April 5, 2021

Autism is Only Part of the Story with Jackson and Ken Robol

Autism is Only Part of the Story with Jackson and Ken Robol

Autism is Only Part of the Story with Jackson and Ken Robol

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Mai Ling and Martyn bring us up to date with all that is going in with their respective efforts in the disability space, including the release of the new book, Becoming an Exceptional AAC Leader. Then Mai Ling chats with guests Jackson and Ken Robol about how Jackson is building his skills as a broadcaster in spite of his autism. In the middle of the pandemic, Jackson, a high school student, launched a live-streamed interview show and has had celebrity guests from a variety of arenas. Don’t miss this inspiring personal story!

Contact Mai Ling: MLC at mailingchan.com

Contact James: James at slptransitions.com




Ken, Jackson, Mai Ling, Martyn

Introduction Audio00:00

I'm probably, probably be a broadcaster one day. Um, that's it. Probably be a broadcaster. So along with other things be a broadcaster.


Mai Ling 00:16

Welcome to exceptional leaders with Mail Ling and Martyn, where we give you front row access to intimate conversations that are shaping the way the world is supporting people with disabilities. If it is happening, it is being shared here. I am Mai Ling.


Martyn 00:28

And I am Martyn Sibley and today we are going to be chatting about Jackson and his dad Ken and their interesting story. But before we get to that, as usual, a little catch up. Mai Ling, and I love to share a bit of what is going on in our world and in the world of disability as well as entrepreneurship. So, Mai Ling any news you are excited to share?


Mai Ling 00:48

Well, you know, we have just rounded our one-year anniversary of the COVID-19. You know, we are just hitting everywhere globally and we are definitely dealing with the spring break issues. We have a lot of our college kids that have been traveling and wanting to just let loose as you typically do, right. And then we have also been talking about kids going back to school full time all around the country, some schools had hybrid models. But I think that, you know, they are really, really trying to get this going. The vaccination is just more available, readily available. I know in Arizona, you can now get it if you are 16, or over anyone who wants to get it. So, it has just been an interesting year, Martyn, my parents have had both of their vaccinations, and so have my husband and I, and they just came to visit us. And we were able to hug them and be in the car together without a mask and just incredible, incredible moments. Yeah, it was amazing just to be able to hold them and hug them and not feel like you know, I was going to put them in any type of physical jeopardy. How about you? What is it been like over there?


Martyn 01:48

Yeah, well, now on the COVID front it say it’s a year. I think the schools went back two weeks ago after we had like, two or three months locked down. And so we're sort of coming out is that there's an easing of the lockdown. But then so many, you know, forecasts about the cases have not gone down as much since the kids went back to school and as you say, with spring break coming up there's you know, people want to mix more because it's that time to try and see families I yeah, I think definitely that general the way the world has been has taken a toll I know a lot of friends and family I've spoken to have felt a bit tired and rundown with just being indoors and working from home and all that kind of stuff the last few months, particularly over the winter, not even be able to get a little bit of sun, obviously, where we are in England, we get like one or two weeks of summer is where I am. I am joking. But obviously we're looking forward to that. Getting out of the winter months and having a little bit more daylight and a bit warmer. So but yeah, the same time we're recording this episode, a bit coming up to the spring break weekend well see in England, we call it like the Easter weekend in terms of general name. But we also appreciate everyone has different ways of celebrating spring break. And you know, it's not just about the religion side. But I'm definitely looking forward to having a bit of time off work and Katia and I normally paint eggs with different paint colors and get a bit creative. And we sometimes do some of the Polish tradition because Katia is originally from Poland. So yeah, I'm personally looking forward to the weekend of having four days off work and doing some creative stuff. And I think we are allowed to go into other people's gardens with up to six people. That is like a new rule. So, I'd be able to see a little bit of family as well on the weekend as well, which will be great.


Mai Ling 03:46

Yeah, we need to break through I know that a lot of our friends with disabilities have been just experiencing this isolation, you know, from family because we have increased medical conditions and things like that. So it would be great for people to get a little bit back to normalcy, which is because of the weather. People can be outdoors again, you know,


Martyn 04:03

Yeah, yeah. Well, I won't say who it is but at a Purple Goat(http://purplegoatagency.com/) we've got pitch tomorrow to  a really big, well-known brand and we're talking about the shielding and the isolation and the loneliness that many disabled people have experienced and trying to do something around that topic that, you know, I think that general thing for me with disability is we don't want it to become overly victim and sort of really sad, sad, sad, like, we want to have some positivity as well. But at the end of the day, there is a realistic realism that is going on where for many, it's been very, very hard and we want to acknowledge those stories, but then support those people. So yeah, it'd be interesting if we get that work and try and do something at scale on that topic as well. So how about any updates from you work wise?


