My Autism and Poetry speech in Marlboro and The Dirty Dottys win the New England Music Awards show

24 Oct

Me at the Autism and Poetry Summit in Marlboro

Last Saturday, I gave a speech to discuss how autism and poetry allow me to become my own best advocate for the autism community. It was held at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel & Trade Center in Marlboro. I was encouraged to participate in this event by my job coach, Orlando Torres, after seeing an email in my inbox detailing a conference for self-advocates with intellectual or developmental disabilities to participate in and choose the topic of their expertise. Since I have written at least 10 poems in my life, I figured that it would be good for me to join this event since I use my poetry to reach out to others in the autism community and among my neurotypical family and peers as well.

At around 11:30 AM, I gave my speech about autism and poetry entitled “Do It the Write Way!” In the presentation, I mentioned how I use my poems and songs to become a strong advocate for people with autism and how the creative process for my poetry works. I talked about my poetry helps to express my true inner emotions and that I would like my songs to help change people’s perspectives of people with autism. Songwriters like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen have influenced my way of using expressive language to describe my personal feelings about the subjects in which I discuss in the poems. I also mentioned how I like to discuss the rough drafts of my poems with my family and friends to see if I’m going in the right direction with the rhythmic patterns of the poems. In between slides of the presentation, I did a question and answer question to get their reactions of wanting to know how my poetry works. I concluded the session by reciting two poems of mine called “Just a Normal Day” and “Acceptance of Autism” and then asked the audience to try to come up with poems of their own to get a feel of the creative process.

Later on that Saturday, I headed over to Boston to join my brother Brian and his girlfriend Amanda to attend The Dirty Dottys show at the Hard Rock Cafe for the Finals of the New England Music Awards show. The band is fronted by Julie DiOrio, a talented vocalist and guitarist of whom I attended high school with, along with Ellie Foster and Maura McGillicuddy on backing vocals, Austin Arroco on trombone, Jonathan Kessler on the drums, and Danny Teza on the bass. I have previously seen the Dottys at least 5 times, including at Temple Shalom Emeth in Burlington, The Aeronaut Brewery in Somerville for their album release party around Christmas last year, and a few other locations in the Greater Boston area. They had previously won the Semifinals at Hard Rock on September 18th during a battle of the New England bands competition. After winning the Semifinals, I felt obligated to attend the Finals round to continue to show my support the band.

At around 9:30 PM, Brian, Amanda, and I arrived at the Hard Rock Cafe to get ready for the Dottys’ set to commence in the New England Music Awards Finals. We met up with Amanda’s friends Katie Phillips and Allie Miller in the main stage room. After listening to a few of the other runner up bands in the Finals, it was time for the Dottys to take the stage. We were very excited to see them perform and danced and sang along to their catchy soul, rock, and ska infused tunes. The band performed songs such as “Shaky House,” “Not to Call,” and a few other memorable songs. At around midnight, it was announced that the Dottys had won the Last Band Standing prize for bands in Massachusetts. I congratulated them on a job well done and made sure to spread the message to family and friends.

My 28th Birthday

23 Aug


This last week, I turned 28. It was an eventful week of fun activities and memorable moments. I got to hang out with various family members and friends during the course of the week. Most importantly, I viewed my birthday as another new chapter in my life.

On Friday, August 14th, I attended the Bruce Hornsby concert at Boarding Housing Park in Lowell with my cousin Kaylene and her boyfriend Kent Taylor. Like me, Kent and Kaylene are both avid Bruce Hornsby fans and naturally, I accepted their invitation to the concert back in April. Kent and I were just a few feet from the legend himself. Bruce played an amazing combination of both his newer songs and classic hits such as “The Way It Is,” “Mandolin Rain,” and “The Valley Road.” He also had a great backing band to create the wonderful combination of musical versatility. Bruce himself is very adept at playing instruments, including the piano (his primary instrument) and the Appalachian  folk dulcimer. Hornsby also told amusing anecdotes about his personal life, including the fact that his son Russell doesn’t really like the school aspect of life. This inspired Hornsby to write a song about his son’s encounters in school. We all had a wonderful time at the concert and it was an experience I’ll never forget. On the way home from the concert, I introduced Kaylene and Kent to the music of The Lone Bellow, an alternative country/folk/roots rock band. I hope to see The Lone Bellow in concert someday.


