Keith: Welcome Disability Empowerment Now, Season two. I'm your host Keith Murfee-DeConcini. Today I'm talking to Bronson Layton the creator of Brons Over Brains, videographer and Youtube enthusiast, and autism advocate. Bronson, welcome to the show.
Bronson: Thank you so much for having me here, Keith, it's quite an honor to be here actually.
I'm very excited to be here.
Keith: Thank you. So, I've been trying to remember, unsuccessfully, how exactly we met. Do you have any ideas?
Bronson: I think we originally met on an autism support group on Facebook at one point. It was around the time that, you know, I made a post one time on a particular Facebook group and after it went viral, we connected and you introduced yourself to me and we got acquainted and we kept in touch around that.
That was like back in, at least 2020. It could have been in 2021, but I'm betting it was in late 2020 when I made the original post on those support groups.
Keith: Yeah, it's funny that we met in an autism support group because I do not have autism, at all. I think one of my colleagues who does have autism accidentally added me to that particular group because there's no other reason why I should have been in that particular group. So, tell me about the creation and the genesis of Brons Over Brains and when it took off, how surprised you were that it took off. I work with a team myself to do this podcast, about four to six of them, and I couldn't do this podcast without them. I'm aware that you did work with a team and so unpack all those questions because that is what initially drew me to introduce myself to you in the first place.
Bronson: Once again, I'm very honored that you like the channel and that was one of the reasons you reached out to me. I really appreciate that. In terms of answering your question about how the channel started, it was back in 2019. Really, it was in January of 2019 when it just literally started as an idea.
I really didn't go through with it until like maybe three months later. I was in college. I'm pretty sure it was my third year. I was 21 years old and I was asking around for some opinions on how I can, you know, expand on my autism advocacy. And at the time I did nothing more than post on Facebook a lot.
And then I thought, what's one way I could reach out to the autism community and expand my advocacy more than locally? And so it took me several months to come up with a solution, even though the answer was literally right in front of me the whole time. I was watching a YouTube video about other autism advocates, and then by March in 2019, that's when the answer struck me. Why don't I start a YouTube channel? And so I asked around for some of my friends and family's opinions.They said, what the heck. Go for it. We'd watch your videos.
And so it started off as a fun project, like a personal hobby rather than a cause. And so when the channel started officially in April, 2019, I introduced myself in my very first video, which lasted almost 20 minutes and I felt so awkward after the first video that I was completely unsure about whether I should continue or not. And as it turned out, the reception from the first video was so overwhelmingly positive that I thought, hey, if the people honestly like this, I'll keep going. I'll keep coming up with new ideas. And so ever since 2019, I expanded on the channel. I did a couple of advocacy events where I set up a venue and gave out stickers and some candy to some people.
I gave out flyers to encourage them to subscribe to the channel, that sort of thing. That was one of the events we did to promote the channel. And the channel I spent a lot of time on ever since the, Covid-19 pandemic started. And, you know, at that point I had so much time to myself outside of classes that I felt like making a video of what's something I could do.
You also asked me about my team. Yeah back where I originally lived in Alabama, I had some childhood friends who helped me improve the quality of my videos. They even joined me in several of my videos. And together we came up with ideas. We took turns filming certain segments of each video.
And the more, you know, the more the channel expanded, the more videos we made, the more we took kind of a cinematic approach with each video. Like we even did a video back in 2020 around Halloween that dealt with a ghost hunting experience and that was around the time we took a cinematic approach with the video.
But ever since the channel started all the way up to now the channel has primarily been focusing on autism advocacy originally because I wanted to share my story with others and I wanted to encourage others to share their own voices to the world.
Keith: Thank you for that very detailed answer. Why a videocast, why not a podcast, a radio program? What motivated you to go directly to YouTube in terms of video?
Bronson: At first I wanted to do it through YouTube because it was something that I've been, you know, relating to for most of my life. You know how YouTube has existed since around 2005 and people have been uploading videos to that since then.
I thought videos would be more personal and would get more personal attachment with viewers so they can have, like, so to speak, a face to go along with the voice. I'm one of those people who is so energetic that I actually don't mind being on camera. So I decided to go with YouTube because to me personally, it's quick and easy to use and upload despite the algorithm traffic and everything.
When it comes to podcasts like Spotify or something like that, I'm still trying to get used to, you know, how that sort of stuff works, like in terms of producing videos and just audio check and everything. Plus, I also have limited access to the technology and equipment to pull something like that off.
Keith: So what were you doing before Brons Over Brains?
Bronson: Before Brons Over Brains I pretty much was just a normal citizen just going through everyday life, even though I'm still normal and going through everyday life. I was pretty focused on my studies in college. I marched in my college band a lot.
