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For All Abilities

Oct 19, 2020

On this episode, we hear from Jeff Synder. Jeff was diagnosed with autism as a child. He was nonverbal and talks about learning to talk. He walks us through his journey to becoming a public speaker and advocate.


Betsy Furler 0:05 Welcome to for all abilities, the podcast. This is your host, Betsy Furler. The aim of this podcast is to highlight the amazing things people with ADHD, dyslexia, learning differences and autism are doing to improve our world. Have a listen to for all abilities, the podcast, and please subscribe on whatever podcast app you're listening to us on. Welcome back to for all abilities, the podcast. This is Betsy Furler, your host and I'm excited to be here to introduce you to another special guest. And this podcast is all about talking to people who are living successfully with neuro diversity, like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, learning differences, as well as other disabilities, because I am so passionate about all of us embracing our differences and the differences of others, because I think our different brains are what really makes our world an interesting, productive and efficient place. So today, our special guest is Jeff Snyder. Welcome to the podcast. Jeff. Jeff Snyder 1:16 Thank you for inviting me, Betsy. Yes. Why don't you introduce yourself a little bit to our audience. Okay, well, my name is Jeff Snyder. I am 31 years old from seekonk, Massachusetts, here in Providence, Rhode Island. And I have been I was first diagnosed with autism at 21 months old. I've I am a 2007, graduate of seekonk High School. And upon my graduation, I was the first student with autism to have completed pre K through grade 12 in the seekonk public school system. Um, my day job is I work as a janitor, janitorial specialists for a major supermarket company up here. And I and since 2015, I have been living in my own apartment, and I am also a home. I'm also a panelist on the show on the weekly video series, Ask an Autistic every Tuesday, which is on every Tuesday night at eight o'clock on YouTube. And I am also a avid world traveler and I am also a fan fiction writer. Betsy Furler 2:28 Awesome. Well, I'm so excited that you're here. And as we talked earlier, you probably don't remember your diagnosis at 21 months. And but what do you know about your early childhood? What were you I like when you were a really young child? Jeff Snyder 2:46 Well, when I was really young I I didn't, I was very much nonverbal. And when I was first diagnosed with autism, I, I remember I couldn't talk I would sometimes resort to hitting things and throwing things just to communicate. And it wasn't. And it wasn't until about 1998 when the serious news came to my house to interview me for a special that they were doing on a thing called autism. And until that moment, I didn't know I was on the autism spectrum. And it was not until they came to my house, they that I found out about my diagnosis. So you might say it, it took about I didn't know till I was about nine years old that I was on spectrum. Betsy Furler 3:45 Wow. When did you and when did you start talking? Do you know? Jeff Snyder 3:50 I remember I think I was nonverbal. I think I was about four years old. Betsy Furler 3:56 That's amazing. I'm a speech pathologist by training. So I'm always very interested in hearing stories of people who were late talkers, who were now who are now communicating well, so that's amazing. So what was it like when you went off to school when you went to kindergarten and then to elementary school? Jeff Snyder 4:18 Well, I began my education. In 1992. When I was three years old, I was enrolled. I was enrolled in like a special special school special preschool and then that was an odd northborough. I was at a I was at St. Lawrence school in North Providence, which was where I began my educational journey and then and then I began my my my proper preschool training in 1993 at teddy bear preschool here in seekonk. And then I first enrolled in the I first went into the seekonk public school system in 1994. And when I went In when I was in kindergarten, I met a really, really nice um, I had a really nice teacher and, and the funny story is that when I graduated from priests from from preschool, teddy bear preschool, I had met my kindergarten teacher and and for some reason I, I somehow don't remember saying this but from what I heard was my kindergarten said, Geoffrey Snyder, are you looking forward to going into Miss coils, kindergarten Catholic kindergarten class, and I said, Geoffrey Paul Snyder is and going into Miss coils kindergarten class, and, and for some reason I I don't, I mean, I don't remember saying that. But, but I guess that's what the story is. And then when I was throughout elementary school, I had been, um, during the summers, I would get, like, assisted tutoring from my kindergarten teacher, I remember throughout my entire elementary school career during the summer, I would, I would go undergo special tutoring with her, we would, you know, get out into the community and do things and we also do summer, the equivalent of summer readings. So, so I mean, I, I did have some, it was all included in my individual education wise plan or IEP. So, you might say that, um, I did have some kind of assistant training during my, during the first half of my school