Jeff Snyder of Unicorn Children’s Foundation: “Like all people, I can make stupid mistakes whether they be social mistakes or mental mistakes”

Like all people, I can make stupid mistakes whether they be social mistakes or mental mistakes. Sometimes, I may be making a mistake without realizing it and it’s important that we teach the importance of self-awareness and self-control of our actions. As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Snyder. […]

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Like all people, I can make stupid mistakes whether they be social mistakes or mental mistakes. Sometimes, I may be making a mistake without realizing it and it’s important that we teach the importance of self-awareness and self-control of our actions.


As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Snyder.

Jeff Snyder was born on March 27, 1989 in Providence, RI and has lived his entire life in Seekonk, MA. He was diagnosed with autism in 1990 and ever since then has achieved multiple successes in education, long-term employment, independent living, and speaking/panel engagements.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Well, it all began in 1990 when I was first diagnosed with autism at 21 months old. For a good part of my childhood, I never really understood why I acted so differently around others. It was almost like I had a different side of me that I didn’t know about. It wasn’t until 1998 when “Nick News with Linda Ellerbee” was doing a segment on autism that I finally found my identity.

Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you became disabled or became ill? What mental shift did you make to not let that “stop you”?

I think that as a neurodiverse individual, I feel that my story is important to talk about in the sense that as more and more children and adults are becoming diagnosed, they need a resource to turn to and help them get through this journey of being autistic or neurodiverse. We need more success stories out there and less of the failure stories that people in neurodiverse families would rather talk about.

Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability or illness?

I became the first student with autism in the Seekonk Public Schools system to have gone through an entire education without coming from other towns or school districts. Prior to that, students with autism or other neurodiverse needs came to Seekonk having completed a portion of their education from another town.

In 2015, I became one of the few autistic individuals to live on my own. I have been living in an apartment complex close to my current place of employment and it allows me to live independently like everyone else. The only challenge I face is transportation, which I have solved through using a disability bus service as well as my folks and the rideshare service, Lyft (whereas a frequent traveler, I get Delta Skymiles that are later used for business trips related to my advocacy and any vacations).

What advice would you give to people who have disabilities or limitations?

My one important piece of advice is to never let others doubt you for who you are. Even though you have a disability or a limitation, you can still achieve goals in life that you want to achieve. There are those “professionals” who say that you will never amount to anything or be lucky that you will have a minimum wage job or make friends at all. I’ve defied the odds and look at where it has gotten me to now.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

Well, we have to give credit where credit is due. My folks are the first and foremost that get the most credit to helping me become what I am today. Whatever challenges I had, they were by my side (even the times where I didn’t want them to be helping me out, but they did because they cared). Like a lot of neurodiverse families, they were told that I could never achieve what a normal person would.

I also have to give credit to my middle school mentor, Mandy Arentoft, who helped me achieve the first of many hard transitions from elementary to middle school in 2000. If it hadn’t been for Mandy, I would never have conquered my first challenging transition.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I joined Unicorn Children’s Foundation in Boca Raton, Florida as a member of their Junior Board. I bring a deep sense of knowledge and understanding of what it is like to be neurodivergent. To me, Unicorn Children’s Foundation has a strong dedication and commitment to helping those with disabilities succeed in life and I can connect with those who may be struggling with finding a job, living on their own, or just living life as someone with a disability or neurodiverse condition.

Each road is different and it’s up to me and a great organization in Unicorn Children’s Foundation to help navigate that particular road. In addition, I have also been a core team leader for the Autism Tree Project Foundation in San Diego, CA since 2019.

I created my website/blog “Going the Distance” in May 2021 to serve as a base that can spread messages of growing up neurodiverse like a wildfire because whoever the messages can reach are the ones who will end up being benefited by them. Prior to that, I created a scholarship called the Jeffrey Snyder “Go the Distance” Scholarship in 2008 (the year after I graduated from high school) that benefits graduating seniors who had been on an Individual Education Plan or IEP throughout their entire education, just like I once did.

Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why.

That I may not act like other people. I may do behaviors that may cause people to raise eyebrows towards me, but it’s just how I act and function.

We are no different than anybody else around us. Anyone who has a neurodiverse, developmental, or physical disability is just the same and wants to be treated the same.

Never doubt us for who we are. Just because I am neurodiverse, doesn’t mean I can’t have the same successes as neurotypical people.

I can do some things better than others. My knowledge of Disney, for example, is a gift that allows me to have extensive knowledge of Disney and other specific subjects. Some people may view me as a know-it-all, but please do not judge before you listen to what I have to say.

Like all people, I can make stupid mistakes whether they be social mistakes or mental mistakes. Sometimes, I may be making a mistake without realizing it and it’s important that we teach the importance of self-awareness and self-control of our actions.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?.

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” -Walt Disney

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

I would definitely have to say Tom Brady because he not only played for my hometown team, the New England Patriots for 20 years, but he also is a living example of hard work and determination for today’s generation. I don’t consider myself to be the GOAT like him, but I view him as not just a celebrity, but someone who is trying to be a good role model whether he is with the New England Patriots or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much, and we wish you only continued success.

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