Spectrum Chats: Marriage and Long-Term Relationships
Join AutismTN for a Spectrum Chat on Marriage and Long-Term Relationships, featuring a panel of Autistic people along with some of their partners/spouses. This online event will offer valuable insights and lived experiences on navigating relationships as an Autistic person and as a partner/spouse.
Desiree Dyer (she/her/he/him/they/them/any/all, Autistic) and Ben Vos (he/him/his, neurodivergent-adjacent)
Desiree is an autistic self-advocate, a graduate of Partner’s in Policy Making, and is presently serving on the board of AutismTN. She is an enrolled citizen of the Upper Mattaponi Tribe (Tsenacommacah, now present-day Virginia) and serves as the At-Large Representative and Upper Mattaponi Constitutional Scholar for the tribe’s Legislature as well as sitting on the Governance and Administration, and Economic Development Steering Committees. When not involved in advocacy work, Desiree goes to work at the Nashville Symphony as their IT System Administrator. In her non-existent free time, she trains as a powerlifter (key in managing autistic burnout), is a stepmom to Ben’s teenage daughter, and smashes the patriarchy at every opportunity. She also sleeps, like, a lot, because recovery is no joke folks.
Ben is a graduate of Wheaton College in the Chicago area and has his master’s degree in clinical psychology. After working in the mental health field for nearly 2 decades, Ben now helps businesses and families go new places through his work with Apex Moving + Storage, a local moving company. His experience as a couples therapist gives him a unique perspective on how relationships work.
Ben and Desiree met in summer gym class at their high school in Minnesota. Though Desiree moved away and they were separated for almost 20 years, they found their way back to each other (by way of a Facebook friendship), married in 2013, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Lesley Patterson-Marx (she/they, Autistic) and Jonathan Marx (he/him, neurotypical)
Lesley is a lifelong visual artist and has taught a variety of creative media to people of all ages for more than two decades. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual Art from Murray State University and a Master of Fine Arts degree from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. In addition to being a professional studio artist, Lesley delights in self expression through sewing her own clothes. Late-diagnosed at age 48, she proudly embraces her autistic identity and is thankful to have spent her life dedicated to her creative passions. She has an insatiable desire to learn new processes and loves sharing the joy of what she learns with others. One of her favorite aspects of teaching is witnessing people surprise and amaze themselves with their own creations.
With more than three decades of previous experience as a journalist, arts administrator, and community volunteer, Jonathan has recently entered the social work field. Currently serving as a pre-licensed outpatient therapist at Centerstone, he brings together his passion for relationship-building, problem-solving, and community engagement in all of his pursuits. These include serving as a DJ and member of the leadership team at Nashville community radio station WXNA-101.5 FM, where he has hosted a weekly program since the station launched in 2016. In his previous work experience, Jonathan has helped to lead strategic planning and diversity, equity, and inclusion planning processes, and he has previously served as board chair for Youth Empowerment Through Arts & Humanities and co-chair for Metro Arts’ Anti-racism Transformation Team.
Lesley and Jonathan met at an art opening more than 20 years ago, and together they share a passion for exploring the arts, creativity, and the infinitely individualized experiences of mental, physical, and spiritual health. Their son Abraham is a drummer and currently studying architecture at The Cooper Union in New York City.
Care Houle (they/she, Autistic) and Ashtyn Houle (she/her, ADHD)
Care has been a licensed cosmetologist since 2018. Their favorite things are listening to music, creating art, and planning/organizing.
Ashtyn has worked for a cash handling company since 2022. Her favorite things are playing video games, taking care of her plants, and watching movies/tv.
Care and Ashtyn met on Tinder in April of 2020 and got married in May of 2022. They moved to Tennessee from North Dakota right after their wedding and they enjoy traveling, going to concerts, and spending time with their friends, family, and cats.
Dave Caudel, PhD (he/him/his, Autistic)
Dr. Dave Caudel is the associate director of the Frist Center for Autism and Innovation at Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tennessee. Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2009, Caudel is a neurodivergence advocate, speaking to a variety of organizations, including the U.N. and autism conferences internationally. For much of his life, he struggled to find his place in the world, and has had a number of careers, including videographer, soldier in the U.S. Army, photojournalist, magazine editor, public affairs specialist, truck salesman, and corporate stints from customer service to loss prevention, just to name a few. He received his Ph.D. in Physics at Vanderbilt University in 2017. He is passionate about meaningful employment for adults on the spectrum by finding novel, innovative ways to measure their strengths, talents, and passions, then match those to specialized business needs.
Willie Buckner (they/them, questioning Autistic) and Megan Jenkins (she/her, questioning Autistic)
Willie is 31 years old and studies Psychology at University of Tennessee Chattanooga as an audit student. They love outdoor recreational activities, spending time with family, art, and going to vendor events. Willie's life goal is to start a non-profit year-round retreat center for teens and young adults with mental health needs.
Megan is 33 years old and studies Early Childhood Education and Special Education at University of Tennessee Chattanooga as an audit student. Megan loves singing, dancing, and spending time with family. She has a cat named Luna who has taught Megan that she can take care of another being besides herself.
Willie and Megan have been together almost 7 years. They met at the AIM Center Clubhouse in Chattanooga. They love to go out in the community, doing activities together, and traveling. They believe in open communication and being honest with each other. They do not let their disabilities define them.
Casey Davis (she/they) is an Autistic self-advocate and Adult Program Director at Autism Tennessee. She also teaches graduate courses in the Louisiana State University School of Information Studies and is the Founder of the Autistic Voices Oral History Project. Casey was professionally identified as Autistic at age 33 and is passionate about contributing to a supportive Autistic community, developing and implementing impactful programs on behalf of the community, and building public understanding and appreciation of Autistic communication, joy, culture, and intersectionality. In their spare time, Casey enjoys mountain biking, hiking, strength training, spending time with dogs Remy and Opal, and collecting embroidered patches. Casey and her partner Danny are getting married in the Great Smoky Mountains and Hungary later this year.
If you have specific questions or topics you would like addressed by the panelists, send an email to email@example.com.