I was, am, and always will be what you would consider a family man. So I would spend a lot of time with my family, you know, do some errands and hang out with friends in my free time and that pretty much, I would do mainly that. I've also had a hobby since I was 10 years old to do creative writing.
So I'm a part-time writer and for the last 15 years of my life, I just like to write creatively and I am working to one day soon publish my own book.
Keith: That's another thing we have in common. I got my BA in Creative Writing and I'm actually in the process of self-publishing my next book sometime next year so that’s another thing we have in common. I think I know the genesis or the meaning of the title Brons Over Brains but for the listeners and those that have unfortunately no idea who you are, explain the title and what it means to you.
Bronson: Honestly, that is a very good question that I often get asked from time to time, and every time I answer it almost brings a tear to my eye just remembering back on the early days of the channel. I came up with the title Brons Over Brains originally as a tentative title. I didn't really think that people would get it, but I thought about Brons Over Brains serving two purposes.
One, it would be a play on words, you know, how wordplay is when it has a humorous tone behind it. Well the wordplay part of the title is quite obviously Brons being half my name, B R O N S. It would signify to me being the creator of the channel, Brons Over Brains and the second purpose that the title serves is that it is a variation, like a paradox of the phrase brawns over brains, except the, the spelling would be B R A W N S, brawns over brains.
And brawns would be a word that indicates strength or muscle, if you want to be more technical about it. So overall, the title, Brons Over Brains, both refers to the creator me, and it also indicates to the audience that it is a channel that promotes strength over knowledge. The strength that people with all kinds of, like who are neurodiverse and have different types of disabilities, have the strength to overcome what a lot of people would misinterpret about us overcoming the stereotypes and challenges that people think people with disabilities cannot come up against.
So it's about strength over neurodiverse strength over, let me backtrack a little bit. It's a very short title that translates to like a proverb, which means, neurodiverse strength triumphs over general public knowledge. Brons Over Brains.
Keith: So, you'd said that Brons of Brains, spelled your way, word play, was the tentative title.
In your mind, what was the original, or what would you imagine would've been the original title had you not gone with the tentative title? Have you ever thought about that or been asked that before?
Bronson: I've been asked that question one other time, and it's quite interesting to think back on, like, I literally had a notebook full of potential name ideas for the channel, and I could never come up with one that could seem, straightforward, creative, or one that probably wouldn't come, or one that wouldn't provoke possible controversy because, you know, out there in the neurodiverse world, talking about, referring to any kind of disability, it can provoke negative feelings if it's not handled properly.
So I thought, okay, none of these ideas seem good. Like they're witty, but they're probably not in my eyes appropriate enough. At one point I thought I could name the channel, The Autistic Professor, even though I wasn't a professor When the channel started. I wanted to chronicle my journey from being a student to a graduate, to becoming a professor. But I thought it would be misleading, telling people for one thing, mentioning my autism, and then misleading people into thinking that I was a professor at 21 years old, when in fact I wasn't at the time.
So I abandoned my original ideas until finally like outta outta nowhere. I just woke up one day and thought, What about the saying brawns over brains? And then I spelled my name out, B R O N S, and looked at B R A W N S. Brons over Brains. That's witty and it's creative and it's like in the neutral area, not mentioning any disabilities.
Keith: So I just looked up your channel on YouTube, and as of right now it has 1,400 followers and 83 videos. When did you say the channel launched?
Bronson: The channel originally launched in late April, 2019. That was when I made the very first blog.
Keith: That's extremely impressive. What do you attribute the overall success of the channel to? And I'm not just talking about the number of subscribers, but the repeat views, et cetera, et cetera, and are you at all surprised that it is really taken off this way this soon? I mean it’s a relatively new concept for you.
Bronson: Well, I really appreciate that. I really do appreciate that because with the channel going on over three years. I'm as impressed as you are that the channel has reached the success that it has reached now, because honestly, I didn't think that it would reach so much impression in the public.
I honestly don't want to give all the credit to myself because like I said, originally, it started off as an idea from my end. All I had to do was come up with ideas on how to share my story, little by little. I actually want to give a huge thanks to my team back home who have helped me through most of the channels run. Even today, even though I've moved away and I'm continuing the channel independently.
I also, I give credit for my success to my family and friends back home because they encouraged me to share my story and to continue advocating for autism. I don't really think I would've done so many videos. As you said, there's like 83 videos. I probably wouldn't have come this far if it wasn't for the support of my family, friends, my fiance, and, and of course the help of my team.