The next day, I had a birthday party at my summer home in Marshfield. I got to see many friends and family, including my brother Brian, Brian’s girlfriend Amanda Smith, cousins Matt, Luke, Pat, and Henry, Aunt Noreen and Uncle Chuck, Brian’s friend Rich Kei, and Rich’s girlfriend Meg Mahoney. I also got to meet a new female companion of Matt’s named Danielle, whom Matt met through week. She is a very nice person and got along really well with me and my relatives and friends. The beach weather was nice that day and it is always fun to socialize with company at the beach. The food  for my birthday consisted of chicken parm calzones, hamburgers, Chinese and chicken sausages, and a chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. My birthday gifts consisted of items such as Ray-Ban sunglasses from Brian and Amanda, Shipyard Pumpkinhead beer and Nordstorm gift certificates from Matt and Danielle, Vineyard Vines clothes and a picture frame of me and Ollie, Meg’s white golden retriever, and birthday cards from Noreen, Aunt Kathy and Nana, and Uncles Larry and Kevin.


Sunday morning was an interesting birthday week day for me. I got to see my cousins Luke, Chuck, and Henry, the three sons of Noreen and Chuck. That morning, I got to meet Chuck and his girlfriend Alice’s black Pomeranian, Gumshi. Gumshi means “black” in Korean. He is a very friendly dog and pretty easy to handle. Gumshi is not much of a barker and seems to like being held by me. I love meeting new dogs and I do hope to get a dog that is similar in temperament and size to Gumshi.


Finally, my actual birthday arrived on Tuesday, August 18. I reached my 28th year in my life. I received plenty of well wishes on Facebook, in email, and in texts. My favorite birthday post on my Facebook wall came from a photo that Amanda posted of her golden retriever, Summer wishing me a happy birthday with a sign that was placed onto her front body. I went out to eat at Assaggio in the North End with my family. I had a great chicken parm dinner with salad on the side and white wine as my drink of my choice. My parents also got to visit Brian’s new apartment in the North End on Commercial Street and got to visit the rooftop of the apartment as well. The night concluded with my family singing “Happy Birthday” to me and I had a delicious birthday cake dessert of a chocolate mint cake from Lakota Bakery in Arlington. In my 28th year, I do look forward to gaining even more new friends and hope to pursue more career activities and opportunities.

Doggy Adventures poem

30 Jul

Doggy Adventures

Jumping up and down to greet you
Wagging tails and running out to play
Playing fetch and tug of war
Devouring little pieces and big bones

Taking walks across the neighborhood
Meeting new friends of diverse breeds and sizes
Going for an afternoon swim in the pool or at the beach
Getting sad when guests have to leave

Good at standing still and sitting down
Discovering new places and smells
Drooling at the sight of food
Barking at people when they pass on through

Bringing joy to owners and friends
Having fans of various ages
Sticking heads out of car windows and doors
Anticipating life’s next stages

My July 4th Weekend in Marshfield

7 Jul


This past weekend, I headed down to my beach house to Marshfield for the 4th of July weekend. I got to see many of my cousins and aunts and uncles, as well some friends of mine. The fireworks were very spectacular and a joy to see on this eventful weekend. I also had the opportunity to try new activities during the weekend.

I headed down to Marshfield on the morning of Friday, July 3rd with my parents. At a little after 10 AM, I arrived at my cottage and was greeted by Brian and his girlfriend Amanda. My cousin Chris, who is a Marine at Camp Pendleton in San Diego, happened to be around for the weekend. An hour or two later, Keith entered the house with his girlfriend Malorie. The guests at the cottage was then completed when Brian brought down his two rooomates Rich Kei and Mark Aldo for the weekend.

The weather was nice that morning and we all headed to Fieldston Beach just up the street from my house. During the day, I got to meet my cousin Liz’s boyfriend from Yale Medical School, Nate. I discovered that Nate enjoys hobbies like lumberjacking and hiking and was pleased to know that he also enjoys the same type of music and artists that I listen to, such as The Beatles and Bob Dylan. I even got to play the frisbee esque game of Kanjam, which Keith had purchased online and wanted to use as a fun game to play on the beach and in the backyard of Nana’s cottage. For supper, I had nice meals of foods like chicken parm, eggplant parm, salad, and lasagna.

A few hours later, the big moment would happen on the beach. Many fireworks were bursting from left to right all over the beach and let off some incredibly loud sounds and majestic colors. I first observed the fireworks with Brian, Amanda, Rich, and Mark from the backyard of Nana’s house before heading to the sea wall to catch an even better glimpse of the fireworks. Watching the fireworks on the sea wall is always a truly breathtaking experience and this year was certainly no exception. I always hoping that the fireworks celebrations would never end and hoped that the night lasted longer. I concluded the night by stopping by my friend Nate Baynes’ house in the same neighborhood for some post fireworks  festivities.