Mai Ling 04:56

Yes, are so excited on March 30. We are launching the second book in the series; it's called Becoming An Exceptional AAC Leader(https://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Exceptional-AAC-Leader-Communication/dp/0578737701). I know we have been talking about this for a couple episodes, Martyn, and it's real, I got my copy in my hands. It is absolutely amazing. And, you know, we have had early reviews by amazing people like Chris Gibbons, who is the head of Smart Box(https://thinksmartbox.com/), which is the one of the most well-known AAC companies, and then also by Charlie Danger (https://charliedanger.com/), who is an occupational therapist, and from your side of the pond there. And he is he's just very, very well known as someone who's just so helpful, supportive. He's a national speaker. And it's just been so wonderful. So there's a lot of anticipation, as you know, definitely on my end, but I know from the community, so we're so excited to launch this. And now that we recorded a week early, it should be available, you should be able to find it on Amazon. And please support us. We are so excited.


Martyn 05:49

Amazing, congratulations, I know how much you put into that, you know, projects real heart centered thing for you. So yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing that. And yeah, before we move into the interview itself, just a big call out to all the listeners, thank you as always for, for listening and giving up some of your time to hear mine and Mai Ling's, updates, and that and obviously the value that we're trying to bring you through the interviews and the amazing people that we feature in the podcast, but um, don't forget to engage with us. We would love to hear what you're up to. It might just be you have got some of your own news that you want to share with us, whatever that might be. But also Yeah, just really get on Facebook, Instagram, you know, like us,  sharer us sign up to the mailing list, which is exceptional leaders.com for our newsletter, and all that good stuff around the social media world. And we just love to hear from you and engage with you. And of course reviews as well. If you're listening on iTunes or Spotify or wherever do give us a good, like, a general nice review as well. That'd be fantastic. So in terms of getting into the interview, without any spoilers, Mai Ling, anything you want to just tee up about the interview from your perspective, before we get into it?


Mai Ling 07:03

Well, I'm so excited because this is autism month, April, and I found Jackson on Facebook, he was doing interviews and I was so mesmerized by him is just fantastic, his personalities fantastic. And then in order to connect with him, I had to connect with his dad Ken, of course. And the two of them are just fantastic together. I know I'm using that word several times. But I think once you hear the interview, you're just going to see what a great job Jackson is doing. his confidence is through the roof, Martyn and he he's just killing it with his Facebook live interview. So I am so very, very excited to share this with everyone.


Martyn 07:39

Awesome. Let’s get to it.


Mai Ling 07:45

Well, I'm so excited to have the two guests today on the show. Usually, it's just me and one guest. And so we're really excited to have two separate voices here. And what's really exciting about this is I met Jackson on Facebook, someone did a post reached out to me and said, Hey, Mai, you really got to check this guy out. He's doing some amazing interviews, some live Facebook interviews. And then when, with some deeper digging, I also found information about his dad, Ken. So I'd like to welcome Ken and Jackson to the show.


Ken & Jackson 08:15

All right, Hey, there, yay.


Mai Ling 08:18

So wonderful to have you guys. This is kind of a dream come true for a parent Ken I'll speak with you first, just to say, you know, as a parent, we always want our kids to kind of grow up, be independent jump out of the nest, you know, and get out there. And when I put the story together behind the what the two of you have been up to, I was just so happy for you both. So how are you feeling about this, Ken?


Ken 08:40

This is a really great opportunity for Jackson. I mean, you know, you when you have a child who has a special need, you know, you're always looking for, you know, him to find his niche. And I think everybody knows, I mean, COVID-19 has just been terrible. I mean, you know, we're all working from home, which, you know, we don't get that much communication with each other than zoom. And this sort of came out of just, you know, maybe just seeing him grow, and just thrilled to death, thrilled to death to see, the response on him putting a show together thrilled to death to see what he's doing, and meeting people thrilled to the death. Because I mean, we've, we, you know, he has interviewed probably more than we had our 50th interview a couple days ago, and it's just great. I mean, just to see what he's capable of doing and finding his niche. I mean, me and his mom couldn't be more prouder.