And I also don't wanna leave out the fans out there who have stuck by me, both old and new. And I even want to give you thanks because, what you said earlier that you've been following me since you checked out the channel, it's support like this that keeps me going with not only being a part-time YouTuber, but to continue being an advocate for those who need a mentor to continue developing their voices in society.
Keith: So did you say you are a professor? What do you teach?
Bronson: I teach English. I teach basic writing composition. Like currently, I just teach basic level English composition. I may expand on maybe teaching literature. It does depend on what I'm offered in the future of my career. But right now, with this being my first semester as a professor, I'm just sticking to basic level courses in English.
Keith: So where did you say you are originally from?
Bronson: I'm originally from Alabama. I'm from a very small town in that state. It's so tiny, if you looked it up on a map, you would have to zoom in on it several times to find it. It's a town called Ragland. It's a town that's between Birmingham and the Georgia State line.
Keith: So, how did you meet your fiancé and what is her first name again? Of course I know, but there's a bit coming.
Bronson: My fiancé, her name is Savannah, and originally we met,
Keith: So sorry. Did you guys actually meet in Georgia?
Bronson: No, that would've been a big twist in my life. We originally met, like we're both from Alabama, but we came from different parts of the state. We originally met in 2014. We were both in high school. We met at a friend's birthday party. A mutual friend, like I marched in the band with this person and my fiancé, she knew her from another connection, but somehow we got acquainted at a friend's birthday party.
I was 17 at the time, she was 16. And for a year and a half after we met, we were friends. And by the time I started college in 2016 she started her senior year of high school at around the same time. That was when we started dating. We dated for six years. Yeah, six years we dated. And this past June was when I proposed. I proposed to her at Disney World.
Kieth: I saw the pictures. You two looked unbelievably happy, as you should. If I may get personal, talk about how you came up with the genesis of that idea, how you planned it, how you carried it out, because that’s one of the, when I saw the pictures, that made me cry. So I want to know more about, man to man, how you envisioned that, pulled it off, shocked the hell out of her, and obviously she said yes of course, I mean what was her response afterwards?
Bronson: Well, to be quite honest, before we went to Disney, I had planned this whole proposal out for a year. I had planned it out for an entire year before we went over there, and it took a lot of, you know, logical scenario map outs in my head to make sure that I pulled it off at the right moment, at the right time.
And it was like a lot of stress to plan out. But I loved every moment of it because obviously it worked out in the end and like for most of the year-long planning period, the only people who knew about it were my parents. And I didn't even tell my best friend until like a month before it happened.
And of course, you know, I'm one of those, you know, traditional people that, you know, has to approach the future father-in-law and ask for his blessing. And I thought, like, at the time, I was so scared when I approached him because I thought that it was the end of my life when I told him. And so I literally did this, like moments before I went into the room to talk to him.
I did this and like he actually told me that I earned his deepest respect out of telling him. And instead of getting mad at me and he actually hugged me, it was a moment like I was both super relieved and super emotional, about. Very mixed feelings I never thought that would come together.
And so after I told her parents, that's when the final stages of the planning really came into fruition because we had less than a month until we needed to get to Disney World and get this while I'm on the subject. The week that we decided to go to Disney World, it started off a disaster. Like not between us, but it was the circumstances getting there.
Like we originally planned to fly there, but when we got to the airport and we tried to take off, at the same time, there was a tropical storm happening down in Florida, like around Orlando, so the flight had to be either delayed or canceled. And so I thought, if I don't intervene soon, this will ruin the whole plan.
So I thought, okay, I'm willing to drive all the way to Walt Disney World tonight, even though when we mapped it out, it was a very long drive. It was a nine hour drive, so it was like five o'clock in the evening when we headed out for Florida, and we didn't get to our hotel until like four or five in the morning.
Bronson: It was insane. I didn't get much sleep on our first day there. Like we only got one hour of sleep and then the whole trip started and we stayed there four days and I had planned to save the proposal moment for when we went to Magic Kingdom, which was the last day of the trip.
And so at the end of our last day after the firework show, that's when I proposed to Savannah and she looked like she was about to faint when I got down on one knee. But she said yes, and we broke the news to everybody. It was like, this was definitely a trip worth remembering, you know?
Keith: So why Disney World? Why propose there?
Bronson: Well, In the duration of mine and Savannah's relationship, I have come to know several things about her and one of the biggest things about her is that she is a die hard Disney fan. She loves Disney World, every part about it, every character. And so I thought, interesting.
Even all the way back in 2016 when we started dating, I thought to myself, if I end up proposing to her, it might as well be Disney World since she loves it so much. So I kept that locked in my brain for the next six years and here we are.
Keith: So, dating her and then telling her about your autism, what it was like? The reason why I'm going into all of this is because I know you've discussed it on Brons Over Brains.
