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Indian American Hari Srinivasan and His Friend Make History as UC Berkeley’s First Nonspeaking Graduates With Autism

Indian American Hari Srinivasan and His Friend Make History as UC Berkeley’s First Nonspeaking Graduates With Autism

  • A minimally-speaking autistic, he graduated with a 4.0 GPA, with a major in psychology and minor in disability studies, and is headed to Vanderbilt University for his Ph.D. in neuroscience.

An Indian American is among two UC Berkeley students who made history as UC Berkeley’s first non-speaking graduates with autism. Hari Srinivasan, a minimally-speaking autistic, and his friend David Teplitz, not only managed to conquer the impossible, they have laid the path for other students at the California State University system with similar disabilities. Both Srinivasan and Teptliz were diagnosed with apraxia, a neurological disorder characterized by the inability to perform learned (familiar) movements on command. 

Despite their challenges, Srinivasan graduated with a 4.0 GPA, majoring in psychology and a minor in disability studies, while Teplitz had a 38.5 GPA, receiving a degree in political science with a minor in disability studies, as reported by ABC 7. This fall, Srinivasan has a fellowship to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he will pursue his Ph.D in neuroscience this fall. He is also a university medal finalist (top 5 in graduating class of 11,000 students), as well as a Departmental Citation Award for being a top student in psychology, according to his website.

Srinivasan also has the distinction of becoming the first-ever visiting fellow at Vanderbilt University’s Frist Center for Autism & Innovation, from July 2021 to June 2022.

At Berkeley, Srinivasan was the lead instructor for a semester-long class on autism, and is the first nonspeaking president of the student org “Spectrum at Cal.” He also wrote for the Daily Californian and was a research assistant at the university Psychology Labs as well as the UC Berkeley Disability Lab. 

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“Education and the chance to be a contributing member of society was like a candy store with me on the outside looking longingly in,” Srinivasan writes on his website. “Access to higher education for individuals like me is hard-won and I have absolutely thoroughly enjoyed and just savored my undergraduate years at UC Berkeley and all the opportunities it has opened up.” 

But that’s not all. The young Indian American was elected to serve on the National Institute of Health’s Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, and several other leadership roles. He was vice-chair of the Board at Autistic Self Advocacy Network, a member of the Council of Autistic Advisors at Autism Society of America, as well as a member of the Autistic Researchers Committee at International Society for Autism Research. He was also a creative consultant for an Australian play “Helping Hands,” on what help means in autism.

In his free time, he enjoys listening to music and watching pro sports in addition to learning tennis. He loves creative writing with some of his poems and other work winning awards including a National Award at Carnegie Hall. He was featured on President Obama’s Instagram campaign on the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA. 

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