Date Published: August 29, 2019
As a young man, Adam Farris found himself in a tough place. With poor social skills, he could not keep a job or friends, and he was asked to leave several restaurants and businesses. Then he received an autism spectrum diagnosis, which led to him getting help with social and life skills.
With that, Farris transformed his life. Today, he has a job, a business, friends, and a commitment to helping others. When he heard about SPARK, the largest study of autism, he decided to join. “It was amazing to see that so many people with autism are joining this study and possibly finding out why they have autism,” he says.
He also serves on the SPARK Community Advisory Council. “I love being able to help our community,” he says.
A Late Autism Diagnosis
Although his autism diagnosis came later than most, Farris received another diagnosis in childhood: Tourette’s syndrome. Tourette’s is a neurological condition that causes tics, which are sounds and movements that a person cannot control.
“In the past, my tics took the form of loud hooting and shouting noises,” Farris explains in his blog, at AdamFarris.net. “It kind of hurt to go into a restaurant or any quiet place and have an outbreak of tics and know that people were staring at me. They made comments.”
Farris’ father told him to educate those people about Tourette’s and “help them understand that I am just like anyone else with the ability to do anything anybody else can,” he says on his blog. Farris credits that advice with helping him become the advocate he is today.
Farris attended a school in Texas for students who have neurological and learning differences. But he found life after graduation to be challenging. “My social skills were so horrible that I couldn’t hold down a job, and I was getting barred and kicked out of places left and right,” he recalls.
When he was 24 years old, he learned that he has an autism spectrum disorder. He moved to North Carolina to attend a transitional living program for young adults with autism or learning problems. The program taught social, job, and independent living skills. “It was a life changer,” he says.
On the Road to a New Career
After several years in North Carolina, Farris returned to Texas, where he continued to develop his confidence and advocacy skills. He began attending social events at The HUB Houston, which serves people who have neurological differences.
He created an online business that sells clothing, jewelry, and other items, almost all of which are made by people with disabilities. Farris says that anybody who has a so-called disability has a unique ability and “can do many great things.” He named the business Younique (pronounced unique) Abilities.
He also enrolled in a theater program called Opening Minds, Opening Doors. This program teaches storytelling and public speaking skills to adults who have disabilities. Farris thrived and helped mentor other students. With these skills, he launched a career as an inspirational speaker. He draws upon his life experiences, as he encourages people to believe in themselves and “shoot for the stars.”
Imagining the Possibilities
In 2018, he spoke at the Houston Center for Independent Living for National Disability Employment Awareness Month. A video of the speech is posted on his website. “I'm 30 years old, and I don't think of myself as disabled because I have been able to accomplish so much,” he told the audience. “Maybe none of us are really disabled. Maybe the world just needs to think of us as all alike” — people with unique abilities like everyone else.
During that speech, he talked about his job as a cashier at Walmart, where he has worked since 2015. He enjoys greeting and helping his customers — and trying to make their day a little bit brighter. Just the day before, he recalled, his day was not going well until he began talking with his customers. “When I interact with my customers, it feels great,” he said. “My customers know me, they understand me, and I know them.”
Farris ended his speech by saying, “My motto is, make one person smile a day — think about how that would make them feel. Make two people smile a day — imagine the possibilities.”
Farris imagines the possibilities every day.