Having a developmental disability can be a challenge and a blessing. A multitude of people with developmental disabilities have left a huge impact on others. The individuals I would like to share with you are those not many of us know about. Some people with developmental disabilities, including these three artists, are setting a positive example for future generations.
Elisa Huberman, a friend of mine, was born in 1989 and diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. A writer and illustrator of children’s books, she creates work from her own vivid imagination to let her artistic voice be heard. Her book “The Upside Down Giraffe” earned a prize.
Both Elisa and I share the same love of art and storytelling. In 2013, we first met at JobPath, a non-profit organization in New York City. Since then, we’ve been collaborating together on stories.
Zack Gottsagen was born in 1985 and diagnosed with Down syndrome as a baby. The doctors believed he would never walk or talk. But Zack has proved his doubters wrong and become a professional actor. His most memorable role is in The Peanut Butter Falcon, which catapulted him into stardom.
I first met Zack when we went to a film camp in 2011. We both co-starred in Finding Zac Efron, a mockumentary, Bulletproof, a Western, and Best Summer Ever, a high school musical.
Russell Hill, who has autism, was born in 1991. He started meditating and practicing yoga at the age of eight. Russell earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts. Nowadays, Russell is a meditation instructor and specialist. He is also an artist, and his pictures have been put on display in galleries.
Russell and I have been firm friends since we first met in grammar school. Both of us enjoy learning meditation and yoga skills.
Elisa, Zack and Russell prove that having a developmental disability shouldn’t hold you back from pursuing your passions. Because of their charm, these remarkable people are a special part of my life.
Jacob Waltuck has enjoyed working in the Arts + Culture and Marketing Departments at the 14th Street Y. He also enjoys acting, visual art, and theater, and is involved in employment support programs through JobPath.