Disability Talks: Don't Dis My Ability

A Nuero-Diverse Model of Global Citizenship, Independence, and Resilience

December 11, 2020 Abilities in Motion Season 1 Episode 8
Disability Talks: Don't Dis My Ability
A Nuero-Diverse Model of Global Citizenship, Independence, and Resilience
Chapters
Disability Talks: Don't Dis My Ability
A Nuero-Diverse Model of Global Citizenship, Independence, and Resilience
Dec 11, 2020 Season 1 Episode 8
Abilities in Motion

In this episode, Shelly interviews David Sharif, a magna cum laude graduate of Pace University, global citizen, and autism advocate. His political science background and love of world travel have shaped his values and allowed him to develop relationships with friends across the globe. David talks about being featured in a claymation video by Autism Speaks and Robot Chicken, his involvement in model UN, and his book-in-progress. Learn how David carries messages from friends close to his heart and turns to three core philosophies for guidance in life.

For more information about Abilities in Motion, visit our website at https://www.abilitiesinmotion.org/ or follow us on social media.

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Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Shelly interviews David Sharif, a magna cum laude graduate of Pace University, global citizen, and autism advocate. His political science background and love of world travel have shaped his values and allowed him to develop relationships with friends across the globe. David talks about being featured in a claymation video by Autism Speaks and Robot Chicken, his involvement in model UN, and his book-in-progress. Learn how David carries messages from friends close to his heart and turns to three core philosophies for guidance in life.

For more information about Abilities in Motion, visit our website at https://www.abilitiesinmotion.org/ or follow us on social media.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AbilitiesinMotionPA
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/abilitiesinmotion/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSEXzEkE_CK5WYmOhMAN4Aw

Intro:

Welcome to Disability Talks, a podcast produced by Abilities in Motion. I'm your host, Shelly Houser. Join us for real conversations and no nonsense talk from everyday people with disabilities, living their most independent, everyday lives. Tune in for the latest news surrounding disability, accessibility, and independence, where conversations aren't dissed and stories that need to be told aren't missed. So let's talk!

Shelly:

Welcome back, listeners. I am your host, Shelly Houser . Our guest today is David Sharif, born in L.A. and lives currently in Queens, New York. David is a global citizen who is a Magna Cum Laude from Pace University. Welcome David, how are you this morning?

David:

I'm well, thank you for having me.

Shelly:

It's a pleasure to have you. I thought you were a very interesting guest when I did some research on you about a month ago. Can you tell me and your listeners a little bit more about you?

David:

Yes, so I currently, so like you said before, I currently live in , uh, Queens, New York. I am also working part-time for the Employment and Business Services department of a large nonprofit coaching neurodiverse adults. I'm apparently on my last week with it. So I'm likely going to be transitioning to another kind of live work, hopefully within the same company or a different one that might be a little more suitable for me.

Shelly:

The big thing we talked about earlier, before coming on the air was , uh , bullying. And I think that's going to be the topic of our conversation today. David, what does bullying mean to you and how have you worked through that in your life to become a stronger person, despite bullying?

David:

Bullying is one of the major problems that I have faced in school and something that I never loved at all. The majority of it happened in secondary school, when I ran into a group of twin brothers and some of their allies, where they bad mouthed my world travels, my inspirational attachments, finding a home away from home, and just anything that I loved in general and my own characteristics of how I succeed with anything that I do. I never liked it. I mean, I am and still am--I was a huge, diehard Kobe Bryant fan, alum of Lower Bearing High School in the suburbs of Philadelphia, which is where you are, a lover of Pixar movies , uh , New York city, all the places I've been to, um , pretty much other things like, you know, assuming that I only like movies that settle in New York, which is 100% incorrect. I've said this millions of times. I'm a big fan of the superhero movie, The Incredibles, which does not settle in New York. It settles in some kind of animated city that doesn't even exist in the real world, and , um, it's really one of the hard things. I'm also a big Harry Potter fan. I have memories of watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone every weekend when I was like four or five years old , uh , you know, watching the new ones that my brother got on DVD, when I was uncomfortable sitting in the big screen, I'd read the books except for the seventh, and I don't care how long it's been, I still love the Harry Potter series because I have also used movies to understand the lessons that I've learned from them and how I can use those lessons into my career as I move forward in anything. And comprehending movies has been a lot easier than, you know, reading stories that are not necessarily black and white because I am a visual learner. I visualize things and you know, it , it, wasn't fun to go through it. And even though it happened so long ago, it's just not one of the greatest moments I'll ever have, but I have been very grateful to have had amazing teachers, wonderful therapists, and also classmates who have given me a helping hand any time I fell through. And, and I couldn't be more grateful. My parents, my relatives, and then knowing where my social skills were going, I did find a place where everyone would be a part of my autism journey and I am very thrilled to be sharing a lot of that.

Shelly:

Yeah. I found you to be incredibly intelligent and so well-spoken, and a lot of fun to talk to. Do you find that maybe being on the spectrum, you're more sensitive and more in tune with things around you?

David:

Oh, I'm very comfortable around people who are not on the spectrum. Despite struggling to express myself, I have bonded with neuro-typical people and almost different every day activities or especially ones where I have connected with neuro-diverse, so it is kind of a combination of both. When I, when I was in a theater project for , uh , creative kids schooling , um, I was mainly one of the only males in the, only male performers, but there were definitely some other male performers in the same group. And I was apparently one of the only people on the spectrum. Aside from that, I played basketball at my recreational, at Marvista Recreation Center, very close to me. I was the only autistic player on the team and my teammates loved me. They always passed when I was open. So I could make those clutch threes and we've had good games. We've had hard games and, and that's been one of the biggest blessings. And then when I did youth bowling , it was not just bowling with some friends in school. I bowled with many people who are not on the spectrum and building friendships and those extracurricular activities, aside from education, will always be one of the biggest memories of my life. Every activity that I have done has taught me so many different lessons that will be valuable, and they have made me who I am today. So I really don't have , uh, any further complaints about what I've been through. And I just miss every coach that I came in contact with, and every teacher I came in contact with.

Shelly:

You told me at one point that there were three values that you followed, and I really thought they were wonderful, and I wanted you to share them now with our listeners. What are they, David?

David:

The values that I cherish the most are: don't use labels to limit yourself, don't let others define you, and love what you do. Those are the three values that I carry. I carry them from summer camp. I take them from summer camp, and I use them in every single kind of daily activity that I choose to do. And I even apply the same thing when I'm in employment or when, you know, employment is over. And then when I searched for another kind of vibe work that I believe I will have fun with.

Shelly:

How do you use what you've learned at camp in your everyday work in life? You've talked to me about loving letters that were written to you and how they're like affirmations.

David:

Well, they weren't necessarily letters. So towards the end of a summer camp, or like any session, my comrades and I wrote these little notes for each other on sheets of paper, we passed the covers around and then we, and then we all get the papers that have our names and who they are written from. So they're not necessarily mailed. They are given to us in person and we take them home with us. It's like trying to acknowledge or admire things we love about one another, and then I'd take them home with me sometimes on the way home on the bus or on the plane. I look at them very carefully, usually in a vehicle cause it's easy to lose them. So I keep them in my bedroom. And then anytime I felt like I had a rough day or I got teased for a poor reason, and you know, I didn't feel so good right before I had a snack and did homework. I looked at the notes that my camp friends wrote to me. I read them very carefully, and that was the wisdom I use to keep staying true to myself and keep going wherever I wanted to go. And that was the kind of wisdom I used to accomplish my dreams of where I wanted to be. And this is what I did. I took the negativity that struck my frame of mine, and that is how I used it to be where I am right now. Thank you for sharing that with that . We're going to take a short commercial break and we'll be right back with David Sharif.