Bronson: Well, I don't mind talking about it off the channel. Growing up with autism, it was, it's still hard to put into words because I've known about my autism only halfway through my life. And looking back on it, let's just say that it was quite a roller coaster and in some ways it still is.
I was diagnosed between when I was six months old and two years old, but I didn't know about it in my early childhood. However, when I was growing up, I noticed things about myself that seemed kind of off putting, if that makes sense. I've noticed differences between myself and how my friends were acting.
They all seemed to have, for instance, interest in Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards, and I had an interest in playing with action figures, although logically there's nothing wrong with that, but I always thought to myself that was just a hobby, but I became even more suspicious about myself whenever I had to take a test in elementary school, I had to have accommodations on time and sitting up in front of the class. I needed extra pacing. It took me a little bit longer to learn some things compared to my peers. Like everybody else, when they were asked a question in class, they would quickly raise up their hand.
And in my case, it would take me quite a while to even think about an answer. And so I would eventually raise my hand, but it took me a lot longer to think of an answer, when compared to the other classmates, they could think of something in a snap. So that's one element. Eventually I found out about my own diagnosis when I was 15. And oh yeah. And believe it or not, I found out about my diagnosis by accident. Nobody told me. Gladly.
Keith: How did you find out by accident?
Bronson: Well, by accident, I guess this goes without saying. Nobody told me. Yeah, but before anybody told me, I was at home one afternoon from school and I promised my parents I would straighten up the house a little bit. And so one afternoon after I got home from school, I was tidying up a room and I was clearing off a filing cabinet. And I found this file that had scattered papers all around it, and I picked it up and I thought they belonged in the file.
So before I put 'em back in there, I flipped 'em over to see if they were important. And the papers were dated back to 1999, around that time, ‘98 or ‘99. And it said, Autism diagnosis confirmed. And I was like, hmm. And then I looked further on into the sheet and it had my name on it, and I thought, what is this?
And so I kept reading. The more papers I found around that file, the more I started reading them and the more I read about my behavioral development, the more I started connecting the dots, like what I read in those papers was exactly what I was suspicious about in my childhood. It all made sense. Like when I was younger about taking the time to understand something and sitting up front in the class, having extra time on tests, that sort of thing. That popped into my head as I kept reading the papers saying things like, student may need accommodating needs due to behavioral development, that sort of thing. I don't speak psychologically, but, all I do know is that, that was the day I, by accident, found out about my autism diagnosis and I was actually in denial about it.
So when my parents came home that evening, I was holding the papers in my hand asking them, what is this? And they look so stunned. Like I bet in their heads they were thinking, he knows.
Keith: So when was this in relation to 1999.
Bronson: Yeah. So that was, apparently those papers, I was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified back in the late nineties.
Apparently I was taken to a child psychology center in Birmingham and from my earliest memories, I do remember being put through an MRI at one point, and I didn't know at the time that It was for that. So yeah I think that after I got my diagnosis, my parents were informed about how to raise a child on the spectrum, ways that they could be there for me and support me.
And, you know, they apparently didn't want to tell me because for one thing, they thought it would probably be gambling on the possibility that it could destroy my self-esteem or something. But at first when I confronted them about the documents, I was still in denial. I wasn't angry with them.
But ever since then, like in the years following my discovery when I was 15, I've come to accept it and in a way understand why they hid it from me.
Keith: So when were you 15? I'm trying to get a timeline in my own head, from when you were officially diagnosed in 1999 to when you found out about your diagnosis by accident. Not to shame your parents at all but I'm just trying to figure out their timeframe.
Bronson: Oh yeah. So, with my diagnosis being in 1999 when I was about almost two years old, I was 15, give or take. It was somewhere in 2012.
Keith: Wow, okay, let's go back to you confronting your parents the first time about your diagnosis. Obviously everything worked out okay and it made you a part of the man you are today, but I'm trying to get into the 15 year old head, your 15 year head, and I mean, what were you thinking at the time? How did you approach your parents? I mean, wow.
So you were two, when you were diagnosed, you found out when you were 15, you had to become pretty much an entire teenager, or thereabouts, before you found out a critical part of your development and your charming personality. What was, we're going off the cuff here. What was that like to confront your parents? And of course you all got through it, but I imagine that the conversations afterwards were kind of tense? I mean, I don't know your family situation and so I'm trying to unpack that.
Bronson: Well, I'm not gonna lie. When I first talked to ‘em about this, the day I found those papers, on some level I felt betrayed, but I had a lot of emotions going through me at that time. You know, for one thing, I was a teenager, and two, this was a life changing discovery. And so I thought to myself, oh my gosh, this all makes sense. Why did they never tell me?
