“We’re more alike than we’re not.”
On Tuesday, January 14, the Middle School welcomed guest speaker and South Florida native, Haley Moss, to the Saint Andrew’s campus. Diagnosed with autism at three years old, Haley is now an attorney, author, advocate, and consultant who aims to share her passion for disability inclusion and neurodiversity with the world.
Invited to campus by Middle School Learning Support Specialist, Dr. Tai Hinkins, Haley was excited to have the opportunity to speak to students in her local area and share her story.
During her speech to Middle School students, Haley recounted memories from her childhood to share with students. When she was first diagnosed with autism, a doctor told her parents that in the future, she would be lucky to make friends or even get a driver’s license. For years, Haley kept her diagnosis hidden, accepting it in her private life but not sharing it with others around her. However, one day while in class, there was a brief moment in which she was given two options in a split second: tell her classmates and friends, or continue to keep it hidden.
That moment changed Haley’s life forever because from that second on, she would live her life as an openly autistic individual. Fast forward several years, and Haley has now been featured in several news outlets, such as CNN, CBS, and The Today Show, for her commitment to not only sharing her story but also for her passion for acceptance, inclusion, and neurodiversity.
During her visit to SA, her message to Scots was that they have the power to create and live in a world where all people are accepted. “It’s okay to be exactly who you are because that’s who you’re supposed to be,” said Haley. “The world needs all kinds of minds to keep solving the problems of tomorrow so that our world can keep growing and become more accepting.”
Haley’s visit aligns with the work that is being done in the Middle School this year. Dr. Hinkins and Dr. Lauren Berger, Middle School Guidance Counselor, have partnered together to promote wellness to Middle School students through various activities, events, and guest speaker visits.
When Dr. Hinkins invited Haley to Saint Andrew’s, she knew it would be a unique and eye-opening experience for Scots to see wellness through a different lens. “I wanted students to see that there are a lot of people that have hidden challenges or struggles and that everyone has something unique or different about them,” said Dr. Hinkins. “Seeing someone that was not only successful but also really comfortable in her own skin appealed to me. It was like spinning wellness on its own head because, as opposed to ‘I’m well because I’m super fit,’ this experience promoted ‘I’m well because I’m authentic and I’m embracing that’.”
Students walked away from the visit with the understanding that by being exactly who they are and accepting others for exactly who they are, students can help create a world where all bodies and minds are accepted and loved. In Haley’s words, “all people, disability or not, are more alike than they’re not.”
“There were some students who came up to Haley afterward and said she really made an impact on them. Students were heard saying, ‘you made me feel a little bit better about myself and it’s okay if I’m a little different’,” said Dr. Hinkins. “Anything to make a student feel confident to bring their whole self to school is a great thing and that’s the long term impact we were aiming for.”
A special thank you to Haley for visiting Saint Andrew’s and opening up a door for our Scots to discuss acceptance, individuality, and inclusion.