What: Living with Autism and Breaking through Barriers
When: Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.
Where: CU campus, Hellems building, room 252
More info: benjaminbreakingbarriers.com/
L ike a lot of Boulder residents, high school junior Benjamin Tarasewicz has an exercise ball in his living room — although it’s not there to help him stay in shape.
Tarasewicz, 17, said he uses the red rubber ball as a soothing mechanism that assists with him having better control of his speech — a difficulty he often faces as a result of autism.
As he bounces on the medicine ball, Tarasewicz described how his life has been affected by his diagnosis: high-functioning autism.
“It helps with my craving for stimulation,” Tarasewicz said. “It’s just the way my brain’s wired. Everybody’s brains are wired a little differently.”
That’s the message Tarasewicz said he will share Tuesday at the University of Colorado when he presents “Living with Autism and Breaking through Barriers,” a 30-minute presentation that he said he hopes will help people better understand those with special needs.
Tarasewicz gave his first presentation in middle school after a teacher asked him to speak to his classmates about his “quirks.” After helping his peers understand his diagnosis better and watching others with special needs in the Boulder and Denver communities speak out about their experiences, Tarasewicz was inspired to continue his presentations.
Tarasewicz said he hopes to help educate audiences about several aspects of his life — including bullying, recognizing the symptoms and the positive effects of autism.
“I want to educate them and show off to other people what kids and people with special needs can do,” Tarasewicz said.
Greta Osgood, general officer for CU’s Psi Chi Psychology Club, said she’s hoping Tarasewicz will give the students a unique and personal perspective on autism.
“So far, I think the subject has only come up a couple times in classes but we haven’t really studied it much,” Osgood said. “I think this will hopefully help us understand autism in a way.”
Osgood said the presentation is free and open to the public, including free pizza for students with ID.
The presentation includes struggles that Tarasewicz must face on a daily basis, but also focuses on the successes of people with challenges like autism, he said.
Tarasewicz said he has perfect vocal pitch, so he sings in a choir and plays several musical instruments. He also considers himself a theater veteran and has a keen ear for sounds heard in nature.
At the end of every presentation, Tarasewicz shows off his Polynesian poi stick routine, but there’s one talent he brags about more often than others.
“I’m kind of a treasure chest of jokes,” Tarasewicz said. “Here’s an example: What has four wheels and flies? A garbage truck.”
Tarasewicz will be recognized later this month as a “Compassionate Youth of the Year” by the Autism Society of Colorado for his presentations. As excited as he is about the award, Tarasewicz said he is equally excited about the possibility of inspiring psychology students to work with special needs kids.