The Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute Kicks off Meaningful Conversations with Autistic Self-Advocates

June 17, 2022

The Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute kicked off monthly Meaningful Conversations with autistic self-advocates on June 8, 2022. In the inaugural session, our guest was Ms. Katelyn Szymanski. Ms. Szymanski is a Behavior Associate at Itineris in Baltimore, MD, and has just completed undergraduate training in social work. She explained how she first learned of her diagnosis in late elementary school. While she was distraught at the news, it explained a lot, like why she didn't learn to talk until after 4 years of age, and gave her insights into why other kids called her names and saw her as 'different'. Then she became curious and read avidly to learn about autism, ultimately deciding to pursue a career in the disabilities field. Entering college was exciting, but it was such a change from high school that her mental health suffered.

Therapy helped. Over time, she began to "come out of my shell", and gain self-confidence. She has done much for the general public to inform them about what it is like to be autistic and live in a world not designed for autism. She also is developing guidelines for more strengths-focused and neurodiverse affirming language to help people communicate more respectfully and effectively with, and about, autistic individuals. The staff at Kennedy Krieger's Center for Autism and Related Disorders applauds Ms. Szymanski for her courage, generosity, and effectiveness as an autism advocate.