When I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age 36, I understood perhaps for the first time that I was human.-Dr. Lamar Hardwick
As I child growing up, I knew that I was different. I couldn’t explain why. I couldn’t understand why. I had no earthly idea as to why there were certain parts of my life that seemed completely disconnected from the world around me. As early as seven years old I began to discover that people seemed to think I was too shy, too stupid, and very strange.
In my early years I excelled in school and struggled socially. By the time middle school ended I had decided that I wanted the latter more than I wanted the former and I would spend the next several years of high school and my early college years traveling down a dark road paved with drug and alcohol abuse. I created a false image of myself that only illegal substances could fuel. I faked it until I was too broken to continue down that dangerous path.
Even as a child and teenager I understood the significance of community. Everyone needs to feel connected, and I traded in my self-worth to gain something that every human being should experience. Acceptance.
My story isn’t unique, but it is worth sharing. So many young men and women share my story of the struggle to socially connect with others in a way that supplements our strongest internal desire to live a life of passion and purpose. My story and the stories of so many teens and young adults on the autism spectrum matter. Aspergers, Autism, PDD-NOS, non-verbal, verbal, male or female, young or old, no matter the diagnosis Autism Spectrum Disorder is NOT a character flaw and being accepted should NOT be an exception. It should be the norm.
My calling and my passion as a pastor and autism advocate is continually contribute to the challenge of changing our culture for the better. My primary platform is the faith community but no matter your personal position on religion and faith there is one thing that cannot be ignored. We all need each other. We all need community. We all need acceptance.
Our vision is simple: