Kyle Bryant Recently I was listening to my favorite podcast, Two Disabled Dudes, episode 208 - “Is There a Wrong Way?” In this episode, Kyle Bryant (one of “the Dudes”) refers to a speech he gave to a third-grade class at a local elementary school. This conversation stands out to me in a powerful way. It impacts me because it discusses the power of kindness, friendship, compassion, and perspective. The through line of Kyle’s talk is how we can affect people; through kindness, we can improve people’s lives and strengthen friendships. I asked Kyle if I could interview him, so he could share his talk with the FA community (in written form, to compliment his audio form––found in minutes 6:13-14:22 of episode 208), and he graciously agreed.

How did you first get involved, and why did you choose this target audience? A third-grade class at a local elementary school reached out to me after seeing the film [The Ataxian]. A friend of one of the teachers gave them a heads up about the film. A screening was hosted at a local theater, and I've been doing annual presentations for the third graders ever since.

What is your “Why” for your talk/message? My talk centers around how we can all have a positive impact on others just by the way we treat them. I have experienced this through the FA community, the Rare Disease Community, and beyond. It's a principle that applies to everyone.

Describe the project; teachers discuss FA, then you come after and talk. When I arrive, all the kids know about FA, the symptoms, and how they might affect someone's life. They also know about me and what I've done. So it's a very comfortable environment when that unknown is taken out and we can connect without that barrier of understanding. I'm grateful to the teachers for their preparation for the talk.

Kyle BryantWhy do you feel like it’s important to talk about friendship, kindness, inclusion and awareness of other peoples’ needs (physical and emotional)? We all want to be understood. It's the foundation for any relationship.

What were some of the questions/comments/feedback? The most impactful question was "Is FA your superpower?" That one took me by surprise and I started crying. I gathered myself for the answer which is not exactly straight-forward. FA is terrible and tears apart lives, and many times families, but it has also given me a very unique perspective to view the world and it has allowed me to think about things and experience things that I wouldn't have otherwise. I appreciate that power.

I also appreciate the insight it takes to ask that question. At this point, this third grader does not see disability as bad, just different. I hope she is able to hang on to that perspective as she gets older.

Kyle Bryant What was YOUR biggest take away/made a big impact for you, your experience and perspective? When other people see me as whole, it helps me see myself that way. I am working toward seeing myself as whole and then showing that to others, but it's nice to have a little encouragement sometimes.

Will you do this again? Absolutely.

Will you make any changes/adjustments to your talk? Probably not. It is a different group of kids each time and they always put a unique flavor on it so I just try to go in with an open mind and heart.

Listening to the podcast and reading Kyle’s interview answers inspired me to create more opportunities to advocate for awareness and inclusion. Do you have any similar experience (talking with a group about FA, advocacy, awareness, etc) and would like to share it with others? Sharing your story can inspire and empower others! Please reach out to me or any member of the blog team to share your experience.

Thank you, Kyle, for sharing your experience here and for your conversation and discussions on the Two Disabled Dudes podcast!

Article by Mary Nadon Scott