Author tells audiences about autism struggles


The Kent Stater Speaker, author and journalist Sean Barron discusses “Living with Autism” in the Kiva on Thursday, April 9, 2015.

Kelsie Britton

In celebration of National Autism Awareness Month, author Sean Barron spoke at Kent State Thursday about his journey growing up with Autism.

“For the first four or five years of my life, it was sort of like the Isaac Asimov model- an irrepressible force against an immovable Autism,” Barron said.

Diagnosed at age five in the late 1960s, Barron told of his parents’ struggle to understand how to cope with his disorder, which was not widely understood at the time.

“I kind of developed my own cocoon, so to speak,” said Barron. “I encased myself in own world and shut everything else out.”

Barron compared his autistic brain to a malfunctioning circuit board, explaining that poor social skills, and underdeveloped fine motor skills were two challenges he, with the help of professionals, worked to overcome.

“Many people who have autism accept it as part of their personality,” Barron said. “So who am I to say it’s a disability? So now I like to refer to it as a characteristic.”

Alina Popolic, freshman Integrated Language Arts major, came to the speech to learn how to better relate to the Autistic children she teaches dance.

“I’m teaching a movement autism class, so I felt I needed to learn more about it,” Popolic said.

Popolic said the speech inspired her to think differently about autism.

“He didn’t want to call it a disability or a disorder because he felt he was moving past it, and I liked that.”

Hyla Cushner from the Autism Society of Greater Akron said it’s still important for students without autism to take the time to learn more.

“They’re most likely going to interact with somebody who’s on the spectrum,” Cushner said. “And understanding breeds tolerance and inclusion.”

Gina Campana, special assistant of the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion said autism awareness has become a priority of Kent State.

“We have potentially 600 students and maybe more, who are attending Kent State and are on the spectrum,” Campana said. “It’s a hidden disability, so not many people know about it. Bringing awareness will hopefully help minimize bullying and create understanding for the students here on campus who have autism.”

Contact Kelsie Britton at [email protected].