Listen 2 Us - Literacy, Self-Determination, and Interdependence for Nonspeakers

Picture of DJ Savarese standing in front of a wall

David "DJ" Savarese

As a 2017-2019 Open Society Foundations/ Human Rights Initiative Youth Fellow, I have been working to make literacy-based education, communication, and self-determined, inclusive lives a reality for all nonspeaking people through artful advocacy, community-based projects, presentations, trainings, and teaching. I am also the co-producer of the Peabody Award-winning, Emmy-nominated documentary film Deej: Inclusion Shouldn’t Be a Lottery, which works to unearth the discrepancies between the insider and outsider perspectives of my lived experience as an alternatively communicating autistic. Before moving to Iowa City, I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Oberlin College in May 2017 with a double major in Anthropology and Creative Writing. I have a chapbook entitled A Doorknob for the Eye. Other poems and prose have appeared in literary journals, such as The Iowa Review, Seneca Review, Prospect, Bellingham Review, Nine Mile Magazine Disability Studies Quarterly, and Autism in Adulthood. My lyric essay “Passive Plants,” published in The Iowa Review, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and received Notable Mention in the 2018 Best American Essays. (samples of my writing, including a link to this essay can be found on my personal website at

Fully included in the regular education curriculum from K thru college graduation, I had the good fortune of studying with 52 teachers, 22 professors, 18 school support assistants, 15 after school assistants, 5 speech therapists, 4 occupational therapists, and 6 principals in 2 different school districts. Listen2Us is my way of giving back to each and every one of you with the hope that every child receives the same kind of education I’ve enjoyed and benefitted from. Inclusion shouldn’t be a lottery.


Full CV here.