AD:

Abilities in Motion is one of Pennsylvania's premiere centers for independent living, existing to educate support and promote individuals with disabilities. Our programs are focused on providing opportunities for individuals with disabilities to live independent self-determined lives. Abilities in Motion, advocates for local state and national laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities. We are proud to create innovative and sustainable solutions and set trends using multi focused approaches towards shaping national education, employment opportunities, in-home supports, and healthcare that affects the lives of individuals with disabilities. For more information about programs and services Abilities in Motion provides, call (610) 376-0010, or visit our website at www.abilitiesinmotion .org .

Shelly:

Welcome back, listeners. And today our guest is David Sharif . I am your host, Shelly Houser. David, you talked about you're working on a book project. Can you tell our listeners a little bit more about that?

David:

So, yes . So , um, two years following my college graduation, I started writing a book titled Finding the Bonds, which is about my journey with summer camp, where it actually started. I camped, I did two summers of camping in the West coast in the mountains, and then I found another one and then my mother found another one in the Poconos for me. And that was a new starting point where I would be traveling to camp on an airplane by myself, but then I am accompanied to the airport to meet with , um, my friends. And then I talk about my journey with camp, I'm kind of going into how I approached the provided ever-new opportunities, my trip to by one-month trip to the Holy Land, the leadership skills I developed, and then how becoming a staff member was a pivotal moment for me to explore the world of employment and how it has happened, and mainly overall my journey with it and all that my friends, my counselors, and the camp directors have done for me. Overall, it's just pretty much about my journey with camp, and there is a bit of Hebrew in it because it's kind of, uh, unavoidable. I did go to a summer camp, full of Jewish traditions. We have been very inclusive to people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds, regardless of religion or anything. And to have them be a part of our community and honor the Jewish traditions is a huge asset to our philosophies.

Shelly:

We look forward to that book when it comes out and I'll be sure to maybe read it and then have you back on as a guest so you can tell us more about it.

David:

Yeah.

Shelly:

Yeah, that'd be great. So you talked about the different places that you've been to all over the world , uh, earlier. What are some activities that reflect your activism work? Uh , I know you spoke at the model UN. Tell us more about that and other places around the world that you've been to and what you've done.

David:

So model United Nations is not beaches. It's more the debating and negotiation activity. Your institution is given one or two or three countries to represent, but you can choose the kind of UN agency that you think you'll do your best in, and that is a part of how you write your position paper that gets submitted to the staff members of the conference that you are attending, and then in preparation for it, you are learning how to draft a working paper, which is much different than writing a regular English paper. You are studying how documents are drafted in a certain language called the United Nations language. I have attended two conferences in New York City. The National Model United Nations Conference in New York City happens in the spring every year. It is meant to be the pinnacle conference in the United States of America. It is the biggest one of more than almost 4,000 delegates all over the world, and it's split into two separate conferences, conference A and conference B. Both of them were in conference A, and then when I did my, and then my last model United nations conference was in Rome, Italy. I applied to attend that conference and I was accepted by the political science department to go to that conference. And what can make model UN a little challenging is there's a lot of disagreement. There's a lot to be watchful for when disagreements happen. There's informal communication , uh , understanding of things. And, you know, sometimes hardships or hard feelings can happen, but we do our best to avoid it. But the biggest thing that we love about model United Nation is friendships. The friends you make, no matter what happens, and those friendships are valuable because you never know when you'll see those people again, and with limited time, you really want to use it very well, and that's part of that. Another great thing about model UN and I never put too much emphasis on it, even if it's wonderful, it's called Awards, where some delegates receive awards for their position paper, other institutions will receive a diplomacy award or some kind of honorable mention award. And I have been very fortunate to have been a part of the team that has accomplished those kinds of awards, when I got to take model UN three times as a political science major. And what I really loved about was it goes beyond the classroom. It's the friendships, and there are so many things other than just sitting in the classroom or taking an exam. It really teaches you so much when you're wanting to learn how to go out there. And it really teaches you how difficult it can be to, you know, make decisions globally, not just you personally, but for everyone out there. And as you practice these things, it will become easier for you. And if this is the kind of career you want to pursue, which is kind of what I am striving for right now, then I would definitely consider model UN over any other class that I've taken.