The next day was another incredible day of the weekend. Even more relatives of mine would stop by at Nana’s cottage for the day. My aunt, Sheila Carney, brought down her chocolate lab mix dog Dublin to Nana’s house. Amanda’s parents, Lisa and Jim Smith, also came down to Marshfield for the day with their three year old female golden retriever, Summer. Summer and Dublin got to visit both my house and Nana’s house on Saturday. Summer was very playful and always enjoys the company of me, my brothers, and my relatives. Dublin is a shyer dog in temperant, but I was also very delighted to see her and even got to play with her a few times during the day. I had a very nice supper of steak with salad with a dessert meal of vanilla cake from the nearby Sweetcakes shop in Marshfield. After the guests had left for the evening, I concluded my weekend by listening to Ray Charles’ rendition of “America the Beautiful” and Hall and Oates’ cover of “Hot Fun in the Summmetime” on YouTube. July 4th is one of my favorite weekends of the year and is a wonderful time to get together with friends and extended family members.

My Trip to Ireland

3 May


During the week of April 18th, I traveled with my family to Ireland. I got to visit such places as Cliffs of Moher, Cork, The Blarney Stone, Ashford Castle, Kilkenny Castle, and Bunratty Castle. I also tried some of the pubs in the country and tasted different beers, such as Guinness, Bulmer’s Cider, and Smithwicks. Most importantly, I found the people in the Republic to be very friendly and accommodating.

I left Boston on the evening of April 18th and landed at Shannon Airport on the morning of the 19th. We stayed in the town of Adare for our first day in Ireland. That afternoon, we visited the nearby Cliffs of Moher on the coast. I first went inside the nearby museum, which gives a history of the Cliffs were formed and mentiones the fauna that exists in the region, including puffins, various fish, and seagulls. The Cliffs themselves were very breathtaking and reminded me of a peace of Heaven on Earth. I could see a small region of the Aran Islands from the view of the Cliffs on this bright and sunny day. We concluded the day by going to a pub called Pat Collins Pub, where I had a nice and warm Guinness with my meal.

The next two days, we went to Cork, further east in the Republic. We stayed at the luxurious River Lee Hotel in downtown Cork. On Monday, we checked out much of downtown Cork and the shopping centers, where I bought Ireland themed clothing to add to my collection. Later that night, my brothers Brian and Keith, Brian’s girlfriend Amanda and I went to check out Oliver Plunkett’s Pub in the city, where we saw a folk singer do a hilarious Irish themed rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” and other songs.

On Tuesday, we visited the Blarney Castle, just outside of Cork. We entered the castle, which was built in the 13th Century. We all walked up the flight of the stairs with the help of the railing to see the Blarney Stone. I didn’t kiss the Stone, which I was told by others has been urinated on by visitors in the past. In order to kiss the stone, one has to bend over and hold onto a railing to get a kiss of this legendary site. After leaving the castle, we then took a look at the nearby gardens and rock formations, including Druid’s Castle, Witch’s Cave, the Wishing Steps, and the Poison Garden, which contains various poisonous plants. Next, we all to went to the local gift shop to buy more Irish souvenirs and had lunch at Muskerry Arms.

We left Cork the next morning to go to Kilkenny. Much of the day in Kilkenny was spent visiting the Kilkenny Castle. I got to learn about the history of the castle during the visit. The castle opened in 1213 and was owned by the Butler Dynasty for centuries. I also realized that there was a fourth wall to the castle as well, but it was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell and his forces in the 17th Century. We finished off the night by enjoying a good dinner at Kyteler’s Inn, which was highlighted by Irish folk music.

The next day, we headed off to Ashford Castle on the County Galway-County Mayo border. The castle itself was very majestic and saw a great view of the lake called Lough Corrib and the beautiful fountain on the grounds. We a took a walk around the castle and got to see beautiful gardens with pretty flowers and also saw a tennis court and some locations that was used for the movie “The Quiet Man.” We had a nice lunch of sandwiches and scones served with tea after the long walk and had a great supper at the restaurant in the basement called Cullen’s, which is modeled after a medieval dungeon. It’s no wonder why Pierce Brosnan decided to have his wedding at this luxurious castle.

