Author, speaker and autism advocate Jesse Saperstein ’04 will return to campus to give a lecture about the strength of individuals on the autism spectrum, as well as the importance of accepting and including people of all unique abilities and characteristics. The talk is part of the series of disability-related events run by the HWS Global Initiative on Disability (GID) and will take place on Monday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Vandervort Room.
“I am confident that learning from ‘the experts’ – that is, people who have the disability themselves – is the best way to truly understand each other,” says Associate Professor of Education Helen McCabe, director of GID. “I hope everyone will learn more about Asperger’s and other Autism Spectrum Disorders, and especially become more aware and able to accept and support our students, classmates and colleagues with this and other disabilities.”
Saperstein, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at age 14, is a self-advocate who shares his own experiences with Asperger’s Syndrome, as well as a staunch advocate of anti-bullying and a mentor for others on the spectrum. He has authored two books. His first, “Atypical: Life with Asperger’s in 20 1/3 Chapter,” was published in 2010 and chronicles his life struggle with Asperger’s through a collection of 20 honest, humorous essays about living with Asperger’s. His most recent novel, “Getting a Life with Asperger’s: Lessons Learned on the Bumpy Road to Adulthood,” which was released in August 2014, offers readers a guided tour of what he’s learned about getting along with others, managing emotions, succeeding in school and work, building relationships and more.
“Success with autism or any kind of challenge comes from knowing you have incredible things to offer,” Saperstein said during a recent NPR interview. “Mistakes don’t mean you’re a loser.”
Saperstein graduated from HWS cum laude with a B.A. in English. While at the Colleges, Saperstein served as a residential adviser to the AIDS Awareness House on campus and was in charge of multiple fundraising events on campus. He has received numerous awards from the Colleges for his outstanding achievements, including the President’s Public Service Award, Senior Outstanding Achievement, Dean’s Citizens Award and Alumni Association Award.
After graduation, Saperstein set out to conquer the 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail to benefit the Joey DiPaolo AIDS Foundation. Shortly after his hike from Georgia to Maine, Saperstein says he was exposed to living as an adult on the autism spectrum and was treated as a social pariah by members of the community who did not understand.
Saperstein visits schools on a regular basis addressing the issue of bullying. Currently, he is working on initiatives to pioneer a middle/high school class in New York State that will focus on educating young people about misunderstood disabilities, as well as the psychological and legal consequences of bullying.
An active alumnus, Saperstein returned to campus in January 2013 for an alum event where he was a speaker. On his Oct. 27 visit, he will also speak in McCabe’s FSEM, “Personal Narratives of Disability,” as well as Assistant Professor of Education Diana Baker’s education class, “Children with Disabilities.”
“We are so grateful that Jesse continues to be an active part of our community,” says McCabe. “We hope that this and other events will raise awareness and understanding about disability on our campus so that it is a more inclusive place for people of all abilities.”
In the photo above, Jesse Saperstein ’04, author of “Getting a Life with Asperger’s: Lessons Learned on the Bumpy Road to Adulthood,” stands at the summit of Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail in Maine’s Baxter State Park. To benefit the Joey DiPaolo AIDS Foundation, Saperstein hiked the entire 2,174-mile Appalachian Trail from Spring Mountain in Georgia to Katahdin.