I’ve gotten to know my next feature in my Empowered Series, Joshua White, on Twitter over the past several months. We’ve spoken primarily about disability, self-esteem, and ableism. When I saw that Joshua had his own business featuring neurodivergent themed T-shirts, I asked if he’d be willing to be featured on my blog. Thanks, Joshua, for your openness and candor, and answering all of my silly questions.
Joshua lives in North Carolina with his wife, two children, and four cats. He describes his family as “neurodivergent”, and they share many hobbies (among them watching Star Trek and playing Minecraft).
Fifteen years ago, at the age of 21, Joshua was diagnosed with autism. Prior to his diagnosis, he was not provided with supports in the public school system and completed his high school with the Commonwealth Challenge (a program led by Marine and Army drill sergeants). After several years struggling to find a way to make it on his own, Joshua moved to North Carolina with his wife and her children. He is now studying social work in college and running his T-shirt selling business, Celebrate You.
About Celebrate You
Celebrate You is an online shop that sells neurodiversity themed merchandise as a way to raise awareness about what neurodiversity is, as well as providing a visual reminder that neurodiversity doesn’t mean “bad”, just “different.” Using t-shirts is a public way for those with neurodiverse conditions to show that they are proud of who they are, and hopes to foster understanding with a neurotypical community that can sometimes view neurodiversity as something to be hidden or changed or downplayed. Joshua believes that his recent success at college is due to the fact that he learned to embrace his particular learning style (he’s a visual learner and tends to notice patterns that neurotypicals may miss); he believes that once other neurodivergent people embrace how they best learn and function, they can also reach a place of self-acceptance and success in school, the workplace, and everyday life. Joshua says he didn’t have any autistic role models growing up, and he wants to use his shop as a way to not only support his family, but to show his neurodivergent son that autism in and of itself doesn’t hold him back.
How it Works
The designs are brain-childs of Joshua White and his friend Chelsea Yarger. Joshua uses an open source imaging software called GIMP to design logos, and uploads them to the Celebrate You shop. The TeePublic web site hosts his online store and then prints and ships the purchased products to customers.
Joshua would love to be able to finish his Batchelor’s Degree at Appalachian State and move his family to Boone, North Carolina. He hopes to continue to raise awareness and pride among young neurodivergent people – something he never had – and help support his family. He is overwhelmed by the support and encouragement he has received and hopes the support will continue, not only for himself, but to spread the message that neurodiversity is nothing to be ashamed of and can even be something of which to be proud.