SOLANA BEACH – According to Solana Beach resident Andrea Moriarty, inclusion is easier than you think.
This idea forms the basis of her new book, “Radical Inclusion: What I Learned About Risk, Humility and Kindness from My Son with Autism,” a compilation of experiences and lessons learned from her son, Reid Moriarty.
The book is “part memoir and part big idea call to action,” Andrea Moriarty said.
The book was largely inspired by her personal experience collaborating with Reid to make a podcast. When Reid, now 24, graduated from high school, the pair kicked off “Talk Time with Reid Moriarty.”
The podcast is a collection of brief “unlikely conversations” with often prominent personalities, such as musician Aloe Blacc and retired NASA Astronaut Bob Springer. Reid Moriarty hosts the show, while Andrea Moriarty supports from behind the scenes.
Andrea Moriarty called the podcast “a social experience … that has become (Reid’s) continuing education.”
While helping to organize and edit the series, she began to see patterns of risk, humility and kindness emerge in conversations with the podcast’s over 80 guests, qualities she described as the “building blocks to an inclusive culture.”
Although much of the book is anecdotal, Andrea Moriarty has also integrated descriptions of “model programs” across the country (and in the United Kingdom) for adults with disabilities, and caps off chapters with takeaways from some of her andReid’s favorite movies, such as “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Seabiscuit.”
“Movies are how my son understands the world,” Andrea Moriarty said, naming Reid Moriarty’s two favorite things as movies and music.
Among the programs featured in the book are Miracle League and Carlsbad-based Monday Night Live! —a program hosted by the New Village Arts Theatre which encourages special needs students to delve into acting. Andrea Moriarty said programs like Live! are key for people with autism, who “tend to have a niche special interest.”
Chapter by chapter, the author urges the importance of vulnerability, grace, humor and faith when it comes to effectively integrating people with autism or other disabilities into the community.
Andrea Moriarty calls “Radical Inclusion” a “call to action,” tailored not only to parents of adult children with autism, but activists, educators and community members. At the root of her call to action is a desire for everyone to make a friend with someone with autism, she said.
For Andrea Moriarty, the desire for inclusion is closely tied to her biggest fear as a parent of an adult with autism: “what will happen when I’m gone?”
“I just like to channel that (fear) into motivating change, so that it will be in place when I’m not here, and he and his one-in-40 peers (with autism) will be integrated into the community,” she said, referring to statistics determining that one in 37 boys are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
When asked about the title of her book, Andrea Moriarty pointed to the need for inclusion not just in the classroom, but “across the board” — from neighborhoods and grocery stores to churches and community centers.
“The idea is that inclusion should be comprehensive and holistic and drastic,” she said.
Although Andrea Moriarty has now released two books — “Radical Inclusion” and “One-Track Mind:15 Ways to Amplify Your Child’s Special Interest”— her foothold in community activism doesn’t end with writing. Andrea and Reid Moriarty are often a paired workforce — public speaking together, creating the podcast together.
Andrea Moriarty — a self-described innovator — has also helped cofound music therapy nonprofit Banding Together, and frequently holds “Transition to Adult” workshops for parents of children with disabilities who are on their way out of high school. She orchestrated a “radically inclusive” business expo where adults with disabilities were able to exhibit their handmade products or services, and is looking to host similar events at other locations in the area.
“There will be other things borne out of this idea, because it’s a big idea,” she said.
“Radical Inclusion” can be found for purchase on Amazon.com.
Lexy Brodt covers all things Del Mar and Solana Beach for The Coast News, with a primary interest in coastal development. A North County native turned UW-Madison alumna, she has produced for Wisconsin Public Radio and reported for The San Diego Union-Tribune and Wisconsin State Journal.