Interview with Russell Lehmann – Autistic Poet and Author

Russell3Russell Lehmann – is a 23-year old poet and author who now wants to spread autism awareness through music. Russell is on the autistic spectrum. We shared Russell’s campaign back in September, this can be read here.

We wanted to learn more about Russell’s life, writing and quest for autism awareness and acceptance through music. Here is our interview with him.

You were diagnosed with autism at age 12, did you know that you were different and that you may be on the autism spectrum?

 I realized I was different at around the age of seven, when I was diagnosed with severe OCD and anxiety.  My symptoms kept getting worse and I started to become increasingly overwhelmed and isolated as well.  For the next five years my parents and I spent every single day trying to figure out what was happening with me. I was finally admitted to the psych ward at Children’s Hospital in Seattle for five weeks, hoping to find some answers. Those five weeks were pure hell, and I was ultimately discharged with nothing but a handshake and a “good luck”.  The doctors at the hospital failed my family and me in every way possible.  A few months later, it wasn’t until my pediatrician brought up autism to my mom and I, leading to me going through a series of tests at the University of Washington, and resulting in my diagnosis of high-functioning autism.


Russell2Can you tell me us a little about growing up?

 I had a normal childhood until the age of seven, when my whole world came crashing down.  I could no longer muster up the courage to go to school, I lost all my friends, and I spent 99% of my time in my house.  My OCD was so brutal that I would wash my hands until they bled, I would look at every single thing I laid my eyes on 256 times before I could look anywhere else, and I started to hallucinate and hear voices.  The mental anguish was absolutely EXCRUCIATING, but somehow, someway, I survived.

It seems that writing and poetry are an outlet for you. Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

Russell1I have always had a knack for writing, and one day I came to find that I could really express my emotions through writing poems.  My writing process is simple: I write down what is in my head and post it on my blog. No edits, no second drafts, just me and my original thoughts.  I have recently found that rapping is an even better emotional outlet for me, because I can vocalize my feelings. Additionally, I believe that I can spread awareness about mental health and equality much more effectively through rap, because not everybody has the time to read poems.  People do, however, always have time to listen to good music.

When did you start to write and when did you realize that you had a talent?

I started seriously writing when I was about 15 years of age.  I was pleasantly surprised my what came out of my pen, and I never looked back after that.

Congratulations on your 2013 INAP Literary Art award. Can you tell us a little about how you were nominated and what it means to you to win such a prestigious award.

Thank you very much! I was nominated by an anonymous voter.  I traveled to Canada to receive the award, and boy did it mean the world to me.  I was so thankful to the judges, the voters and especially my family, because without them, I would not have been around to receive that award.

Below is Russell’s red carpet interview in Canada

 Could you tell us where you are at the moment with your Go Fund Me campaign

Currently I have raised 10% of my goal, which is $500 USD.  I know there are a lot of people who are hesitant to donate to somebody they do not know personally, but I assure you with the tenderness of my heart and the sincerity of my soul that I will put ALL the money I raise to the best use possible.  I’m not asking for any major donations, I just need some help purchasing a microphone, beat generator and the like.

We would like to thank Russell for taking the time to chat with us.

You can read Russell’s work over on his blog,  Plato’s Play-Doh

Russell’s website can be found here

You can follow on twitter and Facebook

Russell’s Go Fund Me page can be found here