career ran through till I went into middle school. Betsy Furler 6:37 Were you in general ed classes or in special ed classes in elementary school? Jeff Snyder 6:42 I was in general ed classes, but I was again on the IEP and I would um, for like, a few times a few times a day, I would do speech, I would do occupational therapy. I would do like, learning sent home or club I mean, because I'm a lot of us don't like to do homework at home, we would rather do it at school. So I I have that luxury of doing that. So, um, but I'm but for the most part, I was in general, I was in regular sized classes in elementary school. Betsy Furler 7:18 What about middle school? So most kids in middle school start doing you know, more extracurricular activities, sports, choir band, things like that? And what was middle school like for you? And did you do any of those extracurricular type activities. Jeff Snyder 7:34 When I was in middle school, I was actually put into special i was i was put into special education classes. And as a matter of fact, some of the pilot programs that were created around me are actually still in existence to this very day, believe it or not, um, and, I mean, I attended all I attended all regular classes, but but one thing I will, I will say is the one special class I was special, a class I was a part of was special in math. And for the first two years, sixth and seventh grade, I was in special ed English. And when I, when I went into eighth grade, I was put in a regular English class, because our reason was that because the teacher, my English teacher, they had an eighth grade, also taught my sister and she had become, she had become very enamored of me through my sister. So that was how I started to kind of branch out of doings regular English classes, but I still did on special ed, math classes in sixth and seventh grade. And then, for the first semester of my eighth grade year, I was in a regular math class when that didn't work out. I went back into a special ed, math class. Betsy Furler 8:57 And then you went on to high school and you went through the same feeder pattern, right. So you were kind of with the same kids from elementary, middle and high school. Jeff Snyder 9:08 Well, I mean, for the most part, yes. No, I mean, like, um, like when I got to middle school, things kind of changed. I, in terms of students, I did have some are regular. I did have some classmates that follow me to the high school program, but then I went, but I did, but I did stay in. I did stay in a specialized math class from ninth grade, and 10th grade and, and all the other classes amazingly were. Were all regular sized classes, and the only class I didn't take in high school was foreign language. Because because they offered Spanish, French Portuguese And I couldn't do all those things. So that was it that was in my IP. That was including my IP that I would not take a foreign language class. And I actually didn't take gym class my freshman year, but in sophomore and my senior year, I did take some classes. So Betsy Furler 10:22 that's interesting about the foreign language I was I was actually just thinking about that today about a child that I know who's he's six, he's in first grade. And he's in a school, a private school that he has to take two different foreign languages. And I was thinking today about oh, my goodness, that's, I think this is so confusing for him. So I'm glad you had a different experience and didn't have to, didn't have to do that. Um, did you like being in general ed class classes or in special ed classroom classes more? Jeff Snyder 10:56 Well, I mean, there were some generalized classes that had about 30 people. So I will say from firsthand experience, that it can be overstimulating to be in a class of 30 people, but when I was when I was younger, I would always mask my emotions. So that I could try to fit in and, and looking back now. I mean, I, part of me wishing asked importantly, wished I didn't ask but, but for the most part, I mean, if I wasn't in, if I wasn't in regular classes in high school, then things would be a lot different right now, because I had a friend that I gotten to know, a lot of my gen ed teachers on a personal level. And if, if I wasn't in general, if I wasn't in those general classes, then things would be a lot different. So it was more about the personal relationships, that was more than the actual class size. Betsy Furler 12:01 Okay. That's interesting. So when you said when you were really little, you would throw things and kind of have temper tantrums around communication? And what was your quote unquote, behavior? Like, in middle and high school? Were you one of those, it sounds like you might have been one of those people that just kind of shut down, shut out. What's going on around you, rather than acting out? Jeff Snyder 12:27 Well, when I was, um, when I was in Milan, high school, I mean, I will say that my, I would always show two faces, the face I would show in school was very different from the face I would show at home. When I wasn't when I was in school, I tried to be, I would try to bring a sense of professional professionalism into, into my, into my education. Because, you know, school, I think a lot of people don't realize this is that school is sort of a professional environment. I mean, you're around teachers that have to be professional in their appearance. And, and, and believe