Russell's Story

Russell began to experience developmental and behavioral symptoms and struggles around the age of three. Despite numerous visits, his parent’s desperate for answers of any kind, not a single doctor or specialist could figure out what was happening. In 2002 Russell’s livelihood was completely taken over with severe OCD, panic and depression, resulting in him dropping out of 5th grade due to his low functioning levels. The next year, in the spring of 2003, at the tender age of 12, Russell was admitted to the psychiatric ward at his local city hospital. He stayed there for five weeks, which were some of the most trying of his life. Still, he left the children’s hospital without a diagnosis – or hope – to return home with.

In the fall of 2003, Russell was diagnosed with autism at the University of Washington’s Autism Center. He and his family were relieved to have what they thought would serve as a roadmap toward proper treatment, and although they knew the tough times were far from over, they were unprepared for the cruelty Russell experienced in the years after his diagnosis.

Russell's Journey

Russell Lehmann is an award-winning and internationally recognized motivational speaker, poet, author, and advocate. His words have reached over 20 million people worldwide, from the United States to Argentina, Norway to Australia.

After Russell’s diagnosis at age 12 he became increasingly isolated from the outside world due to the pain and hurt of not being understood. For the next 12 years, until the age of 24, Russell spent his days as a social recluse who was tired of trying to fit in. It was during this long and painful tenure of isolation that Russell began to look inward and reflect on the meaning, and purpose, of his life.

Russell began to take great comfort in knowledge and worked his way through online high school courses with laser-like focus and vehement passion, earning a 4.0 GPA. He also spent an extraordinary season breaking through comfort zones to shine in the athletic arena. He played football with the help of an encouraging coach and teammates and was honored as a member of the 2009 All-State Academic Team. Although Russell literally never uttered a single word to his teammates, he earned the utmost respect for his tenacity and work ethic.

In 2011, still struggling and having no connections to the outside world, Russell found an outlet in his natural creative and poetic tendencies, and poetry soon became that best friend he had always yearned for. He channeled the depth of his experiences thus far to write his acclaimed book “Inside Out: Stories and Poems from an Autistic Mind”. His book was featured in the LA Times, earned an Honorable Mention at the 2012 NY Book Festival, and won the award for Literary Excellency at the 2013 International Autistic People’s Awards in Vancouver, Canada.

Russell then spent two years taking online classes at his local community college (TMCC) in Reno, Nevada. He received straight A’s and was invited to be a member of the Phi Delta Kappa Honor Society.

Russell’s name and story are known worldwide, and his workshops, keynote speeches, and performances reach thousands of students, teachers, legislators, policy makers, business leaders, and service providers each year.

Every presentation he gives uplifts, inspires, and increases awareness and understanding for all individuals, whether familiar with autism and mental health or not. He speaks honestly and authentically; his experiences resonate with every audience he speaks to.

In 2018, Russell presented in 27 cities all across the country. He ended the year with a true testament to his hard work: he was named Reno-Tahoe’s “Most Outstanding Professional Under 40”.

In 2019, Russell was back in a physical classroom for the first time in 15 years when he was accepted into “Leadership in the Digital Age” at MIT Sloan School of Management in Cambridge, MA. During this class, Russell immensely enjoyed his time, but not without some severe struggles. It occurred to him what he had been missing out on for the majority of his life, but he also knew that if it wasn’t for his perseverance through his challenges, this opportunity would not have presented itself.

Later in 2019, Russell made the trip overseas to present for the prestigious King’s College of London. In January of 2020, Russell toured the Mohammed Bin Rashid Center for Special Education in Abu Dhabi and afterwards spoke to the faculty.

Russell’s work addresses the challenges of all the conditions of the human experience, uniting the efforts of diverse groups in order to achieve substantive, systemic change and acceptance.

He continues to channel his passion to stand up for those who are not yet strong enough to do so themselves, for he knows how painful it is to go unnoticed. He uses the hindsight from his traumatic and negative experiences to generate foresight and insight for others in order for this world to become more compassionate, understanding and aware.

His goals are to erase the stigma and stereotypes that come with having a disability and to make this world a better place by spreading inspiration, hope, compassion, awareness, acceptance, belief, and tolerance.

