When Ryan was in middle school, he was diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disability (NVLD). Growing up, this neurological condition marked by academic and sometimes social difficulties resulted in many challenges. He received occupational therapy and accommodations in the schools he attended, with assistance from many tutors, counselors, and academic advisors. “School was not easy for me,” Ryan said. “I got taken advantage of a lot and was bullied by kids. Many days I would come home and cry, thinking about why they were not including me.” Ryan got used to attending games and events alone and through elementary and high school, always wondered why he was never invited to parties and outings. On the rare occasions when he was included, “the kids would take advantage of me. I would give them rides and they would not give me any gas money but I was too scared to say anything for fear of them not wanting to hang out with me,” he shared.
During his college years at York College of Pennsylvania, things changed for Ryan. “I opened up,” he said “I got involved in Hillel; I was the Basketball Manager and joined Best Buddies. I would go to the games and parties with my roommates and friends. I still stay in touch with my college friends. It was a great experience!”
Over the years, Ryan has developed mechanisms that allows him to live comfortably with his disability. Through therapy, he learned coping strategies such as writing things down, making lists on his phone and setting reminders on his calendar. Mediation, yoga, and deep breathing also helps. He now works with people with disabilities. “That is why I have compassion for the work that I do today. I never thought I would be working with individuals with disabilities, but that is my calling,” he said. Today Ryan is involved with the following:
- He is a teaching assistant at a special education school at the center for autism, with responsibilities for following kids’ behavior according to their support plans and tracking data, while contributing towards their structured learning environment
- He is responsible for helping individuals to become better both socially and academically
- Ryan conducts recreation programs for two townships
- He does community integration work
- Ryan is a proud volunteer with the Best Buddies program with his eBuddy and Citizens Buddy
- He recently joined the board of the William is Artistic organization in Virginia
- He is a supporter of Love Serving Autism, a tennis organization based in Florida. He is a regular donor and hopes to work for them part time teaching tennis to individuals on the spectrum
- He is an ambassador for the NVLD project based in New York City
- He has coached Special Olympics participants in the past
- During Covid, he has remained busy conducting virtual fitness classes
“At times, things are still difficult for me,” Ryan shared, “because sometimes I put all my energy into one thing, for example a company job, and if it does not work out, then I get upset at myself and upset with them for not giving me a chance.”
But Ryan now knows that he is making a difference in the world and in people’s lives.
“I want to reach as many people as I can and hope to inspire people with disabilities to let them know that they can do anything they want to do!”
Ryan is interested in securing engagements to speak on inclusion in the workplace and recreation. He also wants to raise awareness about NVLD as he thinks more people need to hear about it.
To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org. He looks forward to connecting with you!