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Meet Otto Lana

Today we’d like to introduce you to Otto Lana.

Hi Otto, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
Yes but of course! I will send you my video because pictures speak a thousand words. Get your tissues folks this story is a tear jerker. I have autism, apraxia, and anxiety. These labels describe me but do not define me. I am a self-proclaimed math nerd so I say it’s A to the third power (A^3). I was introduced to typing as a form of communication at age nine. Let me back up, apraxia prevents me from speaking with my mouth hence typing. But since this is a written article for a magazine your average reader may not pick up on my challenges. Prior to typing I was diagnosed with an intellectual disability and placed on a life skills track. I was no longer given access to an academic curriculum it was hours of hand washing and popcorn popping. Thank goodness for an insightful speech therapist who saw past my motor inadequacies and straight through to my intellect and into the endless possibilities that are my future. I am now in a regular high school, enrolled in honors courses, and on track to go to college. I am a self-advocate motivational speaker. Don’t let the irony get wasted. That’s right a nonspeaking public speaker. I’m the personification of cognitive dissonance, when seeing is not believing. I have shared my story for disability rights conferences and since I am also a small business entrepreneur I was invited to present at an economic summit. I’m only sixteen but I’m a go getter. I started my website, www.ottosmotto.com, to make my letter boards and vibes of hope and positivity available to the masses. My apparel line brings smiles to many. I have clients all over the country including Alaska and Hawaii. My merch is in Canada, Spain, and Argentina. I am an international business man of mystery.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Smooth roads are boring and monotonous. So I guess it’s a good thing I like the rocky road, the road less traveled or in my case off road never traveled. I do not get upset by the fact I find myself paving the path for others like me. I am up to the challenge. It’s exciting to be first, “if you ain’t first you’re last” haha Ricky Bobby reference. There is a misconception that non-speaking autistics are non-thinking individuals. That could not be further from the truth. Clearly I have many thoughts, strong opinions, and a heck of a lot to say. There are many who do not understand apraxia as a movement disorder and think inertia is a choice. Yes, I did say the word inertia. Yes, it is a fundamental concept in physics but it applies to human bodies not just theoretical bodies in motion according to the laws of physics. When you have apraxia, you have issues with initiation and cessation. Remember, a body at rest wants to stay at rest and a body in motion wants to stay in motion. That’s how it is for me. Sometimes it’s hard to get started and other times a motor loop starts and it’s hard to stop. There’s another misconception that inertia is non-compliance. I wish I could invent a time machine so Newton could tell Dr. Lovaas that physics is real and cannot be altered by meaningless repetitive tasks designed to break the spirit of a wild mustang. I spent endless hours being told, “No, try again” when I knew the answer to the question I just didn’t have the motor control to pick up the blue block. Heck, I can calculate the volume of the cube they were asking me to pick up. It’s all a matter of presumed competence. They thought that because I am non-speaking that I did not have the capacity to understand language. They thought if they spoke slowly in simple terms that my body would be able to perform motor tasks. The way this behavioral training works is, if you do not perform a task you are considered non-compliant and you do not earn a reward. If you use your skills to explain your dismay, you are told to stop protesting. I think my First Amendment Rights were violated. I think I have the right to peaceful protest. Then when you decide enough is enough and agree to disagree and walk away from the table abandoning the task you are labeled a flight risk. These labels, non-compliant and flight risk are derogatory and divisive. They do not consider that all actions are an attempt at communication. My life has changed trajectory since those dark days and now my goals are moonshots not table tops. I guess it’s a good thing I’m a flight risk now.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
Do you know about the geometric shape called apeirogon? It is an infinite polygon. It has an infinite number of sides. As the number of sides increase, the length of each side decreases. It will start to look like a circle but it will never be a circle because it is a polygon. That is me. When I was a square peg being shoved into a round hole, the experts around me did not realize I am an apeirogon and no hole can hold me. I am known for being funny, outspoken, photogenic, pick yourself up and dust yourself off all American kind of guy. I am creative and generous with my good fortune. I am most proud of my letterboards. They are stylish, durable, and give a voice to the voiceless. What sets me apart from others?…How much time and copy space do you have? Hahaha.

Can you talk to us a bit about the role of luck?
That’s a tough question. I think it is more about faith. Faith in yourself and in the universe. I have to believe there is a plan for me and that the path I am on, no matter how many wrong turns, ditches, road blocks I encounter that everything will turn out okay. Good luck or bad luck is too binary for me. It is too black and white, right or wrong, this or that for me. The most interesting things are in the shades of gray. Here’s an example. The pandemic is horrible. Many people died and economies were ruined. But conferences were virtual so many more people were exposed to me and my website. Online shopping was on the rise and people purchased my merch to share my message with friends and colleagues alike. Pandemic: bad luck for the world but good luck for me. See how good luck bad luck doesn’t tell the whole story?

Contact Info:

  • Email: ottotypes@gmail.com
  • Website: www.ottosmottos.com
  • Instagram: @otto_types and @typeical_friends


Image Credits:

Shelly Lana

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