Nicholas Hemachandra, young and old

“Poppa, Do You Have Autism?”

I told this story in my keynote address at the HANd Autism & Neurodiversity Conference in fall 2019 at Appalachian State University in North Carolina.  Some of my son Nicholas’ hardest years were between when he experienced that early regression in his communication and connection through about third grade. His frustrations around expressive communication, his…

On blackness and autism, identity and essence

Often I’m asked “What are you?” Racial and ethnic identity still inform so much in our culture. The question asked really is a question of identity. “What are you?” masks the underlying question, “Who are you?” When I was young I was black. My father, Neal Hemachandra, was black. His mother, Leathe Wade Colvert, was…

My Not-So-Secret Identity: Glasses On and Off

When I was growing up in New York, I was definitely considered shy and quiet, lacking confidence, unsure of myself. I agreed with this assessment. It’s fair to say, I think, that in my adult life, which has taken place almost entirely away from New York, just about no one has thought of me in…

Bowling in Chicago: friendship, racism, loyalty, and the meaning of team through the paradigm of working-class communities and bowling leagues in the late 20th century

I went to graduate school studying political science at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park starting in 1989. Soon after arriving I looked for a bowling league to join. It seemed to me if you lived in Chicago, you should be on a bowling team. I didn’t learn about 16-inch softball in Chicago until…