Erika and John are a married couple who live in Minneapolis, MN and speak out about autism spectrum disorders. They have spoken at various colleges and universities, as well as public and private schools. In May 2005 they were featured speakers at the Annual Autism Society of Minnesota Conference.
Erika has lived in Minneapolis, MN since her birth in 1981. She graduated from Augsburg College in 2004 with majors in German and Spanish and a minor in arts. She has also studied abroad in Germany, Austria, Mexico and Spain, among other countries.
She was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and Tourette’s Syndrome at the age of 11. Her interests include language and the ways that studying the written and spoken word can help deal with some of the obstacles related to autism spectrum disorders.
She has written a book about her life entitled Born on the Wrong Planet. As the book title suggests, Erika also likes to discuss the feeling of being a creature from another planet trapped in a human body – not born with the instincts for human social interaction and having to study humans like a foreign culture before being able to fit in.
For more information about Erika, go to ErikaHammerschmidt.com.
John was born in Hawaii in 1982 and moved to Minnesota when he was 9 years old. He studied for 2 years each at Cornel College and Augsburg College. His studies included physics, biology, computer science, philosophy and psychology.
Before John’s diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of 24, he was misdiagnosed multiple times. Specialists were unable to predict his performance and often found him not to fit their diagnosis. Tests showed that he was both disabled and very intelligent.
John has experienced being an anomaly in most people’s view of the world. He consistently breaks generalizations that society places on the human mind. He enjoys showing others his unique perspective of the world through photography, graphic arts, speaking, humor and writing. John also enjoys working with parrots and frequently finds parallels between them and people with autism.
For more information about John, go to YayInABox.com.
They prefer a question and answer format for their speeches because it allows them to present the aspects of autism that concern the audience. This format allows the audience to learn about autism in a way that is both interactive and informative.
Speeches start with an introduction from Erika and John while note cards are passed out for the audience to write their questions on. After introductions, note cards are handed in and they answer the questions.
They Speak About:
Their childhood and education
Obstacles they faced
Conflicts they had with others
What helped them and what didn’t
What it feels like to be on the autism spectrum
Savant skills and specific interests
Social challenges and trying to fit in
Their art and the effect it has had on their lives
Erika’s writing, painting, drawing and photomontage
John’s photography, graphic design, abstract drawing and writing
Their insights on the science of autism
Theory of mind
The IQ test
The autism spectrum and where it shades into the neurotypical spectrum
How they met
Challenges they faced in beginning a romance
How their autism spectrum disorders help them relate to each other
They live in Minneapolis, MN, but are willing to travel.
Their typical speakers’ fee is $200 for a speech in the Twin Cities. Email for more information about pricing and availability:
humanalien at gmail dot com