Podcaster on autism spectrum using his voice to build more inclusive society

Posted at 2:01 PM, Apr 13, 2022

PALO ALTO, Calif. — At Hamilton Studios, Jonathan Cormur walks us down the rabbit hole to a small, dark room where he voices the many exuberant characters in his podcast.

"Dorktales Storytime" is a storytelling podcast for children. It features slightly wacky retellings of classic fairy tales with important life lessons and untold stories about the hidden heroes of history.

"There's two main characters in Dorktales," Cormur said. "There's Jonathan, who is a more Mr. Rogers-esque version of myself and Mr. Reginald Hedgehog. He's my talking hedgehog sidekick."

Though he says it doesn't define him, Cormur is unique because he's on the autism spectrum. He was diagnosed when he was a young teenager and his life experience was the inspiration behind his podcast.

"Deep down, I kind of always knew I was different, and when I was growing up, different wasn't always a good thing, especially amongst my peers and so that's why I wanted to, you know, encourage kids like don't be ashamed of who you are," Cormur said. "You know, just kind of make it your own. And that could build confidence. And confidence is what really attracts people."

His mother, Jodi Murphy, says the family's mission is acceptance for all. Acceptance is something Jonathan didn't receive from bullies at school until they saw him in a community theatre production.

"He had the kids who wouldn't invite him to the party, he had the bully that was watching him, and they were rolling in the aisles," Murphy said. "And I'm standing in the back and I'm crying because I thought, 'You've won, Jonathan. You found you found your gift and what you're good at. And, you know, from there, you are just going to go places and do really great things.'"

Cormur and his mother know people have misconceptions about autism.

A recent landmark study published by the University of Bath in the United Kingdom is revealing findings that its authors believe will shift the way that society thinks about autism. Associate professor of psychology Dr. Punit Shah says the study, which is the largest of its kind, compared the mental processing of autistic and non-autistic people by giving them brain puzzles.

"We found actually quite a striking similarities," Dr. Shah said. "Similarities between autistic and not autistic people. It showed almost identical levels of intuitive and this sort of deliberative processing, suggesting that these sort of fundamental ways in which we go about thinking about the world are actually quite similar. Between these two groups, autistic and non-autistic people."

The study concluded that autistic people think as quickly and as rationally as non-autistic people, making both groups more similar than previously thought.

"Now that they're we they know who we are, I think it's the next step is sort of dismantling the the the the stigmas, the stereotypes, and kind of getting rid of the fear," Comur said. "And that will hopefully lead to acceptance."

When you mix acceptance with evidence-based research, Cormur says people can then focus on supporting people on the spectrum and being more inclusive in society.

Murphy says with a few accommodations, people on the spectrum can do great things to the benefit of organizations.

"Maybe they need some extra time to take some breaks because there's just so much sensory overload that they're experiencing," Murphy said. "Or maybe they need initially someone that they can trust and tap into to help adapt to the work environment. Maybe they need to work at home."

"Dorktales Storytime" has brought a world of opportunity to Cormur, and he's excited to see what's ahead in the next chapter of his life.