I’m super excited to share this interview I did with the amazing Samuel Huber of HuberFamilyAdventure.
Samuel runs his own YouTube channel where he provides an insight into adult life as an Autistic and also interviews with others within the community.
Right! Let’s get straight into it!
1. Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
A: Hi, everyone, my name is Sam Huber. I am 31 yearsold. I live in Bridgeport, PA, with my wife, Gisette, and son, Sky, about to turn 3.
I was diagnosed with ASD at the age of 14 and every experience that I share with you today has led me to gaining a better sense of myself.
I became a public speaker because I wanted to give a different kind of voice to Autism than just what the experts say; I wanted to help people on the spectrum and those around them understand how the autistic mind works.
I’ve learned that I am something more than just data points or the things people said I would never be able to do, or a diagnosis. I am a father, a husband, an educator, a mental-health worker, and aliving/breathing example to people like me.
If I had to sum up my message in a couple sentences, I believe the author Dave Hollis says it best: “If you want a meaningful life, you must create situations that make you uncomfortable. Comfort is a casualty of growth.”
And: “The way you think may be leading you, rather than you leading the way you think.”
2. I know you do some work within the Autistic Community, can you tell us about it?
A: My work in the Autistic community really started the day I was born and through every personal experience and victory.
Little did I know that these experiences both good and bad would become my biggest teaching tools to help others like me.
Coming out of college, I had little clue what I wanted to do with my life, but what I did know was Autism. My mother helped get me a job at the private school she worked at for children on the spectrum, as a Teacher’s Assistant. I spent 8 years there, and I got exposed to all different forms of Autism, which was like getting my masters on the topic. I worked with all different age groups, different functionalities, and different cultures.
Working with all these kids showed me how far I had come in my personal journey, and these experiences gave me the strength to become a voice for what they were actually going through.
3. When did you set up your YouTube channel?
A: My YouTube channel has been an off and on project thelast two years.
During the last few months, I have discovered that I preferred to spread my message of self-care, self-love, self-advocacy, and self-improvement for those on the spectrum through YouTube.
Through the last few months of actively uploading videos I discovered it to be a great emotional release to justpoint the camera at myself and say what’s on my mind that day. I have found that when I record myself on an idea that’s been stuck in my head for a while. I am able to actually let it go because it’s out in the world and not just my head. That I am now free to move onto the next idea.
I also was looking for a way to keep myself busy and socialize with other people during this whole Covid-19 thing. What better way than to interview people I am meeting through Instagram? I wanted tocreate a place for positive messages and a communityby sharing stories of other people on the spectrum orpeople who work in the ASD field who are thriving. I believe that Autism is not a disability, but a community,which deserves to be shown to the world!
4. Can you tell us a little about the videos you make?
A: Right now I have 3 YouTube shows: Heroes of Autism, Inclusion Tube, and Adulting While on the Spectrum.
In Heroes of Autism, I interview adults on the spectrum or other individuals making a positive difference in the Autism community. During these interviews we discuss daily living skills, self-care tips, self-regulation tips, andother ways autistic individuals can help themselves grow as people.
Inclusion Tube is the official YouTubeShow/Page of the Inclusion Festival, which is the first music festival geared toward people on the spectrum and with other disabilities; I interview people who have been to the festival, done workshops there, musicians that have performed at the festival, or simply someonewho embodies that festival’s spirit of Inclusion (and helping others heal through the power of community).
Adulting on the Spectrum is a mixture of me passing on what I have learned through my own life and an ongoing video diary of my life as it is happening. I am hoping tha tpeople (ASD individuals especially) will take lessons and tools from my life story that can help them cope with their own challenges
5. What is the interview process like for you ?
A: It is a multi-layered process for me that comes inseveral steps. Sometimes I send guests the interview questions ahead of time; or I just shoot from the hip when it comes to questions in order to create a more organic and real conversation. I prefer this approach, because I believe itallows viewers to really get a feel for the people I am interviewing based on how they react to my questions and respond to them. Especially when I am interviewing someone who is also on the spectrum, I want to capture who they really are, because I believe that is how the world can truly learn what being Autistic is like—from the way we express ourselves to the work we do to how we have learned to thrive as adults.