But when we talked about it, they sat me down and we talked calmly about it, like despite my mixed emotions, I did not feel angry at 'em. Just a tiny bit betrayed, but not angry. But after that conversation, I slowly began to understand because for one thing, my parents did not think that I would understand what it would mean, and they didn't want me to feel any different than other children.
That's the understandable part, but, had I not found out about this, there's probably a good chance my channel wouldn't have existed or my advocacy wouldn't have existed. So I guess you could say that after we had that talk, what came after that was history with what we've done with my discovery.
Keith: So your advocacy really started because of a mistake of information you found out about yourself. Do you think your parents would've ever told you about your diagnosis? Or would they want you to assume? And again, I'm not trying to judge your parents at all, in case they ever listen to this. Would they want you to just assume you were like everyone else or would they have eventually told you in a few years or onwards, do you think?
Bronson: I sometimes ask myself that question even today. Sometimes I ask myself what would've happened if things were different? Would've my parents ever told me that I'm autistic, eventually? I personally believe they would've told me, but it likely would've happened after I, you know, settled into either college or a career. Once I'm settled into life, knowing my parents they always wanted me to be the best version of myself, and they still do.
They probably would've thought at the time, if I discovered this as a teenager, in their minds, they probably would've thought that I wouldn't have as much confidence as I usually would because they assumed that if I thought myself to be like negatively different, if I thought of myself as negatively different from others, I wouldn't have you know, used my confidence. But I do believe that they would've told me, later on in life. I don't think they would've hidden this from me for the rest of my life.
Keith: So how was it telling your girlfriend something so personal about yourself and what was her reaction? Of course I think I already know what her reaction was, but there's
still a 50-50 chance that her reaction could have been the exact opposite of what it was. And so I'm always fascinated by that story and why I ask very personal questions of my friends.
Bronson: And I share this story from time to time as well. I first told Savannah about my autism, like within the first month of our relationship back in 2016.
I never brought it up in conversation when we were friends before then, because I didn't think that, you know, it was necessary. But I figured when we started dating, hey, she has to know everything about me and my autism is a huge part of who I am. And so about a month into our relationship, I mustered up the strength to tell her.
Although I was scared if it would, you know, scare her away. Thankfully it did not because she told me that it took a lot of courage to admit something like that.
Keith: Spoiler alert, spoilers alert. It did not scare her away. I'm sorry, continue.
Bronson: No, no, no, no, no. It’s a big spoiler because I don't know, I’d wish I could have this all recorded, like the events of my life to show you. But yeah.
Keith: That's where a memoir comes into play in about 15 years. 15 or 20 years. I really hope you write a memoir and I would definitely read it several times, but continue. You were saying that her reaction was that she was very impressed and touched because it took a lot of courage and dare I say vulnerability to self disclose something like that very early on in the relationship. So continue.
Bronson: Well, after we had that conversation about my autism and she quickly accepted it because she understood that it is part of who I am as a matter of fact it inspired her throughout her college career to help some people who have physical disabilities, even though it's a different thing compared to autism.
But she told people later on in her college career that she had firsthand experience of having a relationship with someone on the spectrum. And now she has some personal knowledge on how people who have disabilities, how they function in the world and how they see the world uniquely. And she's actually benefited from that discovery in several ways.
She's working to become a doctor right now. Part of her studies would be on psychological diversity. So I told her I said, if I could take that class with you, I would like to learn a lot of stuff myself on that.
Keith: Wow, that's incredible. Wow, that's really incredible. And so, as an autistic activist and advocate, what would you say is the most positive assumption that people make? And what is the most negative assumption, and why do people continue to make the negative assumption not only about you, but about all autistic people? And why not the positive?
Bronson: I think the most positive assumption that people have about the spectrum is that they think that all of us are top tier geniuses who can actually think of solutions in the blink of an eye. I see that as a positive assumption, although at the same time I see it as a stereotype. So, that goes hand in hand. The most negative assumption that I think people have about others on the spectrum is that they think, or they tend to think that autistics lack empathy or they lack understanding of how the world works.
I've been told that several times in my life and I've seen it happen to other people who are like me. When we feel as if viewpoints of the world are not as valid or as strong as others. But that goes back to the positive thing about autism is that everybody, including those on the spectrum, they look at the world in a unique way and there's no one universal way as to how the world works.
I think that, and also people continue to look at that negative assumption that autistics seem to lack empathy or understanding because they probably continue to think that autistic are in their own comfort zone and they think that they don't get enough life experience to understand the world.
And that's one of the things I advocate for, is that everybody has life experience in their own time. It's not that they never will, but they just need the motivation to get out into the world and build their own life from what they observe from it, if that makes sense.
