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My name is Peyton Reece Stockdale. I was born on June 29th, 2000 in Louisville, Kentucky. When I was three-years old my life would change, as it would for my parents. I was diagnosed with Autism when I was three. At one, I lost all of my speech, and some doctors told my parents that I may never talk.

I was quiet when I was little, but there were times when I would have meltdowns. I started to talk by watching TV & movies. I watched movies whenever my parents would let me. They gave me a chance to escape. I used to dress up on days when it wasn’t Halloween. I would dress up as Superman, Batman or as a Jedi. They all gave me a chance to escape from my worries, from school, and sometimes from my family.

The thought of going to school made me anxious. I had difficulty making and keeping friends. I missed out on social interactions; didn’t get invited to birthday parties or sleepovers. My parents tried to involve me in sports and other activities. I am pretty athletic. I excelled in Special Olympics basketball, but even there, did not quite fit. I was a medalist in track and field sports like javelin, shot put, and discus, but those things allowed me little to no social interactions, that although bad at, I needed and wanted. My only friends during these years were my service dog, Gideon and my family.

By the time high school rolled around, I still did not fit in. Finally, I started taking classes at The Walden Theatre Conservatory at the Commonwealth Theatre Center. Everyone was friendly at the open house, but when the first class came, I was NERVOUS! However, because of theatre and Walden, my life changed immensely. Not only did I find a path I want to build a career on, but I forged my first genuine friendships. Not friendships forced by parents or teachers, but with people who saw past my diagnosis.

Theatre has truly changed my life.

I am more confident, a lot less lonely, and reading and understanding Shakespeare has helped me academically. The theatre is my home away from home. It is a place that I can go and just be, “Peyton.” Not the kid with autism and Tourette’s, not a label, but just another actor. When I perform, I feel euphoric. It’s more than an escape now. It’s a passion! Theatre has given me passion and purpose and I’ll never be lonely again!

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