I’m ready to talk about


This is my story.

A few days after my son Mateo was born, I pressed record on a moment we were having together where I was teaching him about communication. I’ve always been fascinated by it and wanted to share an interesting fact that I had learned along the way.

I spoke to him about how 7% of communication is the words we use, while 38% is the tone and the remaining 55% is our body language. (While those numbers may not be exact, they’re definitely close.)

Little did I know that Mateo would teach me even more about communicating than I could ever have imagined.

What I thought I knew would turn out to only be the surface of a deeper understanding, as we would eventually come to learn that our beautiful boy had autism.

Mateo is now 6 and is non-verbal.

Autism was something I didn’t know how to handle in the beginning. I didn’t even understand it.

He was just a little boy and I knew that he was developing at his own pace, just as I did. I didn’t trust the people around us that were telling us what they thought.

Marissa is a great mother and she took the initiative from day 1. While she gave me the time to process what was going on, she wasn’t going to wait until I was ready to accept it. I knew deep down that she knew better than me and hoped that if she handled it, like she does with most things, Mateo would be ok.

We began with all kinds of early interventions that would help him develop “normally”. I fully supported this and early on when your toddler doesn’t speak, it’s a bit easier to accept. (Until you find yourself with another child less than 2 years later, along with another 1 not long after that who both seem to be developing a bit faster.)

When it was just Mateo and we were navigating life as new parents on top of this thing we didn’t really understand, I remember thinking about how much less we all could speak if we just decided to start listening more. That’s actually something I was intentional about doing.

This type of communication began becoming a part of my work. I started to film more and more long form conversations with people that interested me. This became what I called Beyond Werds.

Somewhere in the background was this conversation about autism that I wasn’t ready to have.

Over time this would change. I began experiencing conversations that while interesting, didn’t connect with the innermost part of me that now writes these words.

As I approached the acceptance phase of an autism diagnosis as a father, this topic became increasingly more important to me. What began as a topic I might bring up at the end of a filmed conversation, would eventually lead to the universal theme of the entire conversation. I knew what I was capturing would provide value for parents like me and professionals in the special needs space that could help.

The end I served was too obvious to ignore.

Beyond Werds was evolving into something different and I knew I needed to continue placing one foot in front of the other in this direction.

When it became clear to me that Beyond Werds was directly connected to Autism, I realized that I had some work to do to establish that positioning in a marketplace.

I spent countless hours focused on developing a deeper understanding of my experience and the things that mattered most. This work would go on to prepare me and my family for our move from New Jersey to Charlotte in June of 2023.

Beyond Werds exists to be the leader in authentic storytelling for those in and around the autism community. This mission not only directly impacts our families, but the professionals and organizations in this space that understand and serve us.

We’re here to make sure those stories are told.

Discover how Beyond Werds is making an impact in the Autism Community through authentic video content by partnering with educational institutions, professional service organizations, experience-based businesses and dedicated non-profits. Our mission is to share stories that deepen understanding and create stronger connections in and around our community.


Recent Conversations:

Laurie Sugarman Derrico is my son Mateo’s Occupational Therapist. She works at HTA of New York in New City, which is where we take Mateo twice a week after school.

Laurie began working with Mateo in early 2020, which was when I first began to really understand what Occupational Therapy was. At that time, the sensory gym was closed and we were forced to do his OT sessions over Zoom. As unfortunate as it was, it did provide a really great opportunity for us to get hands-on learning into this world my wife Marissa and I knew very little about. Occupational Therapy over Zoom certainly came with its own unique set of challenges, but we are all better because of it, especially Mateo.

In the years since, our relationship has grown stronger, and Mateo has developed a truly deep connection with her. Because of the profound impact Laurie has had on our lives, I knew I would need to press record on a conversation with her.

This is that conversation, and I hope you enjoy it.

I met Yandie when I began working with WealthEdge back in 2017. I have always appreciated her approach to financial planning. As we were wrapping up a recent production shoot at the office, I asked Yandie if I could continue recording and dive into something a bit more personal. I knew this conversation could be of value to someone that finds themselves at a similar point in their journey.

Yandie Liautaud, is the Financial Planning Director at WealthEdge®. Yandie heads the Financial Planning team, providing comprehensive wealth management options to clients. She supports clients through every stage of their financial journey, utilizing a family office approach and working closely with clients’ professional advisors to create personalized financial plans. Yandie is known for her exceptional listening skills and unwavering support during life’s pivotal moments. With an MBA from Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business and a Certified Financial Planner® designation, Yandie’s expertise is unmatched. When she’s not helping clients reach their financial goals, she enjoys exploring her passion for sustainable and impact investing, as well as music and dance. Yandie is fluent in both French and Spanish.

The Champion Autism Network (CAN) is a non-profit organization based in Surfside Beach, South Carolina, that aims to create supportive and judgment-free experiences for people living with autism. Founded in 2012 by Becky Large, a business professional and mother of a child with autism, CAN works to educate and empower communities, businesses, and organizations to enhance the quality of life for people with autism. The organization values love, empowerment, acceptance, and playfulness as key principles in its mission.

CAN recognizes that life with autism can be unpredictable and that people with autism may have sensory processing issues that make certain stimuli difficult to tolerate. As a result, they may have tantrums or meltdowns in public, which can lead to criticism and judgment from others. In an effort to create more inclusive communities, CAN works to build a network of autism champions that includes businesses, local non-profits, and individuals with autism. In 2016, Surfside Beach declared itself the first autism-friendly travel destination, and the City of Myrtle Beach and Horry County followed suit in 2018. Through its efforts, CAN aims to create a world where all people can happily live, work, and play.

Michael Large is a highly qualified and experienced attorney who has dedicated much of his career to helping the aging population and individuals with disabilities. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1987 from Richard Stockton College and his Juris Doctor degree from Temple University School of Law in 1991. Michael is admitted to practice law in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, and has a broad range of expertise in areas such as elder law, estate planning, supported decision making, guardianship and conservatorship matters, Medicaid planning, probate administration and litigation, and public benefits appeals.

Prior to joining the Law Office of Deirdre W. Edmonds, Michael worked as the head of the Elder Law unit at South Carolina Legal Services, where he worked with local community groups, state agencies, and national organizations to develop programs and outreach that helped educate the public and protect the rights of vulnerable adults. He is actively involved in the South Carolina Bar, serving on the Vulnerable Adult Task Force and Elder Law Committee, and is a member of the Horry County Bar, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and the Board of Directors for Champion Autism Network. In addition to his professional commitments, Michael is also a Leadership Grand Strand alumni and a frequent volunteer and speaker on issues affecting the elderly and vulnerable adults. In his personal life, Michael is happily married to his wife Becky and they have two sons.

Lead With Love Training Co. is a company that provides autism training for organizations and corporations. The company recognizes that with the increasing rates of autism diagnosis, it is not a matter of if an autism episode will occur, but when. As a result, it is important for businesses to be prepared and trained to handle such situations in a positive and supportive way. Lead With Love Training Co. believes that by providing autism training, businesses can not only better serve their customers with autism and their families, but also protect their reputation and avoid negative press. The company aims to support families with autism and increase economic opportunity for businesses that support them, and believes that by providing a positive and welcoming experience for customers with autism, businesses can foster loyalty and repeat business. Overall, Lead With Love Training Co. believes that the key to success is to lead with love and compassion towards customers with autism and their families.