it or not, my dad for 35 years was a vice president for a major company up here in New England. And so I adopted that business style that he had, and took it into my public schooling. I mean, sure, you know, there's a lot of kids that sure a lot of my fellow classmates weren't on the same page as me. Of course, nobody is. But that was, that was my mindset going into going into the educational aspect, it was just to maintain a level of professionalism. But at home, but at home, things were obviously different. And I don't want to go into too much of that, but but, you know, school was the professional side and home life was the personal side. For me. Yeah. Betsy Furler 13:57 That also that probably really helped you when you got out of school, that you had all those kind of years of practice of, of acting professional and probably more grown up actually, then a lot of kids act. Jeff Snyder 14:13 That is true. Yes. I, um, it did help me in a sense. I mean, um, and the funny thing is, when I got into after I graduated high school, I didn't go into college, I only took a few classes at a community college up here and in Massachusetts, and, and I gotta tell you, college is very different from public school life. I mean, the thing with with some colleges is that they don't accept you, when you're on it and stuff me I didn't get accepted into Johnson and Wales for their own tourism and hospitality services. And then I was also accepted into Bristol Community College, which is the aforementioned community college that I took a few classes. At. And then for for a couple years from I think 2008 till 2013. I did take a few college classes, I took one math classes, a reading class, actually two reading classes and two writing classes. And then I came to the conclusion that, you know, college isn't for everybody, and you don't have you don't need a college degree to go anywhere in life. So when i. So, in 2013, I took the arm, like a heavy level, advanced writing class, and I had to, I said, You know what, I can't do it. I mean, I'm done. And so, for me, it was more about and there's a time to walk away. I mean, you know, I said to myself, you know, I did my job, in school in public school. College is a whole different animal. And, you know, I was, I was happy. I mean, you know, I've been, I've, it's seven years later, and I, I have no regrets for, for stopping my college education. Betsy Furler 16:06 That's great. And, you know, the good thing about that, too, is if you ever decide you do want to do that, to get good want to go back to college, you always can, right, there's not like you've, you know, never shut the door completely on it. But I think that is, I think that's a really good point that college isn't for everybody. And that's okay. Because there's so many things, so many skills our world needs that you don't even learn in college. So it's and sometimes it's it this, the stress of it is, is so detrimental to people that they they go just because they think they have to or they think that's what society is expecting of them. So tell me about well, I want to I want to hear about your fan fiction writing and about your job and about the advocacy that you do. So I guess that you know in whatever order you feel comfortable with. Tell us about that. Jeff Snyder 17:07 Well, while the first in regards to my fanfiction I am well first off, I am also a member of the Disney and Brony phantoms. And for those of you listening who don't know what a brony is, they are fans of the show My Little Pony Friendship is Magic that actually ended on almost a year ago. Last October and for the past seven years I've been writing seven or eight years I've been writing fanfiction not not just of story space from My Little Pony but also of Disney have and a few other things. And for those of you who aren't familiar with the term fanfiction, a fanfiction is a story based around a movie, a TV series on a book on you know all those things and you take the characters from that story and you put them and you put your own little spin on it. And I've been doing that for I remember I did write my first fanfiction, to be honest in 2004 but it wasn't until about 2012 that I really started taking off with my fan fiction writing and and then so but with and right now I'm currently working for the past year I've been working on a continuation of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic on I've ran a season 10 I have ran a season 11 and i have i've actually literally just start work on season 12 the season 12 premiere was published last week, so Betsy Furler 18:46 that's amazing. So where do you Where do people read your fanfiction? Jeff Snyder 18:52 Right now my two main profiles are on www dot FanFiction. Net my username is Twilight Sparkle 3562 or one all one saying have spaces in I am also on www dot fanfiction dotnet with the same pen name, Twilight Sparkle 3562 and then I am also on DeviantArt also Twilight Sparkle 3562. So those are really the three main writing platforms that I use for my fanfictions Betsy Furler 19:28 That's amazing. I didn't know anything about fanfiction until a couple of years ago when the movie A Star Is Born came out the Lady Gaga Bradley Cooper version. And I was obsessed with the movie. And anyway, there's a lot of fan fiction around that movie. And so that's that's when I discovered this phenomenon and I think it's amazing that i mean