CS Senior Earns Award for Autism Advocacy

June 2, 2010

Sean Young, a senior computer science major in the College of Computing, has received the 2010 Temple Grandin Award from Future Horizons, a publishing house devoted to materials related to autism.

Young, who is interning this summer at NASA’s Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Md., has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a condition within the autism spectrum. To help spread awareness of the condition and inspire students like himself, Young speaks about his life at public schools and colleges, and he even delivered a presentation at the 2010 conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Following that presentation, Young was asked to post on the Autism Speaks official blog.

“I was both honored and surprised,” Young said of receiving Future Horizon’s Temple Grandin Award, named for the professor of animal science at Colorado State University who has become a well-known advocate for those who, like her, deal with autism. This year Time Magazine named Grandin as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

“Many of the challenges I face in life are simply because people do not understand me—and there are plenty of times I don’t understand others,” said Young, who hails from Norcross, Ga. “For example, I am often late to my classes at Georgia Tech and have trouble staying awake in class. I can set four or five alarms and still have trouble getting someplace on time. I can go to a class that I am eager and excited about, and yet fall asleep within 15 minutes or so.

“These are not my choices,” he said. “These are the impacts of living with autism. Some of my professors perceive me as lazy, uncaring or irresponsible. None of these things is true.”

“While speaking is outside his comfort zone, Sean does so in an effort to make the journey a bit easier for those who are like him,” said his mother, Joy Young. “Every single day is a struggle for Sean. He has been heroic in his efforts to face the challenges of living in a ‘neurotypical’ world. He says, ‘Being around neurotypicals does not make me neurotypical.’ However he continues to work very hard to figure us out, and find his place in the universe.”