Recently I have spoken at two different elementary schools in the East side of Seattle on the topic of autism. The talk relates various Disney movies to what it’s like to live on the autism spectrum. I covered all the latest releases that today’s generation of kids most relate to: Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, and Moana. My feedback on each talk was greatly positive, both from the staff and from the K-5 kids. I currently have a third talk booked for October, with a trailer to provide more information about future talks at other schools.
So why am I sharing all this with you?
Because I want to explain how I took what for my whole life seemed like a drawback, and turned it around into an advantage to benefit other kids.
In my younger days, it was much easier for me to understand movies and TV shows than other people. In second and third grade, I never even attempted to make friends. The invitees to my birthday parties in those years were just all the boys in my class. I made more of an effort to make friends in fourth grade and onwards, but even so, I cared more about watching SpongeBob Squarepants every single weeknight at 7:30 than I did in staying for my sister’s talent show performance. I could not relate to others unless the subject was some TV show, movie, or Pokémon. Especially in my high school years, this sort of mental isolation was a tremendous drawback in sustaining healthy friendships.
But now that I’m older, I realize something: I already know a lot about movies and TV, and have an apparently deeper understanding of it than my peers, so it only felt natural to utilize my obsession to help other kids understand what autism is all about- using something they already understand.
There was never any sort of talk or program as I was growing up designed to teach kids about autism, so it makes me happy to see further action being taken now in our world of social media. Especially with what some television programs are doing to raise autism awareness, such as Sesame Street, it’s amazing how much progress we’ve made in the last thirty years in terms of opening opportunities for those on the spectrum.
I want to leave this world with more action taken to normalize autism and other mental disorders, showing the next generation that you can be a little different but still belong.
Please check out my trailer and consider passing my name on to any elementary schools that want to teach their students more about the autism spectrum.
Trevor Pacelli was diagnosed with autism at age 5. He is a graduate of Arizona State University in Film & Media Studies, writes movie reviews, and is an avid photographer. He is the author of Six-Word Lessons on Growing Up Autistic.