Matthew’s story of autism awareness

Pictured above: Melissa Neader, Matthew Josephs, and Patrick Reynolds

By: Melissa Neader, host of “Why Should I Care?”

“The autism community could use the help of people who aren’t part of it” stated Matthew Josephs in his letter that caught my interest and grabbed my heart.  

In early April of this year I received an email from Danielle, an empowering woman, also owner Serenity Now Massage Therapy, that introduced me to Margaret, chairperson of Autism after 18.  This email included an amazing letter written by Matthew Josephs. I thanked the ladies and quickly reached out to Matthew with an email to learn more. 

First thought I had was that others should hear Matthew’s perspective and I was hoping he would be interested in being a guest on Why Should I Care.  Matthew quickly agreed and we began our correspondence.  I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Matthew and his mother, Barbara at our Gateway McDonalds and spent that morning learning more about Matthew, his years in school, his future hopes and interest in taking a stand to share with others his story. One of the most impressive parts of the conversation was Matthew’s strong desire for understanding of all individuals.  In Matthew’s letter he states, “People who have autism can talk and behave differently from people without it.” “If someone without autism knows that the person with autism they’re talking to has it, they’ll understand and accept them for who they are.” “But if that’s not the case, the person with autism will have a hard time interacting with others. I know this based on experiences I had growing up.”  Matthew shared some of these experiences on the September 26th ‘Why Should I Care’ show.  To hear him tell these stories should make listeners stop and think.  

The things we often think of as simple can pose an obstacle to someone who has autism, such as jokes, toothbrush sensitivity, a sudden unexpected grabbing movement, and sleep just to name a few.  Then the bullying aspect and social situations place so many potentially painful challenges.  Matthew shared so many insightful details.  He is an inspiring young man full of wisdom beyond his years.  In his words, “We should all be able to live together as equals.  We should have patience with one another.  Most importantly, we should be there for one another.”  

Matthew’s letter I received in that April email is the letter he read live on the air in the WSIC radio studio.  It took him 3 days to compose, I sincerely hope it stays with listeners for a lifetime. 

I followed up with Matthew to thank him and his mother, Barbara, for joining us on my show and I asked him if he enjoyed the experience, what he hoped listeners learned and if he had any advice for students, with and without autism and he replied: 

“I really enjoyed being on the radio. It was unlike any experience I’ve ever had before. I hope my listeners without autism learn to understand people with autism better and to take it easy on them if they act differently. I would tell my audience that no two people are the same. We are all different in our own ways. It’s what makes us human.”

It was a pleasure to meet and become friends with Matthew Josephs and I believe he will make a huge impact on others through the organization Autism after 18 and with anyone who is fortunate to a part of his journey.