Hello, my name is Ryan Litchfield, and I live in Rutland, MA with my mom, my dad, and my younger brother. I recently graduated from Assumption College back in May of 2017 with cum laude honors, and with my Bachelors of the Arts in Human Services and Rehabilitation Studies, and a Certificate in Aging Services through Assumption College’s Continuing and Career Education Program. I am currently a receptionist with Montachusett Home Care Corporation, and an intern/volunteer with the Worcester Court Service Center at the Massachusetts Trial Court of Worcester.
Before I turned two years of age, I was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder NOS (Not-Otherwise Specified), which today would be diagnosed as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). At the time of diagnosis, however, I was not able to gesture, talk, or verbalize. Many people considered me as a classic example of someone with a “severe to profound” form of autism. Questions were raised as to whether I would ever talk, function, or live independently. However, with the love and support of my family, they were strong advocates in getting the services I needed, especially applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. As I got older, I went through the public-school system, specifically, the Wachusett Regional School District, and had special education services throughout my entire public-school tenure. Despite encountering challenges with social communication and social interaction with peers my own age, I have demonstrated perseverance and resilience in my life by getting involved with extracurriculars such as joining a band and playing the alto saxophone, taking part of a math club, and promoting an autism awareness club in order to fit in with my peers. Junior year was the hallmark moment in my life which transformed my life for the better in that I was able to give back to the community by promoting advocacy, community outreach, and public speaking engagements in sharing my personal struggles and successes with autism to elementary school students alongside a former classmate of mine, and a former speech and language pathologist watching us with a smile and being very proud of what I have accomplished. I have been involved with public speaking for 7 years now and have spoken to people in the following areas: Wachusett Regional School District; Assumption College; Paxton Public Safety; Central MA Special Education Collaborative; and HMEA’s Autism Resource Central recently where I spoke to nursing students from the MA College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. I eventually went on to get my driver’s license, and then head to Assumption College where I went on to major in human services and rehabilitation studies and to obtain my certificate in aging services. Eventually, I also went on to take on internships at HMEA’s Autism Resource Central where I had the opportunity to work on projects such as updating resources about autism and updating lists of professional contacts as well as inquiring about brochures and programs through various agencies. I also did an internship with the Central Massachusetts Agency on Aging, and then went on to work as an administrative assistant for Behavioral Concepts Inc. before going to Montachusett Home Care to work as a case manager assistant, and then, a receptionist.
As an autism and disability self-advocate, I have learned to, “Know thyself” as my former speech and language pathologist stated, to be compassionate, and to have the courage, the perseverance, the resilience, the strength, and the will power to try new things, and to provide a voice for myself and to others, especially those struggling with autism spectrum disorder. I am honored, and it is a privilege, to have been selected to HMEA’s Autism Resource Central’s Advisory Board. I hope that by sharing my insight, personal experiences, and ideas and suggestions to the board, I hope I can help to contribute to the center’s mission statement, and to offer more information about resources; supports; and services to help families, friends, and loved ones experiencing autism in the years to come. Thank you.
Autism and Disability Self-Advocate
Advisory Board Member since 2018