The American Aspie Journal
Zach Zaborny is a graduate from Kansas State University who has Asperger's Syndrome and is an active advocate for Autism. During Zach's recent trip to Europe, he had visited Autism NI to share his stories and experiences. On his return to the US, Zach got in touch with us to see if he could offer any further support or advice in relation to his own personal experiences with Asperger's, particularly within the workplace. Therefore we suggested he should write a blog for us over the period of the year, which will be updated on a monthly basis. This is the instalment - we hope you enjoy it!
November 9, 2015
Good Evening from Fargo!
It's hard to believe it's been an entire year since my first post for the American Aspie Journal and that this is my final entry.
The last several weeks have been very exciting. In late October, I travelled to the United Kingdom and Iceland to speak at many different autism events, including one with Autism NI. All of the speaking events were a great success and the trip was wonderful.
After returning to the United States, I travelled to Springfield, Illinois, where I delivered my first ever United States conference keynote address. I spoke to just over 500 people and it was a great day. And if that wasn't enough, earlier today, I returned home to Fargo after spending the weekend in St. Pete Beach, Florida, where I presented my Education of An Aspie lecture at the National Autism Association's Nation Autism Conference. My Grandmother who lives in Florida actually was able to attend the conference and she saw me present for the first time, so that was very exciting.
Work continues for all three of my jobs here in Fargo, but right now, my travels around the United States continue to keep me busy. In two days, I will head to Nebraska where I'll speak at an Autism conference alongside my Mom, for our first lecture together. After that, I end the month speaking at events in Arizona and Ohio.
I have no idea what 2016 will hold for me as 2015 nears it's end, but if next year is half as exciting as this year has been, I'll be in for an amazing 2016!
September 19, 2015
Good Afternoon from Fargo!
Fall has started to arrive here in North Dakota, as the nights are turning colder and the leaves are starting to get darker on the trees.
Last week, I travelled to Brisbane, Australia for the 2015 Asia Pacific Autism Conference and had a wonderful trip!
The trip began with a flight from Fargo to Brisbane, which although long, was overnight, so I was able to catch some sleep during the almost 15 hour flight from Los Angeles to Australia. Once arriving in Australia, I briefly toured around the city of Brisbane, visiting places that included the University of Queensland and also, downtown Brisbane.
After two days of the conference, the third and final day of the conference was my day to deliver my lecture. I spoke about autism and the college experience, giving my nationally and now officially internationally given speech, "Education of An Aspie:College Through My Eyes." During the conference, I met many great people including Brisbane's own Tony Attwood, a world-famous autism expert. I also got the chance to meet Specialisterne USA CEO/Specialisterne Founder Thorkil Sonne, which was also a neat experience. Overall, the trip was great and I loved my experience in Australia.
Returning to the United States, work has been continuing with Specialisterne and the funeral home, as well as the church, with school having started back up at North Dakota State University, so my campus pastor role is also in full swing.
I'm looking forward to my trip to Northern Ireland next month and am excited to speak at the Autism NI event. Fall will be a very exciting season!
August 11, 2015
Happy August from Fargo!
August here in the United States, means it's almost time for almost for school to start up again, summer ending and my personal favorite, American Football is right around the corner!
The rest of July was busy for me with my various jobs. As it gets closer to the school year starting, I've been doing more work with my church, getting ready to welcome back college students in my role of campus pastor. The funeral home has been busy with lots of things going on and work at Specialisterne continues as well.
Late last month, I found out that I had been accepted to speak at the National Autism Association's National Autism Conference in St. Pete. Beach, Florida this November. I'm very excited to get another part of the United States checked off on my speaking list and look forward to spending some brief, yet enjoyable time, at the beach during the heart of Fall.
Getting out of the Fargo cold in the fall and winter is always a plus.
Most importantly though, I'm only a few short weeks away from my trip to Austrailia to speak at the Asia Pacific Autism Conference.
I'm also working on some more preparations for my trip to the UK in October, which I am equally excited about. I hear that fall in the UK is very nice.
In next month's entry, I will make sure to have some pictures from my Austrailia travels, as I'm sure to see some neat things!
July 15, 2015
It's hard to believe that it's already July and we are on the second half of 2015.
