James and Jonathan are two self-advocates who are getting out into their communities to talk about autism awareness and acceptance. They openly share their own experiences growing up on the autism spectrum hoping it will spark change—a change that will make this a more inclusive world for everyone.
“Like a Comic Con,” said Jonathan.
Recently, the pair attended the Silicon Valley Comic Con for a weekend of comics and pop-culture fandom. They knew that they’d have a great time but what they didn’t expect is that they’d leave super-charged to continue their advocacy quest to make a difference.
Here are the 8 life lessons they took away from the Con:
Let your geek flag fly.
Steve Wozniak (Woz) is the head geek behind the SV Comic Con. Woz is a successful nerd who’s not afraid to be who he is. The SV Comic Con felt like he turned the whole city into his playground and we were invited to be ourselves without judgement at his private weekend party! Cosplay was encouraged and people felt comfortable dressing up as the stars and characters they love.
Everyone is a superhero.
We found it inspiring that both children with disabilities and their parents get a boost of pride from participating in SV Comic Con. Wheelchairs were transformed into props for cosplay. Parents cared enough to make the day special for their kids. Families treated each other like superheroes.
Never forget to be kind and respectful.
Most of the Star Trek Next Generation cast came together for a 30 year reunion panel—it was a celebration with their longtime fans. All of them graciously answered any question that came their way, regardless of how “cringe worthy” it might have been. They were so warm, friendly and have genuine respect for their fans.
Live like Buzz Aldrin.
Of all the panels we went to, who’d have thought that Buzz Aldrin’s would be the most interesting in terms of what the guy’s accomplished. Outside of going to the moon, the man’s spent his entire life devoted to furthering space exploration in any way possible – and in his down time, swims with sharks and hikes to the South Pole even in his 80s. He’s living his dream every day and isn’t stopping anytime soon. Neither should we.
Your talent is ageless.
I (James) found it inspiring to be able to shake hands and even exchange a few words of thanks with Drew Struzan, the artist behind such famous movie posters as the Star Wars films and Indiana Jones. 70 years old and still making magnificent movie posters. That and he’s got quite the grip! If we stay the course using our talents, perhaps we’ll have the longevity and strength to live our own meaningful lives.
Autism should always find acceptance.
It was great to sit and listen to the now retired cast of Sesame Street discussing the show’s direction to be even more inclusive. It was even better to hear Bob McGrath mentioning the new “Julia” character on the show and listening to the crowd applaud at the sound of her name, showing their approval. Autism acceptance makes it way to the Sesame Street neighborhood. Now it’s up to us to make it happen in every neighborhood.
Be social through shared interests.
The crowd at SV Comic Con is so open to talking to you. You can sit next to someone who you’ve never met before and have these great conversations. It’s not hard to socialize. You have common interests so you’re all genuinely interested in each other.
Follow your dreams and never give up.
Ernie Reyes Jr. and Sr. led an entire selection of their students, young and old, in a martial arts demonstration. Reyes Sr., age 70, is still buff and ready to take anyone on, and Reyes Jr., known best among Ninja Turtles fans as Keno from “Secret of the Ooze” is still loving the spotlight from his career’s glory days and still ready to stop and have a moment with fans.
We had a private conversation with Ernie Jr. who told us “Follow your dream and never give up. Everything else will fall into place. The main thing for anybody who’s facing challenges or setbacks is to have a positive attitude and keep living towards that dream. Things will work out.”
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Photos by James Sullivan
Ernie Reyes Jr image by Al Ortega
Additional photos courtesy of Silicon Valley Comic Con and Sesame Workshop