Everyone has the capability of developing resilience, but the experiences and patterns in your life, and those around you, are what make it unfold (video clip
). That was just one of the key messages Alix Generous shared with Ranney Upper School students on April 4, 2017. Her presentation was the third in a series of Distinguished Speakers brought to campus this school year as part of a generous gift made by a Ranney family. The series is aimed at providing students with an opportunity to think forward and to grasp hold of traditional as well as new subjects through unique, personal, and international perspectives.
Just 24 years old, Alix speaks to students and organizations, including TEDx, around the world about mental diversity and science. Despite growing up with undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome and being a victim of child abuse, she learned to harness her gifts and think outside the box at an early age to push forward. She used technology to improve her public speaking skills—even developing an application called Podium to help others with autism improve their presentation abilities—and at age 17, gained entrance to the College of Charleston to study psychology, molecular biology, and neuroscience. At 19, she won a research contest on quorum sensing and coral reefs and, soon after, had her findings published by Columbia University. Her work garnered the attention of the United Nations and, at age 20, she served as a youth delegate for the UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw, Poland, where she helped to negotiate technology transfer and issues of medical importance.
Today, her work focuses on raising awareness about the importance of building accepting environments for all kinds of minds. As a child, Alix said she often felt isolated as a result of some of the conditions associated with being on the autism spectrum, such as a monotone voice and sensory overload. But she found solace in finding a few close friends that she could always turn to, and learned to apply her sense of humor to social situations. She refers to her lack of facial expressions, for example, as her “gameface.”
The mental advocate also shared some insights about living with autism, such as how she thinks in visuals, dreams lucidly, and can hyper-focus on one subject for weeks. Alix said she considers autism a gift that allows her to think innovatively and to make unique connections with the world.
“Adversity and fear can be overcome and shouldn’t hold you back,” she told the students. “If you put the effort in, you can find success.” For example, Alix recognized that while she was good at microbiology, she knew it wasn’t her passion. “Those two don’t always align,” she said. “Sometimes, you need to use previous successes to lead you more in the direction you’re meant to go.”
After speaking to the full Upper School division, Alix shared a more intimate lunch with about 15 students to chat and answer questions.
Alix graduated from the University of Vermont last August and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is working on her first book and a biology project that may help to detect child abuse in a non-invasive way. Read her full bio www.alixgenerous.com. View our Distinguished Speaker Series playlist on YouTube.