Shelly:

So you're really living your most independent life on your own term and very successful with your Poli-Sci Major. What countries have you visited and did you have a favorite one?

David:

That is a very tough question. So I have been to five out of the seven continents in the world, and I must say that my favorite country in the world is probably Spain because I do have some , uh, basic or elementary Spanish speaking, and I just love the architecture of Barcelona. I'm very fascinated by it and the majority of my worldwide expeditions has been in Europe, so that's ah, that's one of the big reasons. And then probably my second one is Israel because I traveled to Israel for a month with summer camp. Judaism is my religion. I do speak a bit of Hebrew, but I'm not fluent in it. And I actually do have a lot of friends over there in Israel who I have bonded with and to just, you know, possibly see them again, would be great. And with going to summer camp, that is one of the big things that has helped me make friends from all over the world, and without having friends from all over the world, I would really be living a miserable, unnecessary life right now, and I am writing that specifically into my book, how I immersed myself when I walked into the gates of Camp Havaya in the Poconos.

Shelly:

It seems like for you having a broad, diverse set of friends and colleagues near and far has really broadened your mind and your perception and appreciation for, for others and just the world in general, is that correct?

David:

Yeah, it's phrased in a very accurate way. And this is, you know, the kind of life that I'm living. I am very lucky to have grown up in a family that holds a huge craving for global citizenship, where I have traveled at least two or three times a year, mainly during summer vacation or winter break when I was out of school or if there was more time to travel anywhere. But the majority of it was during the longer breaks , which is the summer and the winter. And then eventually as I got older, I was ready to travel by myself. And I started doing that when I was 13 years old. And from that moment, it has been great ever since, a little bit stressful, but managing, but navigating my way with everything else, I have a very good geographical mindset where I can not only read signs in an airport or a Metro system, I can use my mentality to remember the certain neighborhoods that I have walked through before, and then as they become familiar, I know how to get back to another location without a map in front of my face.

Shelly:

Well, you do better than I do then. So, very good. Thank you for sharing that. So my last question is how can people on social media find you, follow you, and learn more about you?

David:

You can follow, you can read my blogs and you can learn more about me on my autism advocacy website. I'm going to read it out loud. My autism advocacy website is davidsharifautismadvocate.wordpress.com. There are no spaces in between the URL itself. Every single letter is lowercased. And you can also follow my global awareness blog page, which is pretty much exactly the same, just a different title davidsharifglobalawareness.wordpress.com, no spaces in between any of them. You can find me on LinkedIn, full name, David Sharif . You can do the same thing on Facebook, and then on Instagram is David, underline at the bottom, not a dash, traveler, and be aware traveler only has one L, not two L's.

Shelly:

Tell our listeners how to spell your last name. So they make sure that they can get it right and find you.

David:

My last name is spelled S-H-A-R-I-F.

Shelly:

Okay, very good. And one last thing, you did a claymation video?

David:

Yes. So , um, I actually read my speech in the claymation video. The claymation video was made by Autism Speaks and Robot Chicken. So, title of it is called My Name is David. That shouldn't be too hard to find. It's five minutes long. The animation is some skinny dude wearing a shirt with the autism logo on it. If you have trouble finding it, contact me, I'll send you the right URL for it.

Shelly:

Well, David, it has been an absolute pleasure, learning more about you. And thank you for sharing all of your thoughts with our listeners and listeners. Thank you for tuning in this week with David and I, and we will see you another week on Disability Talks.

Outro:

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Disability Talks, want to keep the conversation going? Then visit our website at abilitiesinmotion .org or connect with us on social media. And remember don't diss my ability.