When he was 18 months old, autism advocate Ron Sandison regressed rapidly. He lost the ability to verbally communicate and was unable to engage in eye contact. In kindergarten, he was labeled “emotionally impaired.”
Sandison’s mother didn’t give up and had top-notch professionals test him. His condition was confirmed as a neurological condition, not emotional.
Ron was diagnosed with autism.
The professionals said that he wouldn’t read past the seventh grade, but his mother strived to help him develop not only his academic skills, but his independence and social relationships.
Her hard work paid off. Sandison has become an inspirational autism advocate. He has written a book, gives presentations all over the country, and is an adjunct professor and psychiatric care specialist. His company, Spectrum Inclusion, is an outlet where he provides advice to families affected by autism as well as employers on how to help their autistic employees.
Sandison was 8 years old when he learned about his diagnosis.
Sandison said, “My parents told me about Autism and my learning disability because I was so far behind all of the other kids my own age. My mom quit her job as an art teacher and became a full-time ‘Ron’ teacher.’”
Sandison related his feelings of when he learned about his diagnosis to a book he read. He commented, “I felt like an endangered species… I felt like I was the only person in the world who had my disability.”
Sandison was a victim of bullying in school and the workforce. He said that he “lacks the ability to interpret people’s actions as sarcastic or malice.” He added that he has experienced a lot of persecution, especially in the workplace.
When asked about what autistic individuals should do to advocate for themselves in the workplace, he said to “make sure to turn in work papers to the human resources department in order to fall under the Americans With Disabilities Act so that a company cannot release you for some stupid mistake pertaining to your disability.”
Knowing what he knows now, Sandison would tell the younger Ron Sandison to “not put up with bullying in a malice way but to know the difference between joking around in the workplace and being abusive in the workplace.”
He explained that “joking around is where you can laugh with your coworkers about your mistake. Abuse is where they are making fun of you behind your back or making fun of your disability and making themselves feel better at your expense.” He knows the difference between joking and abuse by asking trusted co workers their opinion.
During our interview, Sandison gave great examples of the benefits of autism. These include the ability to focus on details and the ability to never give up, which have allowed him to reach his goals.
He was the plaintiff in the American With Disabilities case (Sandison v. MHSAA) in which he sued because he “was not able to participate in an athletic event due to his age” since he was too old because he was held back in kindergarten due to his Autism. Additionally, he wrote his first book, “Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom.” This book made him the first Autistic writer to publish a book with a major (Christian) publishing firm, Charisma House.
Sandison spoke about his company. Sandison founded Spectrum Inclusion because “[he wants] to help young people get the mentoring, job skills, and life skills to be able to succeed.” There are many adults who email him and come to his presentations.
Sandison presents on “life skills, how to be employed and be on the spectrum, how to have common courtesy and body language which [many] people with autism lack, and how autism makes [people] unique.”
Sandison said that “people benefit from [his] presentations by hearing [his] advice like how to not have autism hold [them] back.”
The number one thing Sandison tells people with Autism is to “develop their gift and also find a mentor. Mentors can help in the workforce by helping them with the ins and outs of the company as well as introducing them to coworkers.”
Finally, Sandison advised that the best way for a child to become a better self advocate, “is to learn to speak up for yourself and become less dependent on mom or dad to do everything for you.” He continued with, “so often when I go to speak the parents speak for the child instead of the child speaking for themselves.”
Sandison encourages adults with autism to “become an expert on autism. Read every biography on a successful person with autism. It gives you a better idea on how autism can be a strength.”
Ron Sandison works full-time in the medical field and is a professor of Theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of The Autism Society of America and the founder of Spectrum Inclusion. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and his book, “A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom.” was published in April 2016.
Check out my blog, The Journey Through Autism!