Autism is a trait

6 Oct

Tyrin RencherDriving yesterday evening, I passed a bus stop with a United Way advertisement with the slogan, “Autism is a trait, not a debilitation.” Obviously, when I made my way back online, I tried to find out a bit more about this United Way Campaign.

Through Google, I found a link to the campaign on the United Way website. Unfortunately, when I tried the link I received a 404 error. Hopefully it comes back up soon.

There was also a link to a story in the Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat about the spokesman of the campaign, Tyrin Rencher (pictured at right).

He is on posters, pamphlets and television screens all around the St. Louis region as one of the many faces of the United Way fundraising campaign this season.

Most people probably recognize Tyrin Rencher as the smiling young man in a red apron standing in the kitchen at Pasta Fare in Fairview Heights beneath the slogan: “Autism is a trait, not a debilitation.”

Rencher, 27, of East St. Louis, has autism. He was diagnosed with autism at 2 1/2 years old and was enrolled in the Illinois Center for Autism in Fairview Heights when he was 3. He still receives services through the organization and was selected as a spokesman for the United Way campaign this year and as a spokesman for the Illinois Center for Autism.

The article also gives a bit of bit of Tyrin’s history and what he’s up to today (besides being a “celebrity”):

He is currently a junior at the University of Missouri St. Louis, where he is working toward a degree in business administration.

When talking to Rencher, a person quickly learns that he’s a man determined to fulfill his dreams, in spite of the autism, and he is an example of the slogan over his head on the United Way posters.

“A lot of the stuff I planned is coming true and I’m speechless that it is all happening,” he said. “I want to open up a restaurant with my degree. Something small, like (Pasta Fare.)”

He is thankful the Illinois Center of Autism was around when he was diagnosed when he was a toddler.

“Without them, I would be lost,” he said. “I really wouldn’t be in a position to go to college right now.”

He is learning to live on his own for the first time, something that he sometimes finds difficult.

“But I’m learning, it’s tough, but I’m trying to adjust to living on my own,” Rencher said. “One of the things my family has taught me is perseverance, and I do that every day.”

I love to see “good news” stories about autism, and this is one of the “goodest” I’ve seen in a while: it shows an autistic adult making his way in the world, it shows that an autistic person’s dreams and life aspirations are just like the rest of ours, and it shows an organization dedicated to helping people make their way in the world AS THEY ARE instead of trying to fundamentally change them.

18 Responses to “Autism is a trait”

  1. VAB October 6, 2007 at 23:43 #

    That’s amazing. A mainstream organization like the United Way gets it right. That is so enormously encouraging.

  2. Christschool October 7, 2007 at 00:17 #

    If anyone is able to find the link to the United Way Campaign with the slogan mentioned, please contact me as I would love to make a video of this. I tried the wayback machine with the broken link but that didn’t work.

  3. Ms. Clark October 7, 2007 at 00:52 #

    Christschool, I don’t know if this was what you had in mind.

  4. Club 166 October 7, 2007 at 00:53 #

    Ha! I almost blogged about this myself when I saw it. It is indeed a good thing, and I’m going to drop the local United Way a note with my donation this year.

    I had to read it twice over, I was so surprised. An autistic adult going to college and getting real world training and experience. What’s not to like about that?

    The only link that I found about this on the United Way site was here. I’ve seen the video that goes with this story once on TV, but couldn’t find the video on their site.


  5. Club 166 October 7, 2007 at 00:55 #

    Ah! While I was cutting and pasting (incorrectly) Camille posted the link that I was going to.


  6. Club 166 October 7, 2007 at 01:24 #

    Found it! Here’s the video that I saw:

  7. Ms. Clark October 7, 2007 at 02:12 #

    Thanks, Club 166!

  8. suzanne October 7, 2007 at 03:19 #

    Thanks for sharing this.

  9. Kristina October 7, 2007 at 05:20 #

    Hope to read more stories like this and not to feel surprised!

  10. Luai_lashire October 7, 2007 at 14:08 #

    I don’t mean to belittle the united way campaign or the article, both of which are very good- but I really, really wish they hadn’t said “in spite of his autism”. It’s the only part of the article that I don’t like, which, compared to the rest of the media, is amazing. Like the other people here, I sincerely hope that this keeps going on and that we see more of this kind of thing! 🙂

  11. Joseph October 7, 2007 at 14:44 #

    Hopefully things like “in spite of his autism” will get phased out eventually. It’s really no different to saying “in spite of being black” or something of the sort.

  12. Gonzo October 7, 2007 at 17:32 #

    Good point, Joseph.

  13. cz October 7, 2007 at 19:46 #

    If the United Way site is down:

    You can also see the video on You Tube:

    Tyrin is the second story in the video.

  14. VAB October 7, 2007 at 20:59 #

    In the spirit of letting people know when they are doing something I appreciate, I wrote to the media coordinator and thanked her. She wrote right back. Here is our email conversation.

    To: Carrie Zukoski
    Subject: Autism is a trait – not a debilitation


    As a father of a child with autism, I would just like to say how much I
    appreciate your publicity, featured here:

    which I heard about here:

    These days, it is increasingly common to hear autism described as a horror when, in fact, it is as your publicity says, a trait and, in many respects, a very fine one. People need to understand that. Thank you for getting the message out.

    Thank you so much for your note. That really means a lot to us. And Tyrin is a great guy – it’s been fun to work with him through this!

    I appreciate you sharing the link to the blog too. I will definitely share this with my co-workers.


  15. Elissa October 8, 2007 at 11:03 #

    We definitely need more good news stories!!!

  16. Kate Kromann October 8, 2007 at 12:32 #

    Good morning! Thanks for mentioning Tyrin’s article here. Unfortunately, you seem to have caught us during our Web site upgrade this past weekend! Tyrin’s story is indeed online, at this address now:

    The video is on YouTube, linked on CZ’s post above, and to watch it from our Web site, click the Harley photo on the left side of the page.

    I think your point about “in spite of his autism” is a great one, Luai. We certainly made an effort in our stories not include phrases like that. But of course, we can’t control what they print in the media 🙂

    Thanks for blogging about this! Do you mind if we link to your site?

    Kate Kromann
    E-Communications Director
    United Way of Greater St. Louis

  17. Brett October 9, 2007 at 13:38 #


    Please feel free to link to my post about Tyrin.

    While I can’t really speak for the site as a whole, I don’t think there would be any objection from the Left Brain / Right Brain team if you linked to the site from the United Way’s site.


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