing and hearing the audience’s reactions at the meeting was a very special experience for me.  Their eyes lit up as I spoke about how my mind works and they laughed in all the right spots.  I was surprised that the speech went over so well; I had not expected all the support, at least outside of my own social circle, but I am glad that so many people appreciated what I and all of the speakers at the meeting had to say.

I would like to say thank you one last time to everyone who came to the SEPTSA meeting, including my family, teachers, and other members of the community.  The great thing about these meetings for me is the ability to learn new things about my community through the testimonies of the group members and the special presentations that are presented at each meeting.  I think SEPTSA plays a very important part in this community, and I hope it continues to prosper for many years to come.

World Autism Awareness Day

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013
The biggest puzzle I'll ever have to solve.

Autism awareness: a cause close to my heart.

Today, April 2,  is World Autism Awareness Day.  I have lived with autism all of my life, and while it has been hard for me to live with at times, it has shaped a lot of what I have done and who I have become.  It causes me to miss some things but I have picked up on others, and I don’t think this condition has ever held me back or stopped me from fulfilling my dreams. 

On this day and during the entire month of April, Autism Awareness Month, I would like to encourage everyone reading this to keep in mind those of us who may not be able to pick up on everything going on around us but who can still contribute much to the world if you give us the chance to try.  My family is shining a blue light outside of our house for the entire month to show our support for autism awareness and research, and I highly encourage you to “Light It Up Blue” as well.  Also, if you’re a parent or friend of autistic children or young adults or want to learn more about autistic lifestyles and research, come by for articles, columns, and all sorts of other useful information concerning autism.  I write a biweekly column there called “The Learning Curve” when I’m not updating my blog, so come look at that as well.