Mai Ling 09:35

Yeah, I'm right there with you. So Jackson, I'm talking about you like literally jumping out of the nest. Going Facebook Live is big. I mean, maybe not for you, but I know when I first started I was just like deer in the headlights like, Oh my god, everybody's watching. So how has this journey been for you?


Jackson 09:52

Well, it's been good on this. I'm started my podcast. God, I'm whats it called I'm its been great so far. I'm just, I just met you a lot of people and emailing some folks. And so its all goo good. So


Mai Ling 10:17

That's great. You just mentioned podcast. So is that separate from the Facebook Live show?


Jackson 10:21



Mai Ling 10:24

All right. So let's start with the Facebook Live because that one started first. Is that correct?


Jackson 10:29

Yeah, this is, um, on Facebook Live or maybe?


Mai Ling 10:33

Alright, was that your idea?


Jackson 10:36

Mmm....Hmm. Sure does.


Mai Ling 10:38

And so you just said, Okay, you know what, I'm going to start a show so you sit down, I can tell you're in your room. You seem super comfortable.


Jackson 10:45

Got a pretty cool stuff down there.


Mai Ling 10:48

You sure do. Yes. And when you go Facebook Live, you're like showing them? This is my life? This is my room. You know, it's kind of intimate. How did you feel about that? You know, kind of going public with that?


Jackson 10:59

Great question. I felt pretty good. Ummmm felt the same not much up. I go, I got a comics for down a lot of comics. On the often so that was in my email all I did. But um, and this is a lot of people comment me often.


Mai Ling 11:29

Yeah, we are a comic book family to my husband is very into Marvel Comics. So we buy and sell them. But we also have all these memorabilia around here. So it's great to be able to connect with people on your real interests. Right. So when you're when you reach out to people to have them on the show, and I know you've had some pretty high celebrity type people on there. What is your initial invitation? like? What does that look like?


Jackson 11:53

What does it look like? Well, it was like, just email them of course, I did. I sent I sent an invite an invite them find some guests, of course, but but I just my walker used to look it up all the time. But but um, i probably, I probably say I'm hold on hold on I forgot.


Mai Ling 12:29

Do you write the email? Or is it something that someone else helps you with?


Jackson 12:33

Oh, my walker helps me all the time. But my walker helps me all the time, but I just find some people on my, on this computer. And. And I have this google doc called got my interview list.


Mai Ling 12:51

Oh, yeah. See? So you have a hot list? Right? you've identified the people you want to talk to?


Introduction 12:56

Yep, we, I made it back made probably around August, I think Yeah.


Mai Ling 13:04

Wow. That was last summer.


Jackson 13:06

Yeah, that was last summer. Yep. Me and my walker.  My Walker, Samantha made it for me. And so I just went to some people and put on my list.


Mai Ling 13:20

So you reach out to them via email? And are you ever nervous that they're going to say no, because I am just so you know, I'm always like, Oh, my God and reaching out to Jackson Robol?


Jackson 13:29

No. I dont think so anyway. I dont think so. I wont get nervous all the time if I were you.


Mai Ling 13:39

That's cool. And Dad, do you have anything to add? How do you help him?


Ken 13:43

A lot of times, we end up writing a lot of our stuff down because, you know, with people on the spectrum, sometimes it's a little bit tougher for him to put certain words and different things together. So a lot of times, like he'll come and he'll have certain, like, even now, he's got notes that he can sort of, you know, look at a little bit to you know, to help him sort of Express I mean, because he's, he's great at writing, writing stuff down, you know, and it helps him I think, what he's trying to communicate with, with new people.


Mai Ling 14:14

That's an excellent point, Ken, as a speech language pathologist, you know, I think that these strategies are fantastic. And it's wonderful that you are involved with helping him. I also do that to Jackson, I just want you to know that I have some word finding difficulties. And I write I write things down and I have them ready. And it's just a great tool for everyone to have. Right? Yeah. And on your shows, you're just so fluid. So do you have a script? Like, is there a set statements that you use and have you really prepared for those shows?