I also address my social anxiety that always creeps upright before I interview or meet someone new. Fears include: What are their facial expressions and will I be able to read them during the interview? What if they hate the way I portray them in an interview? What if this video does not get any views? What if I forget to smile or react with my face when they are being vulnerable on-screen?The first thing I do to self-soothe my anxiety is eat something hearty before interviews, like mushrooms, chicken, or potatoes; this gets me more grounded in my heart. If this does not work I rub a few essential oils on my skin that always help me get centered. Smells are how I learn to establish trust with a new environment, a new person, or, more important, myself. For example:Frankincense is a big one for me because my homeoften smells like this oil. Home is my safe place, so smelling Frankincense right before I go out into the world or before I meet someone—or conduct a ninterview—reminds me that I am safe.
Once an interview begins, I have to remind myself to showcase the person I am talking to. This comes from actively listening to the person and responding to their answers by rephrasing their responses, so that they know I heard them and so my audience can better capture the message that my guest is trying to get across. Then I allow myself to piggyback off what they say by giving a personal example of how I am relating to their story. This allows my guest and me to connect on a more personal level, and allows our conversation to flow more naturally. After the interview is over I upload the video to YouTube and then promote it on Facebook and Instagram. Then I give myself 5 to 10 minutes to unwind as a reward forputting in the effort to connect with someone new, which isn’t always easy for me. These interviews have been a great tool to help me learn to connect with other people in new and healthy ways.
6. What was it like interviewing Temple Grandin?
A: It was an honor just to have a conversation with her because she has been a personal hero of mine; her TED Talk was one of the things that got my wheel sturning about becoming a public speaker myself.
Talking to Temple started with me just taking a chance and emailing her through her website and asking her to come on my show. We talked a couple days later; man, she is a very let’s-get-straight-to-the-point kind of person—no small talk, just what is the interview about and when is it happening? I found that refreshing.
As for the actual interview: it was amazing to see her in her famed cattle outfit and cow decorative pins on her shirt. Her gray and white hair is still in the same style as every one of her photos, brushed back and neatly set. Her straight-to-the-point style reminded me of my very straight forward grandmother. What I was not expecting was for her to flip the script on me and start interviewing me more than I was interviewing her. She asked about my work and the purpose behind it. Her focus is work. “Show the work!”—she said that several times, and things that I have been struggling with my whole adult life, like the best way to present myself in an interview, were made so simple by that basic idea: “Show the work!”
I have spent a lot of practice time for job interviews rehearsing all the right things to say, but I never thought to go directly to what I can offer. I thought all I needed to do was dress right and show how smart I am and I would get the job. I was wrong every time, and Temple broke down why: Most people are not interested in the way you talk, but what you can do for their company. And if I want to attract more speaking gigs, she advised me to show my work through YouTube and Instagram. Simple solutions for big life questions is the way to go, folks!
Temple also helped me realize that I have to show the world more than my autism. She did this by asking me in a stern/unwavering voice, like an old-school teacher ,to give her specifics: “Sam, what else are you interested in besides autism?” I had to think. Why, music, of course! I always go to music when I want to express asubtle or tricky idea to someone or even myself. Temple had an idea ready for me: “Create a website to show the music that you write.” She smiled. “That is how you get people to hire you. Show your interest and the work!” Temple helped me realize I need to get more specific in my life goals and be clearer with what I want for myself.
Temple quickly gave me some major life lessons; the main one was to show the world Sam Huber, not Sam Huber’s Autism. When she says “clean it up”—another favorite line of hers— it made me realize that as a public speaker I am selling myself as the product, i.e., people will see my message if they can clearly see me. In short, Temple taught me that when I am teaching people things about Autism, I can’t let them get caught up in the details of what ASD supposedly is. Instead Ican help people see us as people who are different, butnot less. “Show the work!”
7. How have people responded to your videos?
A: It seems like people are enjoying my videos so far.