it's it's so fun that you know now we have the internet that can bring us together on on niche interests like that and all of that. Other people's visions and ideas about things. But I also think it's amazing that you had you know, you you are able you, it sounds like in in high school you struggled a bit in the general ed English class and now you're writing, you know, a lot of information and I'm enjoying it sounds like you enjoy it too. Jeff Snyder 20:25 Yes. And actually, during my, in my eighth during my eighth grade year of middle school all the way through English in high school was where I really started to kind of hone my craft. And if I wasn't in if I never took generalized English, General English classes to begin with, I wouldn't be able to, you know, do my fanfiction writing. So, I do get, I got to give myself a lot of credit for you know, being in regular English classes from grade eight through grade 12. Betsy Furler 21:00 Yes, that's incredible. Um, tell us a little bit about what you do during the day, your day job. Jeff Snyder 21:08 Oh, my day job is um, for the past. Um, well, my first real day job was ran after I got out of high school I was at borders bookstores in North Attleboro, Massachusetts I was at I was a bookseller at their store from 2007 to 2010, I started working in inventory, and then I worked my way up to customer service. And then from December 2010, till today, I have been working for a major supermarket chain called stop and shop. I started out as a bagger. And I am currently a janitorial specialist for the, for them. And, and I mean, I, you know, at first I kind of like my job, but right now, but it's not good. But the thing with jobs is that they don't last forever, you can't be in the same job forever. And I mean, they're, you know, be closing the chapter, at my time with unstoppered chop, they're a great company, but I mean, it's, you know, things, things change. And, and, you know, you know, and I have, you know, I've got really good talent, and I mean, I have very good computer skills. And I mean, you know, I will say this, that we all have skills that we sometimes have to, that we wish to harness, but we don't know how. But when that time comes, you got to take it, you got to take it. Because if you if you don't take those chances, then you're not going to get that second chance. Again. Betsy Furler 22:54 That's so true. And I also believe that, you know, you kind of have a job that you enjoy for a while, but then you know, when it's time to be involved, so glad you glad glad you realized that and, you know, can go on and, and keep working and you know, doing other things, and hopefully we'll get it get to work to your strengths. Because my hunch is that the janitorial work is probably not working to your strengths. You can do it, but it's probably not what's what what your strengths really are. Jeff Snyder 23:25 Sure, well, you might say that yes. Betsy Furler 23:29 What about your advocacy work? Jeff Snyder 23:33 Well, for my advocacy work on fit, I've run a run a group page and a railer page on Facebook. If anyone's interested on my Facebook group, my facebook group is called Jeff Snyder, disability self advocacy. It started off as Jeff Snyder autism self advocacy, but and then the summer of this past August, I had changed it to Jeff Snyder, disability self advocacy, and we have an right now I have close to 500 group, almost 500 people that are of this group and also pay all this advocate, which is also originally called Jeff Snyder, autism self advocate and change. I changed the name of that of my page along with my group also in August. And then I recently actually I became a moderator for the global hawks subprojects Facebook group autism knows no borders. Betsy Furler 24:40 Awesome. I think it's so important that people advocate for themselves and help other people learn how to be a self advocate. My My son has a neuro immune disorder, an autoimmune disorder that affects his neurological system. So he's been really sick throughout his life, he's 22 now. And when he was a baby, I started teaching him to advocate for himself. And I was so glad that I had that knowledge that that was so important, because I think it is really helped him live the best life that he can, because he can advocate for himself. And I think I think that's so important. Now, when did you move away from home and into your own apartment? How old were you when you did that? Jeff Snyder 25:29 It was actually I actually lived at home full time until I was about 26. I moved into my own, actually 25. So I moved into my own apartment in January of 2015. And I've been here ever since. And, and I'm actually one of the very few in terms of very few exceptions in terms of people with disability disabilities, like autism live on their own. I mean, there are some parents that have those with a disability who will never let their kids move out of the house, either because they are they lack the skills or because because they're very protective. But, you know, at first, you know, in terms of my folks, they were very, they were actually very nervous about me moving out, but my psychologist was telling me, you know, Jeff, you know, I think you're ready to move out. And, and I, and I finally came to that conclusion, in January of 2015. I said, you know, now is the time to do it. So, after Christmas, I, I got into my own place. I