By Marybeth Bock

Eric Rozansky, a new graduate of Barrett Honors College at ASU, recently shared with me that he’s felt “different” his entire life. But that’s no reason at all to pity him or think he can’t laugh at himself.

Eric was diagnosed before the age of three with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a condition that is now more commonly described as Neurodiversity. Being neurodiverse simply means that a person’s brain is wired somewhat differently than most people – the ones we call neurotypical.

These days, instead of viewing autism as a disorder, Eric and the autism community recognize and highlight the abilities, strengths, and productive differences that individuals with autism have.

Eric was lucky that his parents sought help early in their search for a diagnosis, and he’s benefited from all kinds of support throughout his life – aides at school, therapies outside of school, and a loving family who have never coddled him and have always encouraged him to advocate for himself.

Like many people on the autism spectrum, Eric didn’t struggle with academics, but with the social aspects of growing up. He readily admits he was sometimes a nasty kid, having meltdowns, being a very picky eater, and preferring to spend time alone, rather than trying to make friends.

His teen years were often frustrating, and he dealt with the added challenge of his family moving across the country when he was 16. When he got to Arizona, he began to spend even more time online, which actually helped him find and connect with other neurodiverse people.

This experience helped Eric to realize something important that he wants all teenagers to know: “No matter how difficult your childhood or teen years might be, keep looking for your people – the ones that have the same passions that you have. They are out there and you will find them eventually.”

Over the past several years, Eric’s passion for removing the stigma surrounding autism led him to start a blog and now, his own small business called “The ‘Tism.”

Eric says, “The ‘Tism was born of a simple idea: there are so many products out there that are about autism, but how many of those are made by autistic people? How many of those are even marketed to autistic people? The ‘Tism was founded on one main principle, one basic mission that drives this entire operation: “By autistic people, for autistic people.” I aim to create something that can truly appeal to and understand the wants, needs, and sensibilities of the autism community.”

So far, The ‘Tism site sells funny t-shirts that reflect Eric’s self-deprecating sense of humor, and which are sure to start conversations about neurodiversity and what life is like for someone on the autism spectrum. He hopes to expand the business in the future and add more products like hats and stickers.

In addition to learning about things like finding local Arizona suppliers for his shirts and the supply chain process, he’s excited about helping others embrace their neurodiversity with a healthy dose of humor.

Eric firmly accepts the message that one of his t-shirts bears, “Not Your Inspirational Story.” Neurodiverse people don’t want acceptance just so others can feel good about themselves. They deserve acceptance because they are simply real people.


Marybeth Bock, MPH, has logged time as an Army wife, childbirth educator, college instructor and freelance writer. She lives in Phoenix and you can find her writing on multiple parenting sites.