Autism Interview #208: Michael Fugate on Bridging the Gap Between the Autistic Community and Autism Service Providers

Michael Fugate is a commercial driver and public speaker from Indiana. Fugate is passionate about mental health and helping others gain the confidence to improve their lives. He enjoys music, films, history, writing, guitar, traveling, studying the world wars, and Howard Hughes. He hopes to expand his role as a public advocate to serve those in need.

This week Fugate shared some of his experience as a public speaker and his passion for bridging the gap between the Autistic community and autism service providers.

Tell me a little about yourself. What are your hobbies/interests/work? What are you most passionate about?

I am a professional chauffeur for a business owner, not a limo service, part time. I also am a class A licensed tractor trailer driver full time. 

I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana. I am fond of coffee, music, films, history, travel, and enjoy fine cigars. 

I am most passionate about making a difference in the world of autism and people with disabilities, primarily through overcoming my own struggles with these issues, as well as my passion for public speaking. 

How have you been misunderstood? Either in school, work, social life, etc.?

I have struggled for years to navigate and better understand the social spectrum. People are often contradictory and don’t always make it clear what they expect or why they expect it. Yet somehow you are expected to read minds and figure it out or be ostracized. I’ve improved greatly, but it has been a lifelong struggle. 

What was most difficult for you about the transition to adulthood?

The most difficult part of transitioning from disabled child to adult is, as a kid, everything is done for or made easy for you because they don’t think you can handle it. Then, as an adult, they expect you to sink or swim. There isn’t a lot of clear directions as to what a person with a disability is supposed to do with themselves or how to support themselves in the search for answers. I’ve seen many low times and met a lot of closed doors trying to understand why this was happening, or what needed to happen. 

How did you become involved in public speaking?

I became involved in public speaking because the first job I could find that I could sustain was as a wedding DJ and karaoke DJ, Where I was required to speak to crowds and make announcements. I was a natural, and my passion grew as I navigated the realm of entertainment. 

What are your favorite topics you like to speak about?

My favorite topics are addressing the ups and downs of mental health and mental health services, motivational figures who overcame great odds, and helping others find the will within themselves to carry on. 

Rate autism acceptance in the region/community in which you live. What is society doing well? Where is improvement needed?

Autism, despite all the organizations who use the word, seems to lack a connecting tissue so to speak. All these places work with autism, or represent it, or want your money to support it, or something to do with it, etc. But people like me? I’m surprised how hard it is to find a platform where a person with my talents (recognized by qualified professionals, this is not me bragging) can’t seem to find anyone who wants to work together to make an impact and bridge the gap between the disabled and those treating them. 

I could do commercials, radio, meetings, speeches, etc. I would meet with a church congregation, an AA group, anywhere where a person could benefit from the perspective of someone who has done what many of those struggling wish to do. Gain independence and successfully overcome disabilities. 

I have the ability to do a lot of good, as a person who not only overcame the odds, but is in an upper income career field despite being told I was permanently disabled before age 21. 

I very much would like to help make a difference. I hope this is a good start. 

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