Jackson 14:47

Yeah Yeah, I do. I do. So um, yeah, probably on a Google Doc. I did some I made some questions all the time on my basic questions for people, I think You know that um, once I emailed and then my walker used to help me all the time made some questions, but, um, I just start my start beginning I start the intro after that, but and then I and I have a printer right there is the Photo Smart series. Um, I print the questions all the time.


Mai Ling 15:24

Yeah, that's great. I used to do that too. And I put it right up where the camera is. so that it looks like I'm looking at the camera, but I am actually looking at my notes. Have you done that?


Jackson 15:32

Yeah. Huh.


Mai Ling 15:34

Little insider tricks, right?


Jackson 15:37

I sure do them, if I were you, I sure do.


Ken 15:42

Lot of times too, will end up writing everything down. Because we noticed he, it's all came from the idea of trying to do something to maybe, maybe find maybe a career and you know, his mom. And I noticed that he was really good at doing play by play, he would be he would do play by play and it would be articulate, it would be clear, and it would be very, very fluid with what he was discussing. Maybe it's just a different part of the play by play maybe a different part of the brain that sort of activated and we sort of came up with the idea of doing something that would sort of, you know, work with those goals. And so that's sort of, you know, sort of had the blossoming of this show, trying to make sure that he could work with what he was trying to accomplish and trying to again, do something a little more positive. That's just crazy. COVID times.


Mai Ling 16:39



Mai Ling [Sponsor Ad]  16:41

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Mai Ling 17:36

I know that he loves sports, and so you've had some really great guests on there. Your favorite baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, and then you have the basketball, this San Antonio Spurs and also then the football team, the Denver Broncos. That must be so exciting to have, you know your sports stars on your show. How is that felt for you?


Jackson 17:56

Feels, good. Good.


Ken 18:00

We have submitted information to our dream guests, which is the coach of the San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich haven't heard anything yet, but hoping that maybe he'll be able to interview a coach pop Jackson, why do you? Why do you like coach Popovich.


Jackson 18:14

Why I like coach Pop, Ummmm he is a great guy great guy who loves coaching learnt a lot from him.


Mai Ling 18:23

That's excellent. Hopefully, this the reach of this show will also help you. So if any of our listeners are listening, and you know this, coach, Pop, let's get him on the show. So Ken I wanted to go a little bit into your background? just fascinating that you know, you're taking the expertise and your professional area to help him Can you tell us a little bit about what you're doing at Vance Granville Community College.


Ken 18:45

I'm a Information Technology Professor by trade, and I teach classes on podcasting, and computer programming and game development. And since really, the pandemic started, I've been working from home I think, like most folks have been, and I saw this as a chance to really use my skills to help help Jackson and I mean, you know, I realized that I think in even many people do that podcasting is just a new wave of communication. And this was just a really good opportunity to reach a specific audience to also help Jackson learn some some, I think, valuable skills, and also try to also I think, provide a voice. I teach a lot of different students have a lot of different people from a diverse background. And I mean, Vance Granville is a great school and we always, you know, say, you know, find your niche, find your niche and what you believe in, in in go for it. I mean, you know what, that that's especially tough in these times, but being able to find something and utilize and reach an audience. We have people on this show that We could have never imagined we have people from England to people from the Midwest to we're humbled by this. And so it's a great chance for me to use my skills but also to to see Jackson grow professionally. Yeah.


Mai Ling 20:17

That's fantastic. Jackson, do you think you'd want to do this professionally like as a job?


Jackson 20:23

Yeah. Yeah, I could do that. I'm probably, probably be a broadcaster one day. Um, that's it. Probably be a broadcaster. So along with other things be a broadcaster.


Mai Ling 20:37

So when you say broadcasting, you do mean sports? Like play by play?


Jackson 20:41

I do. Yes. Hmm. Yeah, I'll probably call the Spurs games a lot. When I'm when I get out of high school. Um, yeah, I'm a probably have to take courses at community college. Um, I'll probably go there. Well, after I graduate from Ayden Grifton


Mai Ling 21:07

That's it. Jackson, how do you have time for all of this and sports and hanging out with friends?


Jackson 21:13

Hey, good question. Um, well, well, as we usually do, um, I do. Um, I do cross country and track, I hang out with him a lot. And when we started cross country back on October, I mean, November sorry. Um, right before COVID hit. Covid hit . Um, and then we ended in January. So yep. That's the two sports that I that I played, cross country and track.