I’ve gotten good feedback on the great diversity of guests that I have had on my channel with so many different viewpoints on what it means to be an adult on the spectrum.
I have also gotten some constructive criticism about cleaning up the dead space in my videos, and I need to learn to edit them a bit, which I intend to address as I learn more about making them.
I was told by a friend who is a therapist that she showed one ofher clients an interview I did with Rachel Barcellona who is ASD herself and a successful model in Florida, and it inspired her to believe that she could go to college. Right there is the heart of my channel: to create a place where autistic people can come to learn to believe theycan do anything.
8. What do you hope to achieve using social media/YouTube?
A: There are three things I hope to achieve using social media/ YouTube: community, conversations, and to spread my voice further out into the world.
Community: Community is a very important word because that’s what I am learning about in doing these interviews: Autism is a community, not a disability. People like me have this innate ability to bring people together, in order to create a place of education and acceptance. You know the old saying, it takes a villageto raise a child—I believe this is true when it comes to our autistic communities. Autism is creating so many jobs for young adults who want to dip their toes into psychology and special education. Autism is creating specialized schools that are catering to the: next Albert Einstein, the next John Lennon, the next Tim Burton,the next Steve Jobs, the next Bill Gates, the next Mark Zuckerberg, the next Temple Grandin, the next Satoshi Tajiri, the next Nikola Tesla, and the list goes on and on of impactful autistic people that these communities have produced. So please help me keep adding names to this list through my interviews!
Conversations: Communication is at the heart of the struggle when it comes to our community. Both the general public and those diagnosed with ASD tend to think that the problem begins and ends with those on the spectrum. My channel is here to ask a question: What if it’s the world that needs to learn to talk to us rather than the other way around? I want my channel to help to start redefining what it means for an ASD person to have a conversation. I believe we have our own language that we can be teaching others, just as someone who speaks English learns Spanish. Instead of neurotypical society trying so hard to bring us into their world, I want to ask my fellow ASD individuals, shouldn’t we be doing the same? I am talking about self-advocating, and even more important, being proud of who we are. We can make just who we are clear through the art of conversation.
My Voice: In my four years of public speaking, I have learned nothing is more powerful than my own voice. Growing up my parents made every major decision for me, and when someone misunderstood me they defended me.
For example: My grandfather is a very sarcastic man, a real joker, though he never means any harm in anything he says. However, when I was quite young I was a very literal person, and I thought he was the biggest jerk on the planet. I hated visiting mygrandparents because I would always end up hiding in their bathroom crying my eyes out. I now know that my grandfather was using his sense of humor to relate to me and to connect, but back then I had no way to explain to him that he was hurting me. Hell, I did not even think to tell him to stop, because I was so overwhelmed by my emotions.My mother caught me one time running to the bathroom at my grandparents’ in tears; she stopped me and asked, “Sam, what is wrong?” “Grampy is such a jerk!” I yelled. I wouldn’t look at her—I stared down at the floor determined to burn a hole in it, in order to escape. I shook myself free of her, went into the bathroom, and locked the door. Waiting for me outside the bathroom, my mother calledto my grandfather; it turns out that he’d made a joke about my “Beatle mod top,” as he called it. I will never forget what my mother said to him: “Sam cannot tell you were joking—he will never understand sarcasm. Would you please refrain from making jokes when you talk to him?” Thinking back on that, what stands out to me was not that I was wrong about my grandfather’s intentions, it was my mother saying “He will never understand sarcasm.”
He-will-never statements are something I heard throughout my childhood, as I’m sure a lot of other people on the spectrum have. But part of my role as a public speaker is to impart this: We can understandthings like sarcasm if we just put the work into learning it bit-by-bit, from the facial expression to the tone of the voice to taking a moment to actually process what the person said to realizing they are emphasizing something to be funny, not hurtful. To understand that, I watched a lot of comedy movies over and over again until I learned about the purpose of joking in social situations at someone’s expense. Then in my mid 20’s I got it, and I’m even able to return comedic banter withsome of my friends.
