Myles Himmelreich is a mentor, public speaker, FASD consultant, and advocate. Born with FASD, he provides exceptional insights to the challenges and success he has faced throughout his life. His personal journey unites audiences across different disciplines, ranging from mental health professionals, caregivers, researchers, and policy makers, to people with FASD. He is an extremely effective communicator and leaves a lasting impression on everyone he tells his story to!
Myles, you are a mentor, public speaker, FASD consultant, and advocate, can you tell me what part of your career you enjoy most, and why?
I think the thing that I enjoy most is when I share my experiences, and other people who live with FASD identify with what I’m saying. I know from my own personal experiences growing up with FASD that with the misunderstandings and judgments placed on you, you really start to feel alone. You start to feel like the things that you do are wrong and that you are a bad person, and you take all these labels. When someone else shares something you can relate to, it’s a huge relief. I love those moments where I’m sharing something and someone is like “oh my gosh, that’s me too!” I also love when I speak to teachers, parents, or caregivers and afterwards you can tell that they see the person they’re supporting differently, and that they’re thinking of different ways to be supportive. There’s not a lot of careers where you can see that impact right away, so it’s pretty awesome.
Throughout your life, what has been your biggest challenge, and strength that FASD has played a part in?
Probably the fact that as I’ve learned more about and understand FASD more, I’ve become more accepting of myself and others. Once I understood the diagnosis, I’ve become more understanding about how to respond to people’s differences. The most difficult part is that because I appear to be like everyone else around me, the expectations that were placed on me (and sometimes still are!) were the same as everyone else. People don’t understand the difficulties I have with day to day things, because they only see me talking and they say, “you’re so eloquent and speak so well,” but they don’t see that I struggle with things like sensory overload, processing, and abstract thinking. That misunderstanding can be difficult.
As a motivational speaker with an incredible story, what inspires you to do what you do?
I think that when I did my first presentation I had this feeling of “oh my goodness this is what I’m meant to do.” At that moment, I didn’t know what that meant or what that feeling really was, but it felt so good. I finally felt a sense of success. I was in my mid-twenties, and that’s a long time to go through life without feeling successful. When I started seeing the impact that my talks had on other people, it really felt good. As I kept giving these talks, I was able to find out what my talents and strengths are. I went from hating my brain and the way it worked, to loving it, because it works differently. Because of this, my presentations are different; they’re interactive and have other things going on so people can really relate to what I’m talking about. I still feel that sense of excitement every time I present, and that’s how I really know that this is what I’m meant to be doing.
If you could give one piece of advice to people growing up with FASD, what would it be?
To really learn about and understand FASD. There’s so much stigma, and so much shame and blame that comes with FASD, that if you don’t truly understand what it is, or if you have the wrong information, then you’re going to grow up in a world where you’re labelled and you’ll believe those labels. If you understand FASD, you can realize that you are not a bad person with bad behaviours. This understanding can change your self-confidence and allow you to self-advocate. Once you understand what needs you have and what is going to work for you and what’s not, you can self-advocate. By understanding FASD, you can change your whole sense of self. Understanding what FASD is, and the impact it has on you, is really key to changing your own life.