Keith: Yes, that does make sense. Another negative assumption that I could think of is that autistics are not funny at all and that particularly with how well I know you and how well I follow you on social media, you give my corny sense of humor a big run for its money.
But there's also other assumptions, beyond lack of empathy that autistics are antisocial, genius types. Lack humor, lack social skills on and on. As an autistic advocate, I almost forgot that word for a second, that would have been really embarrassing. As an autistic advocate, how does it make you feel? Surely you have come across these stereotypes in both your personal and professional life. How does it make you feel that the majority of people have these really basic, completely outdated assumptions about all autistics, when most of that couldn't be further from the truth? What are temporarily able bodied people who have not yet discovered their own disabilities, missing from the beautiful diversity that autistics can bring to the table?
Bronson: The best way that all of us can, like both on and off the spectrum, all of us can be the best version of ourselves by just being ourselves and not, you know, mask ourselves into what the world wants us to be. That is because when it comes to the stereotypes of autism and other kinds of disabilities out there, being ourselves is what keeps us from having an existential crisis and it keeps us from, you know, submitting to social conformity, if that makes sense. A lot of us, we go through situations when we just want to like, do what we do and have fun at the same time instead of going through some social situations where we must, you know, act in a certain way.
I do mean that we must like, behave in everything, but we also should present our ideas in the way that we know how and get the credit for it. For instance, you and me, we're both advocates who have different forms of advocacy. You have your podcast, I have my YouTube channel, and we share the same goal through that.
And the beauty of that is we are our own bosses and we have our own methods on sharing our gifts with the world. And as such, we need to continue to encourage other people who are like us and even to those who are not like us. We just need to help people get an understanding that people on the spectrum indeed have a lot of deep feelings.
They actually have a very sensitive level of emotion that could affect them a lot heavier than other people. It just breaks my heart when someone says that an autistic person does not feel, like I'm sorry if they think that an autistic person doesn't care about anything, and when that autistic person hears this coming from someone's mouth, they actually internally feel deep hurt from it.
And it's like being kind of, It's degrading towards those on the spectrum because believe it or not, we actually care an awful lot. We just want to be comfortable at the same time so that the world doesn't overwhelm us.
Keith: Do you think the adage, the saying that if you've met one person with autism, you met one person with autism. Do you think that's a positive saying or do you have another take on it, as an autistic advocate?
Bronson: Honestly, it would depend on the context, but the saying itself, I am a little bit more than 50% sure that that saying could be stereotypical. Because you can't just assume that one autistic person, like everyone who is on the spectrum, acts like the one person on the spectrum that you've already met. That's why it's called a spectrum for a reason.
Because we all see the world differently. We all have different forms of creativity. We interact differently and therefore it would be misleading if we said that one form of autism defines all of it on the spectrum.
Keith: How do you deal with social anxiety and rejection particularly related to your disability?
Bronson: Let's see. I haven't really encountered a situation like that since I was in college at the very latest, but the way I've always handled social anxiety or rejection from my autism is
sometimes I would let it get to me deep down, like I would be hurt. Like I'm always the kind of person that either tends to be a people pleaser or the kind that wants to win the favor of someone's interpretation of me. I always want them to see me in a positive light and of course, the harsh reality is you can't please everyone.
And so when I did come across people who rejected me, it did hurt. But, and a couple of times, I did carry resentment with it, but I eventually moved on. I can't let one person's negative thoughts about me influence how I live my life or determine who I am.
Keith: No, you cannot. So what are some of your favorite things about your autism and what are some things that you still struggle with in terms of your autism?
Bronson: Well, I don't know if this aspect comes with my autism, but it might be a byproduct of it. I do love the fact that I have an overactive imagination, and in part that has enabled me to have my creative writing ability. So there's that, and I do enjoy the fact that I have, as you say, a corny sense of humor.
I do like to make people laugh and because I feel like if I'm encountering a day when I don't feel happy, I could at least make someone feel happy.
Keith: And you do, I believe I said you give my corny sense of humor a run for its money in that you do it exceptionally better than I do. But go on.
Bronson: I like the fact that I have more self confidence than ever, especially in recent years. When I was younger I was usually shy and now I'm like the antithesis of my younger self right now but some of the things that I've always considered a challenge because of my autism is my prolonged learning process.
This is something that's still an ongoing thing with me throughout my life and even right now when it comes to something new that I've never done before. I have to learn how to do it, how to master it, and it takes me a little longer than most people to get the hang of something, like very recently I you know, about my professorship.