The last few weeks have been busy for me with work and travel. Work continues at the funeral home and at Specialisterne. The church I attend recently acquired a new pastor and although it is still July, preparations are beginning for some back-to-school events for my church job.
Last week, I travelled to Denver, Colorado to speak on a panel at the Autism Society of America's annual conference. The panel presentation was called, "Preparing Students with ASD for College", and included myself, alongside some professionals in both the academic and support services world, relation to Autism. I enjoyed the opportunity to present on a panel and was happy to answer questions from audience members to help their students best prepare for college.
Now that I am back in Fargo, my schedule has slowed down sligh
tly before my September trip to Austrailia for the Asia Pacific Autism Conference. As each day passes, I get more excited about going to Austrailia and presenting my lecture.
Later this week, I should be finding out about some of my first speaking events for 2016, as I have been working hard to secure opportunities to speak in many new states in 2016, including potentially Maine, Louisiana and Alabama.
As the second half of 2015 gets going, I have many exciting things to look forward to this fall and I am ready to help impact lives in new parts of the world with my Autism advocacy.
June 10, 2015
Happy June from sunny Fargo!
The last month has been busy for me with my various jobs and I have some other exciting things to share as well, regarding my Autism advocacy work.
First with the jobs, work continues at the funeral home, my church and Specialisterne. Last week, I attended our annual church conference for the states of North and South Dakota. I heard some great speakers and learned about some fun things happening in the many churches in the Dakotas.
Moving on to my Autism advocacy work after last month's great news story on one Fargo station, another Fargo station did a story on me as well. The second news story was covered by KVLY, the CBS/NBC affiliate her in Fargo. You can see the KVLY story by clicking here.
Perhaps the bigger thing related to my advocacy efforts though is that I was the cover story of the variety section of the Fargo Forum, the newspaper for the city of Fargo, for the June 9 edition of the paper. The Forum did a great feature story on me and my advocacy work and the story even had a shout-out to Autism NI. You can read the Forum story by clicking here.
I also was accepted to speak at a national Autism conference in the state of Ohio, this November, to be a part of two seperate panels. One panel relates to Autism and my college experience and the other panel is one that I'll be on with my Mom. The panel with my Mom focuses on talking about life on the Autism spectrum from both the parent and child perspectives.
I have continued to work hard at finding other speaking events for next year and am already talking with several conferences around the United States about presenting things in 2016.
After getting so much great love and support with my advocacy efforts here in the United States, I'm very excited to come and share my story with the people of Northern Ireland this October!
May 5, 2015
Happy May from Fargo! Spring is out in full force and I have many exciting things to share!
To start off, last month, I spoke at the Nebraska ASD Network State Conference in Kearney, Nebraska. The conference went very well and my two sessions were very well attended. From that conference came an amazing opportunity for my Mom and I to speak at a conference together later this year in Omaha, Nebraska, which we are both very excited about. During our lecture, we will share a parent and child perspective of life on the Autism spectrum.
As I was returning from Nebraska, I learned that I had been accepted to speak at the Autism Society of America National Conference this summer in Denver, Colorado, on a young adult panel, talking about the transition period between high school to college, as well as what my time and experiences in college on the spectrum were like. I am excited to attend the national conference and look forward to meeting many new people this July when I head to Denver for that event.
On top of getting accepted to speak at the Autism Society Conference, I also found out that I was invited to speak at the 2015 Asia Pacific Autism Conference in Brisbane, Austrailia. That will be taking place this September. Due to current financial difficulties including working multiple jobs, there was no way I was going to be able to affort going to the Austrailia conference without some help. So, I decided to set up an online fundraising page.
The response to my Austrailia Autism advocacy page was amazing! In just four days, I raised over $4,000!!! I was, and still am, incredibly humbled and grateful for all of the love and support that I received through either donations and/or people who helped share my story on social media! I actually raised enough money to not only attend and speak at the conference in Austrailia, but also to attend and speak at the Autism Society Conference in Denver. I've left the fundraising page opened and any additional funds that would be raised, go to support my ability to attend and speak at other conferences around the United States, as many of the conferences are self-supported and I have to fund my own way. You can view my fundraising page by clicking here.
