Amy Kleinman

Straight From the Source – Amy Kleinman

While reading the article “How to Meet Autistic People Halfway” from the New York Times, I was impressed by how accurate its portrayal of the social issues autistic people have was, as I have faced many of them myself. I have found it hard to make friends, and though I’m happy with my small circle of friends now, it is harder for others to accept that I only have a few really good friends. My mother reminded me recently that I used to take a book out on the playground and read. It bothered her more than it bothered me. I was teased, and my theory at the time was I’m better off alone, then I won’t get upset.

One of the things that really struck me about the article is that they discuss eye contact, and how hard it is for many autistic people.

“Take eye contact. Some autistic people say they find sustained eye contact uncomfortable or even painful. Others report that it’s hard to concentrate on what someone is saying while simultaneously looking at them. In other words, not looking someone in the eye may indicate that an autistic person is trying very hard to participate in the conversation at hand. Unfortunately, this attempt to engage often gets interpreted as a lack of interest.”

This is something I’ve really struggled with, and have worked hard on. It still is difficult for me at times, especially when I’m upset or angry. I’m lucky that most times when I have issues regarding eye contact, I manage to explain it, and am dealing with people who understand me.
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Straight from the Source: Autism at Work – Meet the Panelists

One highlight of our conference each year is our Straight from the Source series, a grouping of panels featuring individuals with autism and those closest to them. This year, we held an Autism at Work panel, a session for adults on the spectrum to share their experiences of joining and being a part of the workforce. During this panel, attendees got to meet Evan Spencer, Amy Kleinman, Angel Russo, and Tim Hughes, self-advocates with a variety of perspectives gained from employment. Evan, Amy, Angel, and Tim were kind enough to sit down with Milestones after their panel to share a little bit about the topics discussed and why they wanted to get involved.

Thanks so much for taking some time to talk to us today! Would you mind telling us how you first heard of Milestones?

Evan: My mom runs a support group that works closely with Milestones. I came my first year to the conference kind

of nervous, to see what was here for myself. I always thought it would be people my mom’s age who are working for individuals with autism, but then I saw it was also for individuals and that’s what sold me on coming back.

Amy: I’ve known about Milestones for I don’t know how many years. My mother and I had talked about coming to the conference for years; we have gone to Beth Thompson for some

help when we needed it. And finally last year, we were just like ‘you know what, we’re going to get scholarshipped and we’re going to go!’ Then this year, Beth asked me to speak, so we’re here again. And hopefully next year too!

Angel: Haley Dunn who is with Milestones, I knew her for a long time so she asked me to come speak.
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