Every autistic person thriving today has people in their corner who support, love, and help them unconditionally no matter how their autism manifests. We often have people who enter our lives and make us feel that this is what we were waiting for. I’m not big on fate. But I do believe that the universe sends signs, and for me the universe led me to two people who are now dear friends and confidants: my Public Speaking coaches Keith and Rebecca Scott of TALLsmall Productions.

Keith and Rebecca, source: Facebook

We first met on Shapr, a networking app marketed as the “tinder for business relationships.” I can say with 100% certainty that this friendship has been the greatest gift the app could have given me. I first reached out to Keith–after we both thankfully swiped right–because speech therapy was not working at the time. A few months prior, a stint on Singulair brought out the worst sides of my anxiety. For those of you prone to the worst side effects of medication, please be aware that Singulair now has a blackbox warning to cause psychotic like side effects including but not limited to depression, psychosis and suicidal ideation to name a few. I got all of those and then some, but what hurt the most was my childhood stutter coming back after I’d successfully beaten it.

They say that the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Speech therapy wasn’t cutting it and I felt defeated. If I had to live with the stutter, I wanted to work with someone to become undeniable, unstoppable, a force. With Keith and Rebecca, I found the people who could help me reach those heights. With them, I learned that my autism (merely suspected at the time, and not diagnosed for another two years) was my strength. It was a secret weapon I could carry with me throughout my life.

Here’s how Keith and Rebecca helped me thrive.

Use of Filler Words

They trained me to use less filler words. I found that I often used filler words as a crutch out of fear of stuttering. With them, I learned to use these words less. Most people are not like your childhood bullies, even customers calling customer service when they’d rather be doing literally anything else. Most people understand and will be patient, and my use of filler words helped no one. Over time, I learned to use these words less, and as my communication improved I noticed a direct correlation with my accuracy.

Overall Confidence

As I worked with Keith and Rebecca, they pointed out that my authenticity and vulnerability were my strengths. To them, this is what made me stand out as I began my journey with Custom Ink. I allowed myself to be vulnerable and acknowledged all of my flaws from the start. I refused to let my stutter be the elephant in the room with call coaching, and worked with my managers to improve. When I met with Keith and Rebecca, we role-played customer interactions. When I started seeing speech therapy students through University of Loyola’s Grad School Clinic, we did the same. Gradually, I got more and more confident.

If Keith and Rebecca taught me anything, it’s that I need to set higher goals.

When I first started on the phones I set a modest goal for myself to do $500K in sales. I hit $500K by Halloween, and by December 31st I’d done a total of $916K in sales, nearly doubling the modest (but still impressive) goal I’d set for myself 12 months ago.

Within two years of seeing Keith and Rebecca, I went from being a part-time store rep to seasonal full-time, and then full-time with benefits. Finally, earlier this year, I joined Custom Ink’s Key Account Team. I’ve wanted to be on the Key Accounts Team ever since I started working here. I made a pact with fiance that if I ever joined the Key Accounts team, he had to get me a cat so that I could have “KAT” coworkers at home. I love cats, and it ended up being the purrfect motivator for me.

Life begins outside of your comfort zone.

Keith and Rebecca live outside of their comfort zone, and for me to thrive, I needed to do the same. This is why I am pursuing leadership opportunities at work, it’s why I’m speaking truth to power about my experiences on the autism spectrum and it’s why I am carving a path for neurodiverse people at my work. I truly love who I am becoming as I go further on this journey. Right now, I can say with 100% certainty that I am my best friend. Getting to this realization has not been without its challenges, and I owe a debt of gratitude to the friends who helped me along the way.

Thank you Keith and Rebecca!

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