This past Sunday, WDAY, the ABC affiliate in Fargo, covered my advocacy efforts with a story about me. You can see the story by clicking here.
Finally, this past weekend, I spoke at the Minnesota State Autism Conference in Minneapolis. My mom was able to attend the conference with me and she will be joining me this fall on tour for speaking events.
Work at my various jobs continues to go well. The school year is ending so my work as Campus Pastor will be slowing down over the summer until students return in the fall. The funeral home is keeping me busy and I am learning a lot. And finally, Specialisterne continues to move along and I'm learning a lot there as well.
I have a very exciting summer and fall planned and I can't wait for what is coming next!
April 15, 2015
Happy April from Fargo! It's been a busy last few weeks and I have a lot to share.
While work at Specialisterne continues, I recently picked up a new job. Last week, I began working at a local funeral home in an assistant capacity. In that role, I assist with funeral services and service preparations, various office duties and then various other duties as they come up. It is an interesting job and the funeral industry is a field I've had some interest in since I was young, so being able to be in a role in the industry now, is certainly teaching me a lot.
Last week I also had two sessions where I spoke at the Nebraska ASD Network State Conference in Kearney, Nebraska. The conference went great and attendees included educators and parents from all over Nebraska. Many of the questions I was asked, revolved around support systems, both before and after a student is actually in college. When I think about support systems before college, I always suggest that parents and school educators are the best support systems. Once the student is in college though, I actually suggest having the Autism resource trainer from the high school years, or a fellow special education teacher, maintain a line of communication with the college student, to act as an extra support during college, in addition to parents and college professors that are already in place. This allows the educator to continue providing a mentoring role even after the student has left high school. One of my speaking sessions at the conference was actually filmed, so once that is made available, I will post it on my site and share a link to it here, so that others may watch my lecture and learn more.
As I was returning home from the conference, I learned that I was selected to be on a young adult
panel for the Autism Society of America National Conference, taking place this July in Denver, Colorado. I will be on a panel with other young adults, talking about my college experience.
Finally, next month, I will be speaking at the Minnesota State Autism Conference in Minneapolis and my mother will actually be flying in from Phoenix, Arizona to visit me and also attend the conference to see me speak. Being able to have her in the audience for my presentation, will be very exciting.
That's about all I have for now. Stay tuned for my post next month, when I will have more to share.
March 9, 2015
Happy March from Fargo! Work is going well at Specialisterne, as is my work with my church, serving as campus pastor.
At Specialisterne, I have gotten the chance to now work at two different locations here in Fargo. The fist location is still the mobile company where I get to be software tester, while the second location, is at a technology company where I help assemble technological devices that are used in the agriculture industry. I enjoy what I am doing and love the fact that I can say that I was a part of the very first Specialisterne class in Fargo. Being able to be with Specialisterne at their beginning time here in Fargo, has been exciting and I can't wait to see what the future holds as time goes on.
I am now just a few short weeks away from the two breakout sessions I will be delivering at the Nebraska State Autism Conference next month. I have also been accepted to speak at the Minnesota State Autism Conference in May, which will be taking place in Minneapolis. Outside of work and conferences, I have family and friends that will be visiting in April and as part of their visit, we will be taking an overnight trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba, the major Canadian city that is located right above North Dakota. I've never been to Winnipeg before and am excited to check another international city off my list. Final preparations are currently underway for my travel to Northern Ireland in October and as each day passes, I get more excited about getting the opportunity to come back for the Autism NI event that will be taking place then.
I am honored to be able to return to Belfast in October and be part of the APGA lecture. It will be nice to not only share my story with lecture attendees, but also to get to spend some more time with the staff at Autism NI. In all of my speaking engagements that I do, my main goal is to always try and make an impact on my audience. I love that I can share my personal experiences on the spectrum to help offer advice and knowledge to others. This will be my first official international speaking engagement and I can't think of a better place internationally to speak.
The weather is finally warm in Fargo, at least for now. I'm happy that spring is around the corner and winter will finally come to an end.
January 27, 2015 - Happy 2015 from Fargo, North Dakota! My New Year is off to a good start here in the Red River Valley. The first week of January was very cold, with temperatures only reaching a high of negative 10 on some days, with wind chills closer to negative 50. Needless to say, there have been some VERY cold days and nights!
