When Jonathan Murphy arrived at Stanbridge Academy at age 12, he preferred to stay in the background. Happiness was not being noticed or asked to engage. I think it came from fear of being picked on or bullied, a common occurrence at his previous school. But Stanbridge was different, Richard, the headmaster at the time told him. And he was right. For the first time, Jonathan was in a welcoming and accepting environment and he had teachers who cared enough to help him come out of his bubble—to break down his protective walls and learn to engage in life.
What we didn’t know then is that Jonathan is on the autism spectrum. But by the time he was diagnosed, he was already at Stanbridge, the best learning and social environment for his needs. He thrived at Stanbridge, taking on new challenges and building his character.
“He went from an insecure introvert to someone who has the potential to change the world,” said one of his teachers at his Stanbridge high school graduation in 2004.
Jonathan never thought he’d be able to go to college, but that’s what he did right after high school. Stanbridge gave him the confidence to try. He attended a well-respected two-year theater conservatory at Foothill College and in order to complete an AA in theater, he had to complete his general ed. So he took one class at a time and after 5 years he did it…on his own…and with honors!
Today, Jonathan works as a professional voice actor. His character voices are on animation, video games, and it’s his voice that you hear throughout the park when you are at California’s Great America. He’s worked hard to get to where he is today. He recently won the “People’s Choice Award” at the 2015 Northwest Tall Tale Challenge bringing the crowd to cheers over his dorky adaptation of the Three Little Pigs. And he just earned enough points to be able to join SAG-AFTRA, a labor union for people working in television, radio, and film.
A year ago, I founded Geek Club Books, an autism nonprofit that tells the stories of autism in innovative, creative ways—apps, digital media, webisodes, curriculum—to educate children about autism. Jonathan is involved in our latest project, Bluebee TeeVee Autism Information Station—a series of entertaining, educational webisodes about autism. Jonathan does the character voices for the Bluebee Pals. James Sullivan is the show’s host, scriptwriter, filmmaker and, like Jonathan, is also on the autism spectrum.
We just released episode 1, “What is Autism?” and it’s already been viewed more than 11,000 times on Facebook and YouTube. We think it’s because it’s the only pop-culture show with an authentic, friendly view of autism by those on the autism spectrum. Jonathan’s proud to be a part of something that can change how the world views autism and bring about a new world of inclusion and acceptance.
You can keep up with Jonathan and his acting career on his website.
If you are a Stanbridge alumnus or alumna and would like to be featured on the blog, please contact Director of Marketing and Communications Rachel Baker.