Join Russell on his mission

Who is Russell

What began as an impassioned pursuit of spreading autism and mental health awareness around communities worldwide has grown into a multi-faceted effort to encourage all people to simply be their very bests. Russell has become one of the most sought-after speakers of his generation through his motivational and encouraging presentations. He is relentless in his craft and prioritizes the importance of connection whether in education, relationships, business, and everything in between. His speeches invite audience members to journey along as he illustrates through experience that life is truly what we make of it. Russell takes care to leave each group with thoughtful action items and tangible tools they can bring back into their own communities, schools, and businesses as they push on toward greatness.

From a young age Russell found comfort, solace, and internal inspiration through his writing. From poetry and rhymes to spoken word and fiction, the written word became a tool for him to express his inner most self with a world that otherwise might never witness it. His book “Inside Out” garnered critical acclaim from Temple Grandin herself. It would be his writing that invited others to explore his story more… eventually motivating Russell to publicly share his experience with small groups around his community before becoming a prominent nationwide speaker.


Russell is a contributor for Psychology Today and continues to write on the road in between events and in reflection once home again. Having spent a great deal of time writing on his own experience, he continues to expand his work to include more of the popular educational, motivational, and leadership themes found in many of his presentations.


In 2019, Russell’s second book titled “On the Outside Looking In: My Life on the Autism Spectrum” hit bookstores nationwide.

Russell believes that changing the stigma surrounding mental health and invisible disabilities comes through action. He sits on the National Board of Directors for The Arc, is a council member for the Autism Society of America and was appointed by the governor of Nevada to serve on the Council for Developmental Disabilities. He also holds other positions to encourage change across national communities. 


As Russell demonstrates through his leadership in advocacy, the steadfast pursuit of our best selves is the most valuable way we can uplift and inspire the communities around us.

Let's Work Together!

Russell Lehmann: autism advocate, speaker, and author


  • The Complex World of Autism & Mental Illness
  • Trauma-Informed Care
  • Person-Centered Practices
  • Mental Health and Invisible Disabilities
  • Disability and the Criminal Justice System
  • Social Justice and Societal Equity
  • Parents: The Catalyst Behind their Child’s Success
  • Self-Determination/Self-Motivation
  • Leading with Compassion
  • Find Success Through Struggles
  • Empowerment/Advocacy
  • Youth Transitions
  • First Responder Training
  • And Much, Much More!


  • Keynote, Middle East/North Africa (MENA)
    Mental Health Conference
  • King’s College, London
  • Keynote, Alaska Statewide Special Education
  • Keynote, National Disability Policy Seminar
  • Keynote, Equal Partners Interstate Congress
  • Keynote, Mississippi Disability MegaConference
  • Keynote, Autism Society of Wisconsin 30th Annual
  • Lectures: NYU Abu Dhabi, Xavier, UCONN, USD,
    UW, UMSL, Stanford



Russell Lehmann is an award-winning and internationally recognized motivational speaker, poet, author and advocate who happens to have autism. His words have been featured in the USA Today, LA Times, NPR, Yahoo! News, Autism Speaks, Success Magazine and archived in the Library of Congress.

A graduate of MIT’s “Leadership in the Digital Age” course, Russell is on the national board of directors for The Arc, a council member for the Autism Society of America, the Youth Ambassador for the mayor of Reno, Nevada, and has also sat on the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities as well as the Nevada Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Russell showed signs of autism as a newborn, however he was not formally diagnosed until the age of 12 after suffering through 5 weeks in a lock down psychiatric facility. In 2011 Russell wrote a book titled “Inside Out: Stories and Poems from an Autistic Mind” which was featured in the LA Times, earned an Honorable Mention at the 2012 NY Book Festival, read by Temple Grandin and won the award for Literary Excellency at the 2013 International Autistic People’s Awards in Vancouver, Canada.

Russell’s second book “On the Outside Looking In” recently hit bookstores nationwide.

In 2018, Russell was named as Reno-Tahoe’s “Most Outstanding Young Professional Under 40”.

In 2019, Russell lectured for the prestigious King’s College of London. He has also presented for numerous other international entities. Russell currently travels the world spreading hope, awareness and compassion in a raw and dynamic fashion, while also setting his sights on erasing the stigma and stereotypes that come with having a disability.
Russell’s passion is to be a voice for the unheard, for he knows how difficult and frustrating it is to go unnoticed.


Board & Council Positions

Notable Lectures & Engagements

March | Austin, TX

Life Works Autism Conference
March | Longview, WA

East Asia Teachers' Conference
March | Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

United Nations World Autism Awareness Day
April | New York, NY

Disability Policy Seminar
April | Washington, D.C.

