Art of Autism announcement: Autistic Pride Day is June 18 – send your art, poetry and blog submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Ron Sandison
The Honey Badger Award: a Fierce Advocate: A Force to Be Reckoned With is given each April by Spectrum Inclusion to celebrate an entrepreneur and advocate from the autism community. This award is given annually in April to a local person with autism from Michigan and an individual with autism outside of the state. The first local winner of the award is Dylan Somberg and out of state winner is Grant Manier.
The mission of Spectrum Inclusion is to empower individuals with autism for employment and provide resources to equip them to learn life skills for independence. My honey badger mascot symbolizes perseverance and the raw steal nerves required to never give up in the presence of adversity and overcome every obstacle to achieve our dreams.
The inspiration for The Honey Badger Award was my struggles with employment and my delays with accomplishing my goals in life. I was not gainfully employed until age 33 even though I had a master degree and two bachelor degrees and I got married at 38 and was a dad at 41.
My grandma Helen Olmsted was a famous murder mystery author and she and my grandpa Don Olmsted wrote and directed over 200 murder mystery plays. When I was 30 years old my Grandpa Olmsted informed my mom, “Life has a way of overlooking some people like Ron.”
My mom replied, “Ron’s time to shine will come in God’s time.” My grandpa died two years before my first book was published and I become a national speaker for autism. My mom in her autism presentations shares, “I knew Ron’s time arrived when he was speaking to large audiences in the very conference halls his grandparents had their mystery plays.
As a young adult with autism my ability to connect with others was like a thirty-year-old pair of worn-out Velcro shoes, this lack of connection power caused me to miss opportunities and experience underemployment. In April 2005, I began to develop entrepreneur skills by marketing my speaking and writing talents and using my strengths to accommodate for my limitations and adapt to my social environment. Now each April with The Honey Badger Award, I can celebrate individuals with autism who have refined their gifts and use them to advocate for change.
I choose Dylan Somberg as the first local Honey Badger Award winner for his diligence, advocacy, and amazing digital art. As Proverbs 12:25 states, “Diligent hands will rule…” Dylan’s Blue Jazz finished third place in the 2020 The Finding Your Inner MozArt Art Contest hosted by Art of Autism and Mainly Mozart nonprofits.
Above my bed, I have Dylan’s Face of Jesus digital picture and my daughter Makayla has in her room his Butterfly artwork. In the morning, the Jesus picture with vibrant colors reminds me to seek God’s face and place my trust in Him. I meet Dylan at Autism Alliance of Michigan conference and was impressed by his love for nature, animals, and his faith which is reflected in his artwork.
Dylan’s mom Jeannine Somberg taught him entrepreneur skills by developing a strong handshake, assertiveness, and confidence to sell his artwork.
Dylan shares, “As a kid animals were always good to me. Sometimes people weren’t always nice, but animals showed compassion and love. If you’re kind to them they are kind back and I like that.” Dylan contributes through his artwork to Defenders of Wildlife Foundation. You can purchase his art T-shirts. Video of Dylan receiving the Honey Badger Award
I choose Grant Manier as the first out of state Honey Badger Award winner for his recycling paper Eco-art, imagination, passion for advocacy, and overcoming cancer. I interviewed Grant Manier and his mom Julie Coy in 2015 while writing my first book A Parent’s Guide to Autism. I was inspired by his story.
As a toddler Grant obsessively tore pieces of paper and this would became his source of healing. Julie patently nurtured Grant’s love for bright color tissue paper. Grant learned gradually to arrange the torn bits into beautiful wildlife artwork. A large panting can contain as much as 3,500 pieces of re-purposed calendars, magazines, gold paper, and paint mesh into an extraordinary collage. Grant developed social skills and confidence through his artwork. He is famous for saying, “It’s not what you can’t do; it’s what you can that makes you more.”
I love Grant’s unique artwork and his positive attitude. I meet Grant and Julie in Austin, Texas, 2018, for the release of the documentary film Fierce Love and Art by Dr. Laurence A. Becker which features our stories and is narrated by Dr. Temple Grandin. I am the Honey Badger Ron character in the Jigsaw Giraffe and Friends Book Series. In my dining-room, next to my prairie dogs photo, I have a Grant’s horse print. Grant has raised over 450,000 dollars for charities. You can purchase Grant’s artwork at his website.
Video of Grant Manier the Honey Badger Award
For every Honey Badger Advocate is a parent, family member, friend or teacher, who believed in them and empowered them to refine and market their gifts for success. Please comment below for nominations for the 2024 Honey Badger Award: a Fierce Advocate: A Force to Be Reckoned With. This award celebrates individuals with autism who are advocates in their community and using their gifts to transform the world.
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. Ron 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