Friday, the 24th, was the final eventful day of the trip. That day, we stayed at a hotel near Bunratty Castle. The highlight of the day was participating in a medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle. To accurately reflect the feel of medieval Ireland, guests eat their food by hands and a dagger knife and drink mead and wine with the food. The foods consisted of ribs, potatoes, chicken and vegetables, and dessert. It was great to see the actors reenact the history of the castle and sing various important Irish songs during the banquet. One of the actors frequently stopped by our table and I realized that when he is not acting, he is an accountant, which delighted Brian, who is a certified public accountant. My family and I also bumped into my Aunt Sheila’s friend Kathy Pernock with her husband, Chris and her siblings during the visit to Bunratty Castle. The Ireland trip was a great adventure. I wish I could have visited Dublin, Dingle, the Ring of Kerry, the Aran Islands and Galway, but time was limited and had to leave for the States the next morning.

My speeches for Autism Awareness Day

4 Apr

Another State House photo

On Thursday, I did speeches to commemorate Autism Awareness Day. The first speech was at the State House on Thursday morning. I was there to comment on housing and transportation for people with autism, as well as read two of my poems. Later on in the day, I performed a speech at UMass Lowell for their annual “Disable the Label” event. For that event, I recited the same two poems that I shared earlier in the day.

I began the day of April 2 at the State House in Boston. I was there as one of the primary speakers for Autism Awareness and Acceptance Day, which focused on the theme of “Housing Options for Individuals with Autism.” The other speakers that day were Governor Charlie Baker, Deborah Flaschen (founder and president of 3LPlace, a residential home for people with developmental disabilities), Nat Batchelder, a young man with fairly severe autism and son of Brookline autism activist Susan Senator, and Senator Harriette Chandler, who accepted an award on behalf of Senate Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg, who was unable to attend the ceremony. The emcee of the event was Randy Price, an anchorman with WCVB 5 and veteran of the Boston journalism business.

I gave my speech at around 10:45 AM. I came on after Nat Batchelder, who is 25 years old and has fairly severe autism and gave his speech about housing with the help of his caregiver, John Excellent. I was introduced by Randy Price, who mentioned that I had graduated from college and have interests in dogs, music, reading, poetry, and several other areas. During my speech, I talked about how there is a lack of accessible transportation near my home in Billerica and that it makes difficult to see friends of mine. I also mentioned about the unsuccessful processes of submitting applications for the MBTA Ride program, the Lowell Transit Authority system, and the reduced fare program for the MBTA Charlie Card. Having the right transportation methods can be extremely beneficial for future employment opportunities and to gain more social connections.

I then began to comment on my current housing situation as a young adult with high-functioning autism. I reflected on how living with my parents during my lifetime has helped master many of the household chores that I do at home and how these skills could be very useful for when I do live independently someday with a friend. I admitted that I do not have as many social connections as I would like to have, but am continuing to work with my AANE LifeMap Coach Orlando Torres to help get more social connections and continue to look for more job opportunities in the area. I have tried to find the appropriate social group for me, but while many of the social groups that I have joined have been useful to me, I have been unable to determine which social group will be most beneficial in the long run. I concluded the event by reciting two of my poems, which were “Acceptance of Autism” and “Spring Awakening.” I told the audience that my poems have received positive reception from local Boston media personalities and several musicians.

I ended the day by giving another talk about Autism Acceptance Day at UMass Lowell called “Disable the Label”. I had been invited to be a speaker for this event by Professor Ashleigh Hillier, who teaches courses on autism and has been a friend of mine for 8 years. When I gave my speech, I was introduced by Dr. Hillier’s colleague, Professor Jody Goldstein, who I had communicated via email before the event and had met before the speeches of the event had started. My speech consisted of the two poems that I discussed at the State House event, “Acceptance of Autism” and “Spring Awakening.” The event ended with the UMass Lowell Choir singing the theme song for Autism Awareness Day named “Light It Up Blue,” as the building across us had lit up their facility with the color blue to symbolize Autism Awareness and Acceptance. It was a wonderful close for the day that celebrates the achievements of autistic people.

Spring Awakening poem

25 Feb

Here’s my new poem about the spring. It will help take your mind off the brutally cold weather.

Spring Awakening

Flowers blossoming, snow melting
It is time of the year of new beginnings
To forget our winter woes
And transition into spring clothes

Getting ready for daylights savings and Easter
March Madness and baseball as TV features
More birthday celebrations and weddings
Roasted chicken with asparagus and coffee cake as selections

Organizing ideas for spring and summer gardening
Planting new seeds and hoping for a bright and colorful morning
Smelling the first hint of green grass
And remembering the sweet scents of the springs of the past

Minds shifting to the seashore and the tides
Remember the rhythmic motion of the sea
Feeling the calm of watching the ocean waves
And hoping that’s where I’ll be


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