mean, I've been here since 20. Since then, and I've, I've enjoyed it, I mean, it gives me a sense of independence, it gives me a sense of, you know, privacy and, and in addition to that, I also do a lot of I also do a lot of traveling, I traveled to I mean, at first I I attended Brony conventions, which are fan conventions, again, based off of the My Little Pony show, but recently, I've started to transition to autism conferences and training since one of my passions is public speaking. And recently, and actually, last fall, I was on a, I was on a panel in San Diego for the autism tree project Foundation's neuroscience conference. So that's where I kind of want to get involved with is to travel to conferences and trainings across the country. And, and kind of share my story and, and just just tell people, you know, when I my story, what I've been through, and just be a mentor to parents and teachers and anyone who connected with autism or any other disabilities, so, because if they hear people, if they hear stories like mine, then they can be inspired from them. Betsy Furler 28:05 Absolutely, I think it's so important for people who work with kids and, and adults with autism for that matter, and parents to hear from somebody like you who can give, tell your experience so well, that it gives, it really helps teachers and parents understand that kids with autism in particular, can grow up and do great things and live on their own and all of that. And even though even though parents, as parents were scared, you know, to let our kids go and be independent. What was the hardest thing about moving into your own apartment? Jeff Snyder 28:46 I mean, well, the one thing, the one big thing that was really tough for me was transportation, because I don't have a car and I don't drive, which is probably a good thing, but it's not really very much of it's not really much of independence, in terms of terms of independence, but I will say if anyone with a disability like mine who's trying to move into the wrong place and doesn't drive, what I typically use is I use a buzzer, I use a disability bus service, which, unfortunately I have not used since March due to the pandemic, but I use a bus service called Yatra. And they take me to they take me to my job they take me to do some of my writing at the store. I have a Starbucks, it's right down the street from from my apartment. So I usually sometimes go there and I haven't been able to also because of the pandemic. But I mean, you know, you know, disability bus services, um, Uber Lyft. I mostly use Lyft because as I get delta skymiles with Delta Airlines when I Take a left. So I will say that is probably the biggest that was the biggest challenge for me was was was transportation. Betsy Furler 30:12 That I'm glad you figured it out that we we have in here in Houston, Texas, we have a similar bus service for people with disabilities. Um, but yeah, I don't know what's going on with it now because of the pandemic. But hopefully, hopefully we'll be past this at some point. Right. And we'll be able to really live our lives again. Jeff Snyder 30:36 Yeah, I mean, well, I mean, they always say, you know, it's, you know, a vaccine is coming. And, you know, I keep telling people that this isn't good, this pandemics not gonna last forever. So, Betsy Furler 30:47 right, right, this feels like it at points, but eventually we'll move on, right? Well, this has been such a wonderful interview. And, Jeff, I think this is going to really help a lot of people and think about what they can do, as self advocates, and parents and teachers what they can do, and understand what their what the kids they're working with, or their own children can do. So if people want to continue and want to follow you or get in touch with you, what is the best way to do that? Jeff Snyder 31:20 Ah, well, I am on one. First off, I am on Facebook, you could follow me, you can join my group, Jeff Snyder, disability self advocacy. Or you can follow my page, just search for disabilities self advocate, I also have a Patreon. I also have a personal page on Facebook. And then I also have an I also have a an account on LinkedIn, you can follow me on LinkedIn or connect with me on LinkedIn. And if you also want to reach me, um, I am also my email is Twilight Sparkle. 356 Betsy Furler 32:00 Awesome. I, I'm sure there gonna be people who want to reach out and I will put all of that information in the show notes, so they'll be able to find it there. And audience thank you so much for tuning in today. For the for all abilities, the podcast, and my interview with Jeff Snyder, this was so valuable and so helpful. And and please like review Rate, Subscribe, all of those things, my podcasts on whatever podcast, app or platform you're listening on, and I will talk to you all soon. Thanks so much for listening to the for all abilities podcast. This is Betsy Furler, your host and I really appreciate your time listening to the podcast. And please subscribe on any podcast app that you're listening to us on. If you'd like to know more about what we do in our software that helps employers support their employees with ADHD dyslexia, learning differences in autism, please go to www dot for all abilities calm. You can also follow us on Instagram. And you can follow me on LinkedIn at Betsy Furler. f as in Frank, you are le AR Have a great day and we will see you soon Transcribed by