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Navigating Autism During The Pandemic

Courtesy: Joey Marsocci
Joey Marsocci, in front of a new exhibit he is creating for Curioporium in Hartford

Pandemic changes to personal lives and schedules have been challenging for most residents over the past year, but they’ve been particularly difficult for people who live with autism.

Joey Marsocci, 49, wasn’t diagnosed with autism until he was an adult. When his 7-year-old was diagnosed, he realized he should be too.

“It doesn’t define me, but it definitely creates a different world for me to claim,” said Marsocci.

He said there are so many misconceptions about the disorder that he usually keeps it private. But then he lost his job during the pandemic. He credits his autism, which makes him hyperfocused, for actually helping him in his job search. And, he says, for the first time during the interview process, he didn’t hide his diagnosis.

“This is the first job where I said it, because I thought it would be accepted,” said Marsocci.

He got a job as a long-term substitute teacher with the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC). Since then he has transitioned into the role of a recruitment and social media specialist there. 

Marsocci considers art his real full-time career, but that work also slowed down due to the pandemic. He is grayscale colorblind and says his autism helps him see art in a different way.

“Colors are emotions to me, they are not numbers,” said Marsocci. “So that’s how I figure things out, it’s just a lifetime of asking questions. If someone says that “a sunset is gorgeous,’ I say, ‘What color is it?’ and they will name off the colors, so I will say, ‘How does that make you feel?’”

The CDC reports 1 in 54 people is diagnosed with autism.

“One thing that is really important for kids with autism is for them to have routine, and COVID really disrupted that, not only their routine but also within their families,” said Jia Jia Ye, CEO of Springtide Child Development Centers in Trumbull and Ridgefield. 

After a virtual start, Springtide has been able to stay open since June. The centers offer a range of services for children and young adults with autism.

“We’re really excited for this month being Autism Awareness Month to really come back and celebrate after a difficult year and looking forward to the hope that’s coming now that COVID is on the decline,” said Ye.

As for Marsocci, he’s also excited for a new project. He’s using his artistic skills to create a haunted house-like experience, in partnership with the store Curioporium in Hartford that will open up soon.

Marsocci refers to April as Autism Acceptance Month. He says awareness makes it seem like there is a cure, and there is no cure for autism. 

“It’s kind of like a super power that you don’t tell everyone about unless it’s the right people,” said Marsocci. 

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