When not involved in music therapy, one of my roles is that of a Direct Support Person for Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region. One of my favorite parts of this position is the chance to meet and work with numerous individuals who fight adversity everyday as a result of a diagnosis, illness, or disorder. I love working with these individuals to help them become involved in their communities, and to achieve personal success in their lives.
One of these individuals is Ryan McTavish. Ryan is a young man who was diagnosed with autism at the age of five. Throughout his life, Ryan has faced the challenges of living with autism head on, and has achieved success in numerous areas of his life. Ryan is a highly talented drummer and recording artist, and has performed and recorded with many local bands. He is also a successful public speaker, and has given presentations all across Canada.
Ryan’s current project is the “Start Living Acceptance” initiative. Ryan uses this initiative to promote increase acceptance of individuals living with autism instead of just raising awareness. Ryan has made numerous big strides in the past year to help spread the word about his initiative, and I have enjoyed watching it grow and prosper.
The other day, I sat down with Ryan to ask him questions about his initiative in order to help spread the word. This is what we talked about:
Daniel A: When did you first start the “Start Living Acceptance” initiative?
Ryan M: I have always been involved in this initiative; however I really shifted my focus from awareness to acceptance in the fall of 2015.
DA: What are you trying to achieve/who are you trying to reach out to via the initiative?
RM: There has been so much work and action raised towards awareness, however I feel awareness can only go so far. Often while people are aware of autism, when they are exposed to a meltdown, they distance themselves from what is happening. They are aware but do not accept that this is part of this individual. I would like people to step outside of their comfort zone, and to fully accept people for who they are regardless of what they do
DA: What has been your favorite moment involving the initiative so far?
RM: I am very proud of the “Rock for Autism” concerts that I created. They are a way for me to branch into a certain market of people who would be attracted and interested in the work that I do. I also feel that the amount of people interested in what I do should be more diverse. This concert serves as a way to bring what I do out into the community beyond just the families of those within autism services. It is a vehicle to allow my message to reach people from all different backgrounds.
DA: Describe your musical background.
RM: I have been a drummer since the age of four. I have done session and performance work with numerous artists such as Richard Garvey, Erick Traplin, and Fred Penner. I have also been a guest performer alongside various artists including The Proclaimers, James Gordon, and The Backtrack Band.
DA: What have been some of the challenges you have experienced creating the initiative?
RM: Garnering interest!!! One of the biggest challenges has been trying to brand and market my initiative to a wider group of people. While I have reached lots of people with my message, there are so many people and so many initiatives present, and it can be a challenge to get my voice heard. It also takes a lot of hard work to maintain and promote the initiative, and often gaining results takes a long time.
DA: What are your plans for 2017 and beyond?
RM: I am hosting a bigger and better Rock for Autism this year which will carry on the momentum of the 2015 show. I also hope to continue finding performing, public speaking, and recording opportunities to help spread awareness of my message and my musical talents
DA: Where can people find out more information about the initiative?
RM: More information can be found through my facebook, twitter, and Youtube pages. The links for each are below. I also created a promotional video for the initiative, and the link for it is also posted below.
DA: How can people help you with your initiative?
RM: People can help by considering being more accepting of those living with autism and how they live. Everyone is unique and we should celebrate these individuality. I would also like people to help me spread the word on my initiative and what I stand for. Networking is a team activity, and the more people we discuss this with, the bigger network we can create. I hope people will consider my message when working, living, or interacting with those living with autism.
I really enjoy working with Ryan, and I find his perspective of increased autism acceptance very refreshing. As a clinician who frequently works with autistic clients, I also really appreciate hearing about Ryan’s experiences growing up with autism. I am a strong supporter of “Start Living Acceptance”, and I hope you take the time to learn more about it! Keep your eyes out for Ryan at a public speaking event or musical concert near you, and remember to “Start Living Acceptance!”