Work at Specialisterne continues, as does work at the church where I am campus pastor. At the church, we have been working on several outreach events with our students, including giveaways on campus for coffee and doughnuts. Next month, we will spend one morning giving away hot chocolate to help keep people warm as they travel around campus. We are also in the very early planning stages to travel to Haiti in March 2016 for a mission trip, the first ever mission trip for our campus group. I am very excited about that trip and I know that the students are looking forward to it as well.
Although I don't have any conferences coming up in February or March that I will be speaking at, during the second week of April, I will be speaking at two breakout sessions during the Nebraska State Autism Conference. I have been to Nebraska several times, but look forward to speaking at a new conference and crossing off another state on my speaking list. I also continue to plan for conferences in the late spring and summer, including two potential trips to Minneapolis for conferences in May and in March. I will learn if I was selected to speak at the national conference for the Autism Society in July, which will be taking place in Denver, Colorado.
We are almost done with the first month of 2015 and I look forward to what the remaining 11 months of the year will bring!
December 2, 2014 - Hello from Fargo! Since my last post, it has turned much colder and snowier here in North Dakota. It feels more like January than December. Last week was Thanksgiving here in the States and I went home to Kansas City for a few days to see my family. It was nice to get out of the cold for a little while, as when I returned to Fargo, it got all the way down to negative 15 degrees!
Work at Specialisterne has officially started and is underway. Aside from Specialisterne, I recently picked up a second position that I am very excited about; I am now the new campus pastor for my church, for the students at North Dakota State University. I'm looking forward to working with the university students and doing some great work in the community. And as if that wasn't enough, I've started a third position where I will be helping a family friend with online marketing for her business. You could definitely say I am staying busy!
Taking on multiple new things at once has been very exciting for me. In my younger years, I always tended to operate better when I was able to fucus on a single task at once and the more structure that I could have in an environment, the better. While I still love having as much structure as possible in a work environment, I'm learning to adapt to being able to multi-task and I am starting to even enjoy the ability to have several different things going on at once with my various work endeavors. I believe that the most important thing to do when you have multiple things going on is to be able to effectively prioritize your tasks so that you can do your best with all of them. Being on the spectrum, I have always been a big fan of organization and lists, so as long as I can maintain those things in my work environment, I can be successful and happy.
My conference in Boise, Idaho was wonderful and I had a great audience. Over the next few weeks, I will be receiving word on potential acceptance to speak at conferences in the spring of 2015, for places like Minneapolis, New York City and Winnipeg, Manitoba.
It's hard to believe that we are already in December and 2015 is just around the corner. I'm looking forward to the holding gatherings coming up with opportunities to spend time with family and friends. Until next time, I give my best thoughts and wishes to the great people of Northern Ireland and hope you have a happy and healthy holiday season.
October 22, 2014 - Greetings from Fargo, North Dakota! I am staying very busy here in Fargo, as I am about to begin working with Specialisterne Midwest, a regional version of a company called Specialisterne, which helps to provide training and jobs to people on the Autism Spectrum in fields like business and technology. Yesterday, I spoke at the 1st Annual North Dakota State Autism Spectrum Disorders Conference. My speech was called "Education of an Aspie: Through My Eyes", and it covered my experiences in college being on the Autism Spectrum. During the speech I discussed the support system I had in high school and ways I transitioned in to college. That was followed by a discussion section on how I handled the social, academic and extra activities that occurred during college. Finally, I discussed what I have been doing since graduating college, highlighting my various autism advocacy opportunities including my travels to visit you all in Northern Ireland.
Next week, I travel to Boise, Idaho to speak at the Idaho Partnerships Conference on Human Services to give my Education of An Aspie presentation. Getting out on the speaking trail is very exciting for me and I am happy that I can help share my experiences to potentially help others.
Here in Fergo we are enjoying the last few warm days of fall before the temperature turn colder and the snow gets ready to start. I'm anxious to see what my first North Dakota winter has in store, as I've been told it can get as low as -30 Fahrenheit or sometimes even colder; and that is without the wind chill factored in!