The Arc of Illinois Annual Conference
April | Chicago, IL

NYU - Abu Dhabi Shifting Perspectives & the Evolution of Our Autism Journeys
April | Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

START National Training Institute
May| Austin, TX

Supported Life Conference
May | Sacramento, CA

Tennessee Disability MegaConference
May | Nashville, TN

MA Department of Developmental Services
June | Boston, MA

National Autistic Society's "The Autism Show"
June | United Kingdom

Lighting the Way Conference
June | Sioux Falls, SD

North Dakota Advocacy Conference
June | Bismarck, ND

The Arc of the US Summer Leadership Institute
July| Chicago, IL

August | Coming Soon

Autism Across the Lifespan
September | Huntington, WV

The Arc of the US Annual Conference
September| New Orleans, LA

Mississippi Trauma Conference
September| Jackson, MS

September | Hartford, CT

October | Coming Soon

November | Coming Soon

Autism Investor Summit
February | Los Angeles, CA

Alaska Statewide Special Education Conference
February | Anchorage, AK

March | Austin, TX - Postponed, COVID

Life Works Autism Conference
March | Longview, WA - Postponed, COVID

All Born In Conference
April | Portland, OR - Postponed, COVID

Tennessee Virtual Disability MegaConference
May | Nashville, TN

Nevada Public Health Foundation's Virtual Mental Health Conference
June | Las Vegas, NV

July | Canceled, COVID

August | Canceled, COVID

North Dakota Virtual Conference
September | Bismarck, ND

Mississippi Trauma Virtual Conference
September | Jackson, MS

UConn LEND Webinar
September | Hartford, CT

Anger Me Not Conference - Canceled
October | Stevens Point, WI

Middle East & North Africa (MENA) Mental Health Conference
November | Virtual

STAR Tennessee Virtual Summit
November | Virtual

Speak Up, Speak Out Conference - Virtual
November | Chicago, IL

YAI Westchester Autism Conference
January | Westchester, NY

Pacific Rim International Disability Conference
March | Honolulu, HI

Starkloff Disability Institute
March | St. Louis, MO

Partners in Policymaking Reunion
March | Franklin, TN

Lark & Owl Booksellers
March | Georgetown, TX

Wisconsin Autism Society Annual Conference
April | Wisconsin Dells, WI

Denville Township School District
April | Denville, NJ

GRASP Annual Conference
May | New York, NY

MIT Leadership in Advocacy
May | Boston, MA

King's College of London
May | London, UK

Michigan Peer Conference
May | Lansing, MI

Missouri Mental Health Institute
May | Lake Ozark, MO

Mississippi disAbility MegaConference
June | Jackson, MI

Healthy Relationships and Sexuality in Autism
June | Cincinnati, OH

CRAVE Summer Camp
June | Reno, NV

NACDD Annual Conference
July | New Orleans, LA

Georgetown Public Schools
August | Georgetown, TX

Yolo County Office of Education Staff Retreat
August | Woodland, CA

Yuba City Office of Education Staff Retreat
August | Yuba City, CA

University of South Dakota Disabilities Symposium
September | Sioux Falls, SD

Partners in Policymaking Graduation
September | Las Vegas, NV

UConn LEND Lecture
September | Hartford, CT

Region 10 School District Training
October | Dallas, TX

Wyoming ASD Summit
October | Jackson Hole, WY

Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe
October | Flandreau, SD

Montana Youth Transitions Conference
November | Helena, MT

2nd Annual University of Washington Autism Center's Benefit Dinner
January | Seattle, WA

20th Annual Delaware LIFE Conference
January | Dover, DE

Nevada Association for School Psychologists
January | Reno, NV

10th Annual Dare to Dream Conference
May | Providence, RI

September | Mansfield, CT

Delaware Partners in Policymaking Graduation Ceremony
September | Dover, DE

November | Columbus, OH

Autism Behavioral Services
March | Grafton, MA

Meet & Greet w/ Dr. Julie Vargas
April | Boston, MA

C.I.T. First Responder Training
May | Reno, NV

RAAC's Autism and Mental Health Across the Lifespan
June | Cincinnati, OH

National EPIC Conference
August | Las Vegas, NV

University of South Dakota's Advocacy Symposium
September | Sioux Falls, SD

- 2016 -
Fundraiser for Miss Nevada
July | Las Vegas, NV

Lewis County Autism Conference
October | Chehalis, WA


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