When I started working as a professor, there was a lot of information that I needed to become familiar with in a short amount of time and I thought, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Okay, I gotta start getting used to this. I had to brace myself where it's like information overload. And when I have made some mistakes getting the hang of my professorship, like how to navigate certain stuff on the computer, or I might have missed a deadline or two on something, but I had to ask around a lot for help on understanding certain aspects of my job. And people came through for me to help me understand.
But that's just like, my learning process is a bit delayed and a little prolonged but the more I get experience, the better I become at a certain task.
Keith: Mine too. How long have you been a professor and was that always a goal you wanted to work towards? Do you have a 10-year? Or do you want to work towards that goal? Is that the next step in your professional career?
Bronson: Let's see. I've always wanted to be a professor since I started college. Originally I wanted to be a high school English teacher. But after my first year of college, I had to do some soul searching and I thought to myself quite honestly, that when it comes to teaching kids, high school level kids, like kids and teenagers, I honestly can be a bit of a pushover when it comes to disciplinary stuff.
So I thought if I worked as a professor, I could lean less on discipline and more on the education and the creativity of my job. So that would put less stress on me. So I decided to teach post-secondary education. And as for the future of my career, I haven't been a professor too long. This is my first ever semester teaching because I recently graduated back in May.
And I do plan on getting my 10-year as I get more teaching experience, it may take a few years down the road, but once I'm fully used to the teaching mindset, I will eventually pursue my 10-year and, you know, advance my career through that.
Keith: So what do you see as the future of your YouTube channel Brons Over Brains?
What do you see, gotta keep it light sometimes. What do you see as the future of your YouTube channel, and what do you want the end point to be? The end goal? What would you really like to accomplish with your YouTube channel to really feel validated that this was really worth my time. That this was one of the better decisions that I ever made. That there is a hunger and a thirst for authentic expression, vulnerability, and so on and so forth.
Bronson: The future of Brons Over Brains is something that I've actually been racking my brain about all summer because
Keith: Is that pun intended or not?
Bronson: Actually now that you brought it to my attention, it is a pun intended but it went over my head. But as for the future of the channel, it is quite unknown, but I do plan to keep it going for as long as I can. I am still going to continue making content whenever I can.
The challenge that I've come across with my new career is finding the time to make new videos. And let's just say, times have changed since, compared to when I started the channel as a college sophomore or college junior to a full-time professor. You have to balance out your work life or your social life and your personal life. Go ahead.
Keith: No, I was just agreeing with you. That is a very important insight that a lot of young people, I think that unfortunately goes over their heads. Not all young people mind you, but there has to be a balance between your work life, your professional life, your social life, your personal life, your family life, and so on and so forth. And so I would be with you on that, but please continue.
Bronson: My end goal, my eventual end goal is that I hope that when it's all said and done, I hope that my channel will eventually, you know, help at least one person out there discover their voice in society, because I need our viewers to take it from someone who spent half his life not knowing a big part of himself, and then embracing it after he did.
When you become, when you understand who you fully are, use all your talents to succeed in life and not be what others want you to be because we live in an age where equality is heavily promoted. So what's the point of equality if people don't accept us for who we truly are?
Keith: So yes, you're absolutely right and correction, I early on in the episode said you had 1.4k followers. That's a misread from me, your channel actually has 1.44k followers and so yeah, I can’t believe I misread that but it’s YouTube and small print.
So just going off what your angle was, you were one person to find their voice, I just read you how many followers you have, at least at the time of this recording. And I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I think you already surpassed that end point that end goal. Going off that though, if there are any aspiring advocates who are just coming out of college, or even highschool and wanting to become more involved in self advocacy, what are some action steps? Like five pieces of advice that you would give the next generation of self-advocates?
Bronson: Well this is a brand new question I've been asked, and I think it's a very good take because believe it or not, we do have a future generation of advocates out there to help get on their feet out there. And so if I were to give them any advice for their future the most important one is, to really accept who you are, even if you encounter a lot of challenges in your life because there is a reason why we go through the toughest challenges in life because even though life finds ways to test our limits, we come through as resilient and tough fighters in life. So if you can get through any challenge in your life, no matter how big or small it is, you can get through anything. So that's fully embracing who you are.
A second piece of advice is, do anything that makes you happy in terms of what you wanna do with your life. Like if you were to do anything positive at all, see if you can reach out to people and give them the same message that we are giving you. It's about self-acceptance and just remember to put yourself first, though, which leads into my third piece of advice.
Don't become anyone who others expect you to be, because if you fully embrace who you are and do what you wanna do, that is the key to living a purposeful and fulfilling life. Nobody wants to live a life based on how others dictate it because the key to happiness is having freedom, the freedom to be who you are and not submitting to social conformity.