9. What other platforms do you use?
A: Besides YouTube I am really big into learning to use Instagram and once this whole Covid-19 thing is over I am looking forward to speaking in front of people again. Nothing beats being able to be in a room with people who are looking to learn and connect with what I am trying to say. In turn, I love hearing people’s stories about their own experiences with Autism, which was the prelude to my idea to start my Heroes of Autism Show.
10. What have you learnt from the Autistic Community?
A: Trust The Process: I have learned a lot from the Autistic community just by being Autistic myself, but also by teaching in it for the last eight years. I have worked with a vast number of different ASD individuals (from ages 2 to 21). I’ve learned that every social, emotional, and personal care skill we learn is a victory. That we as ASD individuals have got to focus on our strengths and develop ourselves through them. If you are a very visual person, then make your world more visual. If you’re an auditory learner, find ways to make sound part oftackling a task. Whatever helps you break down a new skill or behavior into a step-by-step process so that it sinks into your mind and you truly learn it, then do that!
We are great out of the box thinkers, so let’s use that toour advantage to live our day-to-day lives. Life is not about learning to be normal, it is about learning about ourselves. The more I help an ASD individual (including myself) learn about himself, the more there is to loveand nurture.
Everyone Has His Own Story: Nothing another persondoes truly has anything to do with you. Many people onthe spectrum get fixated on other peoples’ actions andhow those behaviors make them feel. In the schoolsthat I went to or taught in, people on the spectrum aretaught that society follows a lot of unwritten social rules
I used to be such a black-and-white thinker that I believed these rules were actually real—that they had to be followed—and if I accidentally broke one, I would privately freak out.
For example: when I was at a party with my wife and the host came up to me. Now this was an adventure board game party full of dragons and other nerdy stuff I enjoy. They were serving cocktails and beer. Everyone had a good sense of humor and seemed to get along before the game got started. However, I got really bored because it took forever to explain the rules and there were too many rules to begin with. So the first hour or so was people breaking these rules and the hosts having re-explain them. I wandered off to the kitchen with my wife to take a break from the socializing. This is when the host came up (Now I did not know it was the host at the time) and she asked how we were enjoying the party? I said “This is quite boring to be honest.” She smiled at me and said “I am sorry to hear that.” The host then abruptly walked away from us. My wife said “I cannot believe you said that to her, Sam! She is the host of the party!” The blood drained from my face and I said“Oh, I had no idea that she was.” My wife then said “How can you not know that?” “I thought her boyfriend was the host of the party.” My wife shook her head and said “you still should not say such things until we are in the car alone.” I looked down at my feet the way kids do when they get in trouble with an adult. I spent most of the rest of the party hiding in the bathroom and hoping to never see the host again.
Once I break one of these rules, I would spend the rest of my day analyzing my behavior rather than completing other tasks. Then one day my wife pointed out that these rules are just a foundation for human interactions rather than actual unbreakable codes. I asked her, “How can I judge someone’s behavior if not for these rules?” She responded, “First off, you shouldn’t judge because you do not know his story, which is the cause of the behavior. So get to know someone before you make any decisions on how you feel about him. Their behavior is the surface of who they are.” She also advised me to understand my own role in whatever transpired—that whatever happened, I’m part of it too. This is something I have noted—that people on thespectrum struggle with understanding that it takes atleast two people to create a story.
I’ve come to understand that the most important thing is to focus on what I can control, which is how I react to both my behavior and the behaviors of others. So when I am met with a client’s or family member’s or friend’s or stranger’s challenging behaviors, I spend time getting to know their back story before I decide how I can best react to them or help them. Or when I am trying to help myself, I examine my own back story, in order to understand why I behave the way I do.
Everyone Wants to Know Their Value: Many of us onthe spectrum are often made to feel less than human because we struggle to meet social norms or meet certain pre-determined developmental markers at a pre-determined time. This is why a lot of us stop trying to engage with our families, our peers, our coworkers, and our neighbors; we are afraid they will somehow know we have not met these standards and they will therefore reject us.
