Meet Kaelynn Partlow! As a woman living with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia, Kaelynn is lighting up the world with massive awareness and advocacy for life on the spectrum and learning disabilities.
Kaelynn is a Registered Behavior Technician with Project Hope Foundation, where she works with autistic individuals teaching communication, social, and self-advocacy skills. She also starred in the Netflix series, Love On The Spectrum U.S., where she tried out speed dating.
Her Facebook page, Kaelynn’s Autistic Angle, serves as an informational community for over fifty thousand parents, professionals, and autistic people. In addition, Kaelynn’s TikTok account has amassed over two hundred thousand followers.
Jennifer Norman had the privilege of interviewing Kaelynn for The Human Beauty Movement’s Role Models Podcast to discuss her life pre-diagnosis, what people commonly get wrong about autism, and her experience on Love on the Spectrum U.S.
Read on to learn more about the fidgets Kaelynn uses, how she dismantles the viewpoint on “easy autism,” and the tools and resources that she, alongside Project Hope, provides to children with autism to ensure they thrive.
Pictured: Kaelynn Partlow Source: LinkedIn
Jennifer: Tell us about your origin story!
Kaelynn: I was about 10 years old when I was diagnosed with autism. I think my mom knew that something was, in her words, “a little off about me” when I was very young. But being that I was born in Vermont, a lot of doctors didn’t really consider that I was autistic, especially since it was the 90s.
Interestingly enough, instead of having a speech delay, I actually spoke early, which is sometimes seen in kids with autism, but it’s not a super well-known thing. This is another reason why the doctors didn’t diagnose me with autism until I was much older.
Jennifer: What signs did your parents see that made them want to take you to a specialist?
Kaelynn: I think there were a few things they saw that made them decide to take me to a specialist. For example, I had an extreme sensitivity to loud noises. I also remember lining up my toys as a child in order to play in a very specific way.
Not to mention the fact that I adored The Lion King. So, you know, most children have interests in different things, but mine really took over my life; basically, I ate, slept, and breathed The Lion King.
Pictured: Kaelynn Partlow Source: LinkedIn
Jennifer: You are a proud advocate for the fact that getting a diagnosis is a luxury that many people do not have access to. What steps do you think can be taken to help the world become an environment where getting diagnosed is much more accessible?
Kaelynn: I think it really starts with awareness. In places like the United States, we’re very lucky to have several awareness campaigns and infinite access to the internet, but there are a lot of places in the world that don’t have those tools or resources yet.
Jennifer: On TikTok, you’ve posted videos about how you carry fidgets with you religiously. What other products, gadgets, and/or services make living with your conditions easier?
Kaelynn: Oh, absolutely! I adore my headphones, earplugs, and my sensory swing. I also have small plastic drawers to organize my snacks, so I always know where everything is. This makes it so that I’m not confused or distracted when I’m in the kitchen looking for something to snack on. I love knowing what to expect.
In addition, I’ve been using cell phone holders because I have dysgraphia, which makes my hands weak. Believe it or not, the iPhone 12 is actually really heavy. For my ADHD, I go to the gym a lot because there is a ton of research that ties exercise to ADHD treatment. I also do dog training classes, which helps keep me accountable.
Jennifer: Are there any other things people usually get wrong about autism that you’d like to address?
Kaelynn: Empathy is one big misconception. People believe that autistic individuals don’t feel the full range of human emotions or don’t experience empathy, which is untrue. It is true that we might have deficits in perspective-taking, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t understand or feel emotions.
Another misconception is the idea that all autistic people have a gifted ability. It’s often believed that those born with autism will have a super high IQ or be mathematical savants. While this does happen, it’s not the majority. I’ve heard parents mention how their autistic child will have some cool gift, but in reality, this isn’t always the case.
Jennifer: You are now a therapist working with autistic children! Was this a career path you had always wanted to follow?
