Shawn Sullivan, President of Pathways for Autistic Adults, was diagnosed with Autism as an adult, at age 38. Growing up he had always felt different, that he didn’t belong in the world. He was lucky in his ability to mimic others, but that limited his ability to make friends as he acted completely different depending on who he was with.
When he first realized that he might be Autistic, Shawn reached out to as many organizations as humanly possible to get a better understanding of what that means. “Those of us on the spectrum tend to obsess over things, and this was no different,” says Sullivan.
Answers not forthcoming, doctors and organizations told Shawn time and time again, “You are an adult, we can’t help you.” He felt alone, obsessing over whether or not he truly was autistic, and spiraled into depression.
Merely getting a proper diagnosis proved to be almost impossible. It was pure accident that Shawn connected with a doctor at the VA (of all places) with experience diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder. It was there he received his first official diagnosis.
“Getting my diagnosis was like validating my entire existence,” Shawn says. In Shawn’s experience, most modern-day doctors don’t see the reason for adult diagnosis, and frequently tell adults who suspect Autism that it won’t make any difference. Nothing is farther from the truth.
“No one should have go through what I went through,” says Shawn. And although it was hell for him, the struggle inspired Shawn to launch Pathways for Autistic Adults. “I knew I was not alone in this experience. I wanted to start an organization that will help adults navigate the complex system of living with Autism.”
Aside from his work with Pathways, Shawn has served in the U.S. Army, worked as a Communications Manager, Public Information Officer for the Washington State Senate, and is currently employed by the state of Oregon. Shawn has also been on local radio for several years and is now developing Tacoma Autism Radio, a weekly radio show in Tacoma about adults living with Autism. He received an MPA from the University of Washington, and a BA from The Evergreen State College.
In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his family and his dogs. He also avidly listens to TOOL, which is the only band he listens to (yes it has been the same four albums for more than 20 years since he discovered them at age 16).
Our mission is simple: to connect adults with Autism to the resources, education or housing pathways they need to survive in the Nuerotypical world. Relax, you're welcome here.