Well, my fellow ASD individuals, I will let you in on a little secret: Nobody meets these so-called standards at the “appropriate” time. For example: When we go to college there is the idea we know what we want to do for a career and we should know who we are; I once believed that based on the college movies I saw, but even by my third year in college, virtually nobody knew who they were! Everyone was experimenting, trying to find an identity through partying, internships, taking different classes, being in different relationships, and in various friendships. The journey to finding our own identity and value is actually a universal human experience—therefore, I realized, I am just like everyone else.
My value was in exploring who I was and then sharing what I had learned with my friends or romantic partner. In fact this experience is something that goes on our entire lives, which means you and I always have value as we explore our true natures. Those norms or markers are just guidelines rather than actual rules, meaning we all have the power tomake our lives whatever we truly want them to be. We assign our own value to ourselves and nobody else truly has that power over us.
Strength Comes From an Individual’s Passions, Not Some External Force: “Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.”
As I have worked with andspoken to many different individuals with ASD, I have realized the truth of this ancient proverb. The mistake that many parents, mental health professionals, and educators make is that we have been guilty of giving our ASD youth the fish (myself included).
This raises an obvious question: Who are we helping? Why should these children care where the fish comes from—or learn how to get it—if it is always placed in front of them?(Despite the fact they have thrown that stinky fish to the floor a million times before they were actually willing to eat it.) Then comes the effort to teach these kids how to fish like everyone else, and we think this is how they will learn how to be independent. But again we are met with resistance by these kids, who use that fishing rod to attack us, or they will run away from the river. At thispoint in this game things become quite fishy to me. The question needs to be asked to ASDindividuals, “how do you want to catch the fish?” I.E. How do you want to take care of yourself? I begin to ask, do they hate the idea of being independent? And as if God himself answers me, “keep it simple, Sam.” Ok, perhaps it’s the smell of the fish? Perhaps it is the weight of the fishing rod in their hands? Or perhaps there is another method they wish to learnabout when it comes to catching a fish? Perhaps theylove one aspect of fishing like how the reel spins as youset the line. Let’s say you, the fishing teacher, spend a whole day teaching them how the rod works. Then forargument’s sake let’s say that these ASD kids all have an interest in engineering. Let’s also say that the rod breaks a lot, while you show these kids how it works. Lastly, let’s say that the way most people could eat in this world is by catching their own fish. As you are catching the fish, the kids spend more time discussing how the rod’s reel spins rather than being excited over the fish you catch. In fact, they all refuse to even hold and try to use the rod themselves. When they bring a fish near them they run away screaming because of the smell. You throw the rod down after a couple hours of frustration because you did not get the lesson you wanted across. You leave the kids there by the river with the crappy rod and your tackle box (which is full of different fishing rod parts andtools).
You come back the next day and the rod looks different like someone had fixed it and dare say make it better?!?! You cast the line into the river and catch 20fish in about an hour or so. The kids love watching therod they fixed spin as it cast the line and they are nowexcited about all the fish you catch. You look at thesekids and ask “who fixed the rod and made it better?” The kids all raise their hands and they show you how they made this crappy rod better by making adjustments to the reel. Now you think to yourself perhaps I got these kids hooked on a different kind of fishing, engineering? So the next lesson, you bring them a bunch of broken fishing rods to fix up and make better. They spend the whole day and the days to follow fixing up these rods and selling them back to fishermen. The business takes off and becomes the means these kids support themselves financially and personal careactivities. Let’s say they make so much money that they can pay people to cook fish in such a way they do not have to deal with the smell anymore when they eat it. Perhaps they never catch an actual fish in their life, but they can take what they learned to catch a different kind of fish later in life, their dream life and job.
What I am saying here is if we play to our ASD population strengths and interests we can get them interested in catching fish rather than them focusing on how bad a fish smells. Like Jeff Goldblum once said “life will find away,” while it may not be “normal” it certainly gets the job done folks!
