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Julia Futo: 2021 Diversity in Action Scholarship Awardee

Julia Futo has been a fighter since her first few breaths of air. She was born a very sickly child, was hospitalized for several days after her birth, and no one even knew if she would survive. When Julia survived, the delivery nurse told her mother that she was a "miracle baby" and she was born for a reason.

As Julia got a little older, her grandmother thought there might be something different about her. Julia's grandmother insisted her mom get help from professionals.

By the age of five, Julia had two diagnosed learning disabilities: encephalopathy and developmental coordination disorder. It was also found out that she retained her primitive reflexes, which are supposed to be gone during infancy. Julia regards these diagnoses as the most important and prevalent, as they offer the best explanations on the difficulties she experiences in her everyday life.

However, Julia has had just as many different diagnoses as she's had different professionals evaluate her. Other such diagnoses include autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, nonverbal learning disorder, and pervasive learning disorder.

When Julia started school, she struggled. She was bullied by peers and even teachers for her learning differences. One teacher even complained to her mother that she was retarded.

Despite her difficulties, Julia continued to push on with a smile on her face and things started looking up when she was ten as well as in her last two years of high school.

At age ten, Julia started training in a type of Japanese martial arts called "aikido." Aikido not only taught Julia how to defend herself, but acted as a treatment for her neurodiversities, as it helped her improve her social skills, helped with her motor skills, strength, and balance, helped her with her development, and grounded her.

During Julia's last two years of high school, she was introduced to journalism and yearbook. Her journalism and yearbook teacher, both the same person, saw something in her that other teachers prior had missed. He focused on her strengths and helped her to further develop them.

Julia had also told her ESE Facilitator about her past and successes in yearbook and journalism. Her ESE Facilitator was inspired and asked her to speak about her overall ESE experiences to a group of Caribbean administrators that were visiting to see what schools are like in the county she lives in. Julia had never done anything like that before, but she wanted to give it a try.

It was a success and Julia was asked to give three more speeches before she graduated: one of which was to the entire school faculty, which was record-breaking because no student prior to Julia had attended a faculty meeting in her school to teach the teachers something. Another was the senior address, which was about the importance of kindness.

From her high school experiences, Julia learned that she felt empowered by advocating on the behalf of students with disabilities who either haven't found their voices yet or don't have one, and she didn't want her advocacy work to end upon graduating.

About a year after graduating, Julia was in luck. She was introduced to Different, a nonprofit organization that focuses on spreading awareness about neurodiversity, through one of her martial arts instructor's that had a friend that is a Board Member for them.

Julia is now a college student and an intern at Different Brains. She has her own "Neurodiversity and the Coronavirus" blog page on Different Brains' website, where she interviews the neurodivergent population and those affiliated with them about their coronavirus stories, has participated in a few interviews and webisode series herself, edits videos and blog posts on their website, and has written her own articles; one of which was published in a magazine.

You can find more about her work at: or on her LinkedIn page. You can also reach her at:

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