By Daniel Derrico
Hello! My name is Daniel Derrico. I am 23 years old and live in the Greater Washington D.C./Northern Virginia area. My biggest passion in life is music. I love the process of creating, writing, and producing different original songs — some about my own experiences and going through hard times when I was younger like being bullied and being diagnosed with severe Tourette syndrome and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and some just about love and life. I am currently working on gaining the life and independent living skills I need to be out on my own and successfully navigate and function in this crazy world.
Recently, I was diagnosed with autism.
It took quite a while for my treatment team to come to that diagnosis because I don’t present with a lot of the symptoms typical of individuals on the spectrum. I’m very outgoing, personable, and quick to make friends with others.
My passion is creating and performing pop music, similar to songs you might hear on the radio. I hope to slowly build my brand and get my music out to larger audiences. In the future, I aim to perform at local venues here in D.C., all while being an advocate for the disability community. When you have invisible disabilities, it can be extremely tough when you feel like you don’t belong and aren’t understood in this world. I struggle immensely with fitting in and finding my “people.” Sometimes people are confused when they see me up on stage performing or producing an awesome song, because I have trouble with daily life tasks like making and sticking to a financial, pacing myself, and not being impulsive.
Through my music and my platform, I hope to be an inspiration and a glimmer of hope for anyone who has ever struggled to fit in and find their place, whether that be due to a disability or just life circumstances.
I work part-time in the gift shop at the nationally-renowned John F. Kennedy Center For the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. I had an internship there around this time last year, and it was an amazing and memorable experience. I was determined to find a way to stick around, and I landed my job in the gift shop shortly after my internship ended. I have an amazing home therapist/counselor who works me daily to help me gain the important skills I need to live on my own. I do not have a driver’s license or permit, however I am very proficient at navigating the public transit system, which is how I commute to my job at the Kennedy Center.
I have so many dreams, goals, and aspirations that sometimes it’s hard to narrow them down. I yearn to travel and see different places and cities in this country and abroad, which is one of the goals I’m working towards with my therapist. Some of my hobbies right now are exploring Washington D.C., going out to eat with friends, and exercising.
Over the past few years, I’ve been very involved with “A Place To Be,” an amazing music therapy center near and dear to my heart in Middleburg, Virginia. I found it in 2013 when I came back home after spending time in multiple states for intensive therapy for my Tourette syndrome and OCD. At A Place To Be, I found some of the greatest mentors, people who feel like family, and community opportunities that I wouldn’t have access to otherwise. They help people face, navigate, and overcome life’s challenges through the arts. There is no doubt that I wouldn’t be where I’m at or who I am today without the love and guidance from everyone at A Place To Be.
The center further ignited my passion for music by allowing me to perform for students in the local public schools and spread messages of hope and inclusion. I recently produced a very special cover video for the song “Don’t Give Up On Me” by Andy Grammer. The video features some of my dear friends and fellow disability advocates from A Place To Be. I hope the video promotes my message of inclusion and not giving up on each other or ourselves. I had the amazing opportunity to see Andy Grammer in concert this past October and meet him before the show. He acknowledged the video and said that he was very impressed.
I look forward to updating you on my progress with life skills, my music, and my life in general. If you’re going through tough times right now, feel alone or misunderstood, or just don’t feel good about life as it is right now, know that it is only temporary and there will soon be better days.
This past year and a half for me has been challenging in so many aspects, but I feel like I am coming out on the other side of all that. Now I am taking steps into what I hope and believe will be an immensely successful 2020.
Daniel Derrico is an aspiring singer/songwriter and artist in the Greater Washington D.C. area who is a disability advocate. His diagnoses include autism spectrum disorder, OCD, anxiety, and Tourette syndrome.
Read more articles on “How Self-Advocates are Changing Health Care” in Zoom Autism Magazine, Issue 17:
Feeling Comfortable and Understood by My Medical Community by Chloe Rothschild
Includes Chloe’s Tips for Self-Advocacy in Health Care
- Why I Became Passionate About Autistic Advocacy in Health Care by Lydia Wayman
A Letter from our Guest Editor
- A Physician/Mom’s Tips on Making the Most of Your Office Visit by Ann Oldendorf, MD
- Health Care Self-Care on the Spectrum by Delaine Swearman
- How Serious are Health Care Issues in the Autistic Community? by Campbell Teague
- Cummings and Goings: Hope and a Fighting Determination! by Conner Cummings
- Showing My Body the Grace It Deserves by Gretchen McIntire
- How We Manage the Fear and Anxiety of Doctor Visits by Megan Amodeo
Discover more Zoom Issues:
- Issue 13: Family
- Issue 14: Trailblazers
- Issue 15: Powerful Women
- Issue 16: Traveling the Spectrum Way!
- Archived issues on the Zoom Home Page