Kaelynn: Definitely not. If you had asked me before high school, I would have said I’m going to be a dog trainer, but if you asked me in elementary school, I would have said that I’m going to be a lion. With that being said, I’d never have imagined myself where I am today, but I’m honestly so blessed to be here.
In high school, I got an internship with Project Hope Foundation. While I was there receiving services, they gave me an opportunity to work in a preschool classroom for part of my day. I learned that I loved working with children. From there, I was able to focus on becoming a behavior technician.
Pictured: Kaelynn teaching for Project HOPE Source: FOX Carolina
Jennifer: On Facebook, you have a group known as “Kaelynn’s Autistic Angle,” which is an informational conduit for parents, professionals, and autistic individuals. Tell us a little more about it!
Kaelynn: I created the page to be a resource for all; it’s consistently being updated with a mix of factual information and personal perspectives from autistic people such as myself and many others. I wanted this group to be a place where both sides could be shared so everyone could be engaged.
Jennifer: We, along with the rest of the world, adored Love on the Spectrum U.S. How was your experience filming the show?
Kaelynn: It was great. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before because I had never been on a television show. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was honestly surprised when they showed up at my door; I knew they were coming, but some part of me didn’t believe it was real. It was such an amazing experience.
Pictured: Kaelynn Partlow on Love on the Spectrum U.S. Source: Blurred Reality
Jennifer: You’ve said that you gained thousands of followers overnight after the Love on the Spectrum U.S. premiere. How does it feel to have a platform that allows you to educate others on autism?
Kaelynn: It feels great. I am so thankful to have such a wide-reaching platform that really gives me a voice; it’s a privilege I don’t take lightly as many people aren’t given the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings with the world. Putting my unique perspective out there is – well – it’s just amazing.
Jennifer: Do you have any advice for people diagnosed with autism who may be struggling in any facet of their lives?
Kaelynn: My advice would be to seek out resources that support specific areas that you struggle with. But also remember to celebrate your strengths; we tend to thrive when we pursue our interests and passions.
Pictured: Kaelynn Partlow Source: Sensory Processing Disorder
Jennifer: I actually wrote a book, SuperCaptainBraveMan: A Spectrum of Love, where I broke down autism into colors. For example, violet was for those who loved poetry, while green represented individuals who felt at home in nature. Do you have any tips or tools that you use at Project Hope Foundation that help individuals identify with specific aspects of autism?
Kaelynn: I’ve disclosed my diagnosis with several of my clients as a means of connection, and I’ve found that they’re always so surprised. I like being able to share that information with them, though. I find that it helps many of my clients open up to me.
Currently, Project Hope Foundation is in the process of developing streamlined tools and resources for everyone to be able to access. Right now, we do this on a more personal level and basis, so the shift towards having more readily available resources is going to be great.
Pictured: Kaelynn Partlow giving a speech for Project HOPE Foundation Source: LinkedIn
Jennifer: Are there any pieces of advice that Project Hope offers to parents that help allow autistic individuals to shine and be themselves?
Kaelynn: We recommend teaching to people’s strengths, so if a person is interested in a specific area, we embrace that and run with it alongside them. Honestly, we work so hard to provide exposure to kids. So if they’re interested in theater, we’ll find them a theater. I firmly believe that if we’re pursuing and leaning into our passions, we’ll flourish.
Pictured: Kaelynn Partlow Source: The Mighty
To hear more of Kaelynn’s interview on the Role Models podcast, where she chats in depth about her lovely pets, the passions and interests she’s grown to love, and the interesting microphones that the crew of Love on the Spectrum U.S. used, click here.
Get Involved With Project Hope Foundation
Project Hope Foundation was founded in 1997 by two moms looking for services for their young sons with autism. The foundation’s mission is to provide lifelong autism services to all who need them. Project Hope Foundation’s therapy and adult services have been designated as one of United Way of the Piedmont’s programs of excellence.
To get involved with Project Hope Foundation, click here.
If you’d like the support of others who share your views on inclusivity, diversity, and acceptance, join The Human Beauty Movement community here.