“The buzz from the show opened doors for me to expand my reach, which is extraordinarily gratifying!” Kaelynn Partlow
By Ron Sandison
I enjoyed watching the Netflix series, Love On the Spectrum and hearing each participants’ story and the challenges they experienced with dating. The show beautifully illustrates that autism can look different in each person. I loved Kaelynn Partlow’s openness in sharing about her learning challenge of dyslexia and how it has impacted dating and her passion for training dogs. I was excited to interview Kaelynn and share her insight on life and romance.
1. As a child what were some of your passions and interests? What sparked your interest in training dogs?
As a child, I liked The Lion King, birdwatching, photographing wildlife, and learning about animals. I got a kick out of telling people that The Lion King was a religion, and I was a practicing member!
We had a dog, and I always liked the species. I think I got started because of wanting to do something interactively with ours. I also probably watched too much Animal Planet as a child and thought I could do a better job than Steve Irvin.
2. What challenges did you experience with autism and how did your parents empower you to overcome those challenges?
I was diagnosed with autism and a garden variety of learning disabilities at the age of 10. I’ve always struggled with keeping friends, tolerating change, and sorting through sensory input.
Due to my learning disabilities, I didn’t read my first book independently until I was 14 years old. My challenges with autism were compounded by my vast array of learning disabilities: dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia, to name a few. As with most other autistic individuals, I had difficulty in making and keeping friends. I took my interest in dogs to an extreme level and “became” a dog, barking at neighbors. I think I even took a bite out of someone. With my literal approach to things, I argued that my name started with a “K” and I was 9 years old; therefore, I WAS a “canine.”
My mom used role play and set expectations to try to prepare me for situations. Before a peer would come over, she would practice some scenarios to help me get ready. I had enough language for those strategies to be relatively effective.
3. How did you choose a career as a registered behavior technician (RBT)? What is the most rewarding part of your work?
My life was forever changed at age 13 when I joined Project Hope’s small private school for kids on the autism spectrum.
I became a peer mentor and discovered that I can interact well with children, particularly those on the spectrum. Project Hope is responsive to the individual needs and of students and so they developed an internship for me to work towards various goals in helping the teachers. After receiving my diploma, I became certified as an RBT and have been on staff with Project Hope since I was 18.
I love helping children learn to communicate, across all levels. I can see myself in many of my clients. I feel particularly equipped to generate novel suggestions for them since I have “been there/done that.”
4. What are some strengths you have being neurodivergent and what challenges?
Ironically, I am good with language. Social engagement remains one of my hardest challenges.
5. Before Love On the Spectrum what was your dating history? Did you try any dating apps? Any humorous dating or horror stories?
I have had two boyfriends before being on the show. I have tried multiple dating apps, and I have not found any success in making meaningful connections with anyone. I have plenty of both humorous and horrific stories, but none that are particularly appropriate for publication!
6. What are three qualities you desire in a romantic partner?
Ambition, intelligence, and compassion.
7. What caused you to cast for Love On the Spectrum? And what was your auditions like?
I saw an ad on Facebook and one Zoom interview led to another Zoom interview. Next thing I knew, Netflix was on my doorstep. I wasn’t sure it was real until it happened, and even then, I wasn’t sure it was actually going to be on Netflix until I was in a room watching it with family and friends.
8. What three dating tips would you give to young adults with autism?
I wish I knew three great tips! While being on the show was a wonderful life-changing experience, I cannot say that it improved my love life.
9. How has Love On the Spectrum enable you to be a positive advocate and influencer in the autism community?
After the show aired, my social media platforms exploded. For several years, I have published pieces to help explain my autistic perspective and to share information to help others better understand our community. The buzz from the show opened doors for me to expand my reach, which is extraordinarily gratifying!
10. In March you presented with Dr. Temple Grandin at the Future Is NOW conference. What did you look forward to most with meeting Temple? And what insight have you gained from Dr. Grandin?
I was excited about presenting at the statewide conference, particularly when I realized that Dr. Grandin was the featured speaker. I have heard her speak numerous times and she has been a long-time role model for me. I hoped to get a bit of time with her. I was really honored when she chose to attend my presentation and even referenced my speech in her Q & A session. In listening to her I realized that she and I have similarities in how we think about the world. I hope that I can follow in her footsteps in spreading practical, actionable information.
Kaelynn Partlow’s Bio
Kaelynn Partlow was diagnosed with autism at the age of 10. She joined Project Hope Foundation’s school program as a teenager, where she developed an interest in working with others on the spectrum. In 2015, she joined Project Hope Foundation as a Registered Behavior Technician. She is now a Lead Technician, providing services to middle and high-school-aged clients and helping to develop staff training content. In 2021, Kaelynn was a featured participant in the Netflix series Love On The Spectrum. She has been a guest on numerous national podcasts and published several articles, providing an autistic perspective. She uses her social media accounts as a platform for autism advocacy reaching millions across the world.
See blogs on The Art of Autism by Kaelynn Partlow.
Ron Sandison works full time in the medical field and is a professor of theology at Destiny School of Ministry. He is an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of Autism Society of America. Sandison has a Master of Divinity from Oral Roberts University and is the author of A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom, published by Charisma House and Thought, Choice, Action. He has memorized over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes. Ron’s third book Views from the Spectrum was released in May 2021.
Ron frequently guest speaks at colleges, conferences, autism centers, and churches. Ron and his wife, Kristen, reside in Rochester Hills, MI, with a baby daughter, Makayla Marie born on March 20, 2016.
You can contact Ron at his website www.spectruminclusion.com or email him at email@example.com