We Are Different, Not Less: The fact that we appear across all races, all religions, all social classes, all sexes, all countries, and all ages is proof that humanity is made up of nothing but differences. And that is quite beautiful to me because that means that nobody is less than another person. We can all be a part of the quest to figure who we are and what we need to thrive. We were born without the ability to filter our thoughts and emotions, but through all the programs now being designed to help ASD individualsas children, we are really being given a chance to find ourselves in our own way. I am here to summit achallenge for ASD adults: Let’s keep trusting this process, but now we need to do it through our strengths, in writing our own stories, and assigning our own value. It is on us todecide that we are different, but not less.
11. What does community mean to you?
A: Community means the coming together of people from all walks of life.
I like to think that Autism is a community creator rather than a disability. Where else do you see someone just walk into a room and ask for help and a whole team appears like the Avengers to get that kid to where he or she needs to go.
When I went to school I did not have an IEP or most of the services that we see in ASD-focused schools today. I had a little speech therapy here or there to help me go from struggling to say words above a syllable or two to the person you see on my YouTube channel or as an hour-long ranter, i.e., publicspeaker. When I entered middle school (and later, high school), I finally was placed in a learning difference school, made up mostly of ASD individuals. I was happy because I felt like I was meeting kids just like me and saw the world the way I did. However, it was very isolating because we did not really interact with people who were neurotypical who were our age.
So when I went to college it was a complete culture shock for me, since I was not used to how neurotypical people behaved. They did not have stims, struggle to control the volume of their voices, sensory issues, or any other behaviors attributed to ASD individuals. For two years, I hid from them by staying in the small ASD community that was on campus, but one day I realized I was not having the real college experience. For me that was going to parties, bars, having romantic relationships,and other young adult activities.
In the ASD community that was at my college, we pretty much just went to class, studied, and otherwise sat around watching movies. There was one movie that stood out to my 20-year-old mind: Animal House. For those who do not know this movie, it’s about glorifying and making fun of the college lifestyle through the lives of a few misfits who run a failing fraternity.
I have major social anxiety, which would stop me from trying to live to that kind of extreme, but I wanted to experience a smaller version of it. So I joined a few social clubs that were run by neurotypical students, and I started to have those experiences—those stories are for another day. But I learned a lot of my adult social skills from those experiences.
After leaving college, I did not know where I wanted to work, so I asked myself, What do I know? It came to me: ASD and basic social skills, so I went back into the ASD social bubble, but this time armed with unwritten social knowledge.
When I started working in a school geared towards ASD, what I did not expect was the power of perspective i twould give me. I was a teacher’s assistant; I taught kids about the unwritten social norms, self-regulation, and general education.
Being in the ASD community reallygave me perspective on just how far I had come as an individual. But more important, I met neurotypical people who were co-workers and I got to help them come into the ASD community bubble with a bit more clarity. I could explain how the ASD mind processes information in ways the textbooks can’t teach but personal experience can. So for the first time in my life I was learning to work with neurotypical people toward a common goal, which is the social and school education of these students. Often the result was just to meet our students with compassion and understanding no matter what.
12. Can you describe yourself in 3 words?
A: Love Grows Here
Love: I am currently on a journey to love myself completely and extend that love to everyone I meet. If I want to teach ASD people how to get what they want I have to give a place to start, which I believe is self-love.
Grows: I believe that all situations are temporary, good or bad, that I am always looking to learn from. The more I learn about myself and others the more I am able to express my love for human experience. How do I do that?
Here: I try every day to be present in the moment with my family and myself in whatever activities we are doing. Sometimes I fail at this but rather than sulk as I used to I ask, What can I learn from this experience and how can I make it better next time? And it starts with staying grounded and in the moment.
13. Do you have hobbies? If yes, what are they?
A: My hobbies include: playing guitar, listening to music (collecting live shows of my favorite bands is a huge passion of mine), camping, spending time with my wife and son, going for walks, and reading spiritual/fantasy/philosophical/rock star bio books.
14. Tell the readers a random fact about yourself?
A: I like to put barbecue sauce on everything I eat.
I’d like to end by saying a huge thank you to Sam for providing such an in-depth interview, I really believe this will offer great insight and perspective to both Autistic individuals, parents and professionals. Be sure to check out Sam’s YouTube!