UVU Student Caleb Clegg Shares Experiences With Autism

UVU student Caleb Clegg, who is participating in the Super Spectrum Showcase and Soiree art show this month, shares his experiences with autism.


The Melisa Nellesen Center for Autism at Utah Valley University will celebrate its fourth annual Super Spectrum Showcase and Soiree art show this month. One of the art show's participants, Caleb Clegg, shares his personal story below. 

I was diagnosed with autism — I actually have the exact date written down — in January 2013. So, I was 12 years and two months old if I want to be technical. I am currently 19, but I turn 20 next week. My major is information technology. I was born at American Fork Hospital; I've lived in Utah County my whole life. I have one brother and one sister. I am the oldest. My siblings are fun, creative, and a little annoying like most siblings, but I love them.

Autism runs in my family, so my diagnosis wasn't surprising to me. I was first diagnosed with ADHD when I was 6 or 7, so it was just another diagnosis to me at the time. I was like, okay, cool.

My parents responded well to my diagnosis. My parents had suspected that I had autism for a while. My dad's older brother has autism, and he saw some of the same things in me, but they are accepting. My siblings were like, "Okay…" but they weren't sure what to think about it.

The biggest pet peeve I have with telling people I have autism — which I have publicly stated I have autism here and there, but it's not well known — is when I get compared to other people's brother or friend with autism. There are similarities, yes, but everyone is unique. I will not act the same way as your friend, and your friend will not act the same way as me. Everyone is a unique person, just like everyone else. There are no two people that are the same.

If I could tell others one thing about autism — I wish I could say they were my words, but they're not — it would be, "If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism."  It's my favorite quote.

I have noticed that sometimes people treat me differently because of my diagnosis, so sometimes I'm very picky about who I'll tell, or I'll usually wait. If I'm going to tell others I have autism, I'll usually wait until after they meet me or get to know me first because autism is just one part of me.

I've publicly stated on several of my TikTok videos that I have autism. I've put it out there, and I don't hide it, but I don't also publicly have a sign saying that I have autism either. 

I've been on TikTok since December 2019. My primary use of TikTok is trying to help people. Most of my videos are either motivational or anti-bullying. I don't stand for bullies, and I definitely don't stand for bullies when it comes to disabilities. I'm not afraid to publicly talk about it on TikTok.

I've felt like I've been bullied or treated like I was just a little kid because of my disability and that I couldn't do everything that they could because I was different. It's not fun to be bullied, but it's made me who I am, and I tend to use my personal life and my experiences in my videos. If I can use my experiences to try and help someone and make someone's day better, even if it's just one person — all that matters to me is that I've helped just one person. Goal achieved.

TikTok has become more of one of my hobbies. It's gotten me over my fear or dislike of having my photo taken — well, I've put my voice and my face in it enough that I like it at this point. I may not like how I sound, but I've gotten to the point that I'm okay with it. It's like public speaking — you don't necessarily like it, but you get used to it.

Another hobby I have is photography. I used to do photography when I was a kid. I got my first camera when I was 5. It wasn't the best camera, but it is the first one I remember. I mainly got involved in photography in middle school. I also found out that I didn't really like having my picture taken, so, to avoid that, I learned if I'm not in the photo — if I'm the photographer, I don't have to get my photo taken. Well, I used to think that. It stopped working in high school.

I learned photography mostly on my own. I'm also a video editor. Photography and video go hand in hand. My favorite part of photography is that the photographer creates the photo. He sees something and finds an angle to create what looks cool to him. Photography is all about perspective to me.

I like photographing everything. I like preserving everything, especially nature. Nature is my favorite to photograph, especially sunsets and sunrises.

I've faced some challenges with my photography, but it's mostly with my equipment, that and timing. It's about being in the right place at the right time — that's the challenge that comes with photography.

I submitted my photography to the UVU art show this year. My high school used to submit work to the art show, and I went to the art show last year. It was a fun experience to watch and take pictures of the art, but this is the first year I've submitted art for the art show.

I'm excited for the art show to be online this year. It's just a little easier for me. I don't have to print anything. It's the best I can do in the times we are in. That's the way I look at it; 2020 isn't exactly optimal for really anything.

I decided to submit my art to the art show because photography is not just for me. I want to share the beauty and experiences of the world.

For this year's art show, I submitted a couple of different things. I submitted one or two sunrises and sunsets, moon pictures, and a photo of the international space station.

For me, photography is mostly a hobby. The way that I look at careers and hobbies is that I have more choice in what I'm doing with hobbies. If I don't want to take pictures, I don't have to, but with a career, if your boss says you have to do this, it means you have to do it.

I'm a student at UVU and am studying information technology.

I've always been a strong believer that a post-high school education is required to succeed in life — not necessarily college, but, for me, I feel like the college path was the way to go. I just believe you need more education than high school offers.

For the most part, I've always been interested in computers. Technology has always fascinated me. It's always a challenge. My favorite part about technology is finding the loopholes in things. Like in the [IT] securities, if you have a back door that's not supposed to be there, I like to try to find it so that it can be fixed. It bugs me if there is a way in when there isn't supposed to be a way in.

I like helping people, and I like working in and fixing computers. So with a computer problem, there's a good chance if you tell me about it, whether you want me to fix it or not, I'm trying to fix it in my head either way.

I'm not entirely sure yet where I want to work after my degree. There are a lot of possibilities in my field. It's only growing — it's about getting your foot in the door is the way that I look at it.

My favorite thing about my classes at UVU is the flexibility. I like the fact that for the most part, I can request additional time with my assignments, and my professors don't question or ask why. They are really helpful, and I just like the environment. For the most part, UVU is really friendly.

I feel like UVU has been more inclusive than it has been in the past, but I feel there is more room, just in general, for improvement. People fear the unknown, and for a lot of people, autism is an unknown for them.

I've made a few friends through the Passages program at UVU. The Passages program is a way to learn and get to know other people with autism, learn how to coexist, and learn what you should and shouldn't tell people.

I have participated in the Passages program one and a quarter times — it depends on how you look at the second time. The second time was right when quarantine hit, so they shut it down before we really got far into the program. 

I was nervous to meet new friends at UVU just because I came from a school where everyone has autism or most likely has autism, so it was like, okay, how am I going to do this. I also came from a school that opened my eighth-grade year, so I was with the same group of people my entire schooling. I was always in the top grade. I got pretty comfortable with them. I knew all the teachers. I knew all the students.

There are one or two of my friends who came to UVU. I came to UVU first, though. I registered the fall of 2019, but I decided to a break and explore campus and see how people were. I'm glad I did, considering the next semester things shut down.

UVU is a different ballpark for the most part, but there is familiarity with it — at least enough that I started getting accustomed to it and thought, "I can do this."