And the final piece of advice I can share for the future generation is don't be afraid to find your inner circle because there are strong odds that there are people near you who have the same interests, hobbies, and different takes on the world, like you did, similar viewpoints. So the more people you connect with, the better you'll feel because everybody needs a friend.
Everybody needs at least one friend to inspire them and to be who they can be. What's a life without friendship? Am I right?
Keith: Indeed, you are. So the reason you created the video channel is a lot along the same lines of why I created the podcast. People crave authenticity, authentic voices and stories now more than ever.
And I would like to think that both people with disabilities and those that have yet to discover their own disabilities listen to this podcast. But I would be very naive in assuming that both groups get the exact same thing out of listening to an episode. So as my guest and with the final word, what do you hope that listeners with disabilities would get out of this episode and what would you hope that listeners who have yet to discover their own disabilities would get out of the episode?
Bronson: Hopefully, my biggest hope for our viewers and listeners out there is that upon seeing and hearing this episode that they actually, I hope they get some kind of personal benefit from it because in a way, I feel like you and I are our own inner circle, sharing our stories with the audience out there.
I hope that our audience out there can actually connect with what we're talking about because it'll, again, hopefully, I hope it'll make 'em feel like they're not alone and they actually have some people who can understand how hard life can be on the spectrum and even off the spectrum. And really overall, I just hope that our audience, I hope they know that they have a purpose in life, like they need to be reassured.
I hope they are reassured that they have a great purpose in life ahead of them after listening to this, because that's pretty much all I think that this episode is a great reassurance to people who are still looking and discovering themselves, because when you get down to the root of the nature of this episode, Everyone who is autistic or not, everyone on this planet spends their whole life going through a journey of self-discovery, and that's what we're doing together. Us as creators and the audience out there, we are all finding ourselves on the path of life, and when it's all said and done, we know that we have served a purpose one way or another.
Keith: That is very profound. If any listeners want to follow you or get in touch with you or check out your amazing video channel on YouTube, how is the best way they can do that?
Bronson: If there's anyone in the audience who would like to check out Brons Over Brains, we are publicly on YouTube. We can be found if you type in Brons Over Brains. That's B R O N S Over Brains. Those are three separate words, by the way, not a collective username. It is just B R O N S Over Brains.
We have a complete history of videos to share out there. There’s a wide variety of content. There are like a few interviews, there are challenge videos. There's a couple of cooking videos. Some adventure videos, vacation vlogs, you name it. There's like literally a variety of content that we create on the channel.
But the overarching theme is that we are representing the autism community one vlog at a time. And of course, I hope you don't mind me asking, but I say my catchphrase at the end of every vlog. So I would like to end our episode here with, stay brony everybody.
Keith: Bronson, it's been such a pleasure getting to know you better. I thought I knew a lot about you and you've just expanded what I've known already, and fleshed out your story and your beliefs. I really, again, admire your authenticity, your bravery, much like Savannah did when you told her about your autism diagnosis, and my esteem for you has only risen.
Thank you so much for coming on to do what I hope is just one of several episodes you will do on the podcast, provided you have time with your professorship. Congratulations on that by the way, and again, I cannot thank you enough for the work you do. Not only on behalf of autistics but on behalf of neurodivergent people who follow you, who Identify with your humor, with your profound wisdom.
I admired you before this interview, my admiration for your tact, your humor, your authenticity, for your profound wisdom at times has only risen and I hope this is the only the first episode you do on the podcast because I am sure there is a lot more to talk about and we share very similar views on advocacy and activism, but I am sure there are views in which we differ because that is human nature after all. But I thank you for being as open as vulnerable as you have. I have enjoyed this interview profusely and I hope you will come back soon my friend.
Bronson: I really appreciate all your kind words Keith, because there are a lot of positive things I could say about you and your cause. I just feel really honored to be a small part of it because what you're doing is phenomenal. It is something that a lot of people need to see and hear because I just really love what you're doing.
Like this is all inspiring coming from a fellow advocate because. You’re an inspiration to many and let me just say if no one has told you that, let me be the first. But I hope I'm one of many, and again, I really appreciate you inviting me to be on here and to speak with our audience.
Keith: Thank you my friend. And the podcast will eventually become a video cast and I know exactly who is the first one I am going to call for tips on creating a successful video channel. Thank you my friend.
Bronson: You're very welcome. And thank you as well, like so much.
Keith: Say hi to Savannah for me. Take care.
Bronson: I sure will. I sure will.
Keith: You have been listening to Disability Empowerment Now. I would like to thank my guest today and you, the listener. More information about the podcast can be found on visit on disabilityempowermentnow.com. The podcast is available wherever you listen to podcasts or on the official website. This episode of Disability Empowerment Now is copyrighted 2023.