Natalie Breen, 22, is an autism advocate who graduated from Suffolk University and currently works at HubSpot in Cambridge. Natalie recently launched her own website to document her experience with autism and as a place to aggregate career resources for young adults on the spectrum. In her spare time, Natalie can be found at the park with her Frenchie, Louie. You can tweet Natalie anytime at @Naturdayy or @AutismWorksBos!
Kerry: Hey Natalie! Can you please tell us a bit more about why being an autism advocate is important to you?
Natalie: Being an advocate is extremely important to me because of my younger brother, Pat, who is on the autism spectrum. There were instances where my brother needed a voice and I had to step up to be that voice. As his older sister, I always felt a responsibility to look out for him and that has transcended to a responsibility to stand up for anyone who may need extra support – anytime, anywhere. I believe at the heart of being an advocate is the desire to educate others and lead by example. Education is the key to displacing ignorance and stereotypes.
What are you currently up to today in the community?
I have been involved in the autism community for many years but only recently have I honed in on what really drives my passion and that’s building a support system for siblings, educating others through my stories both through blogs and in person, and building out resources for employment. Job placement is my priority right now because there is a community of incredibly talented, intelligent kids who cannot find jobs that fit their skill sets.
Your blog “A Letter on ‘What It’s Like to Have a Sibling with Autism’ became a viral sensation in our community reaching tens of thousands of readers! How has the response been since that blog came out?
To be honest, I was sick to my stomach when it was posted – it was a raw and honest look at my personal experience but the response was overwhelmingly positive. I received countless comments, messages, and emails and not a single one was angry. It sparked a lot of conversations and helped me feel more connected. It also made me more confident in speaking openly about my experiences and has led me to many incredible individuals. I would push anyone who thinks they have a story to share to do it! It’s therapeutic, exciting, scary… It’s an amazing experience to open yourself up.
What would you share from your experience to the siblings out there who may have a brother and/or sister on the autism spectrum?
It is a blessing in disguise. Feel your feelings. It’s okay. There are really so many things I could say… At the end of the day, you will have struggles but everyone has struggles. I think once you come to peace with it you can then move forward. Understand that things may be difficult but make the best use of it. Sometimes you will feel angry and that is totally fine, but don’t let it get the best of you.
What’s one of your hopes for your brother and the autism community in the future?
My hope for my brother is that he feels loved and accepted. I want him to live a fulfilling life shared with people who love him. I want him to love himself and know how much people love him. I hope that holds true for everyone. I just want people to treat everyone as a friend, regardless of differences.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Individually you can make a difference, but together can make real, groundbreaking change. I hope we continue to strive and support each other. And I would like to leave it by saying if anyone ever wants to talk or has question, I am here.
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