Mai Ling 21:46

That's great. And it sounds like you've had a really great outlet for connecting with people through the podcast. Did you think that it was going to get so big? So your dad talked about international guests? Were you thinking that when you first started?


Introduction 21:58

Yes hmmm hmm , of course. Of course.


Mai Ling 22:03

I love that dream big. That's wonderful. Yeah, of course. Ken, what are your goals for this year for the show?


Ken 22:11

Well, you know, we hope we can actually add a little bit more social media, we're on Facebook, but also to really, we've had things that we could never have imagined. I mean, we've had people ask us about advertising, we've had all sorts of different things that we think are really exciting, and to even, to branch out a little bit more when it comes to even, you know, have more people with that, that maybe we have a lot of people who have special needs to follow Jackson, maybe even an interest in that and trying to, you know, have a few more guests, you know, who are related to that topic. But we'd love to see more growth. But my college has told me, I'll be home really all of 2021. I mean, I'm, I'm working, you know, for the rest of the year here. So hopefully, we can actually grow to allow him to, you know, interview more people, you know, meet more people, and even have the show eventually go out a little bit. We, we've been invited to come to a couple places, but we're hoping maybe when the vaccine comes out that we can actually go out to a few places that have actually invited us to come to in broadcast from it's just, again, I think the vaccine, hopefully that will make things a little bit more, just a little bit more normalcy. And I think well, you know, hopefully at the end of the summer, we'll, we'll hopefully I'll be back to sort of a little bit more of a normal schedule.


Mai Ling 23:35

Yeah, we're all looking forward to that. Right, Jackson. Absolutely. How much work goes into one episode Jackson, how much time do you have to put into it to get ready, I


Jackson 23:46

I must say about about five and 10 minutes. And its recording all the time and then messages? I mean just about five minutes, five to teb minutes, of course.


Ken 24:06

I think he's being kind, you're probably looking at it probably about 30 minutes to 30 minutes, something like that. For each one. Yeah. We've got to edit them. And then he's got to research each particular guest and also the questions, huh? Yeah.


Jackson 24:22



Mai Ling 24:23

Yeah. And Ken, how much of that is Jackson's responsibility to do? Because I know as parents, you know, we want everything to be perfect. And I'm a little bit of a helicopter mom. So just wondering like, how much do you let him do and how much do you guys get involved to support


Ken 24:37

You know since the whole beginnings of this? We are really being impressed because he does most of his questions. He writes his intros; he prints everything out. We have started to do a little bit of the editing again, because this is this is what I do. I have been able to actually do a lot of the editing at the beginning but slowly now he's been doing more of the editing because I would like for him to do that. Really most of it, but generally the questions the guests the interaction between the setting up the times he does all that. It is pretty humbling.


Mai Ling 25:10

That is fascinating. I love this. I am so excited for you guys. I want to thank you guys for sharing your story with us. How can we continue to follow you? I know that people listening are going to want to watch the show and listen to the podcast,


Ken & Jackson 25:22

Appreciate it. Check us out on Facebook we are at the Jackson Robol show. Check on the media,  the Jackson Robol Show Media. That is where I that is where I go. Yeah, it is called Jackson Robol Show https://www.facebook.com/jacksonrobolmedia/.


Mai Ling 25:41

Yep. Great. And the podcast is you can you get that on all the major podcast channels?


Ken 25:46

Yep. We use Buzzsprout(https://www.buzzsprout.com/) for our podcasting right now. So, you can you know, you can go to manage your podcasting channels and search Jackson Robol Show.


Mai Ling 25:56

All right, how about Instagram? Jackson? Are you on Instagram?


Ken 25:59

No. We're on Twitter. The Jackson Robol Show(https://twitter.com/RobolThe).


Mai Ling 26:06

All right. Fantastic. It's been great having you guys on thank you so much for sharing. And really, I'm tuning into the shows. I'm loving them. And I hope that our listeners are going to be too.


Ken & Jackson 26:14

Alright. Thank you. Thank You. Thank You guys.


Mai Ling 26:20

Thanks so much for joining us for this episode. And I invite you to connect with me directly at the mailing chain calm. We also want you to let us know what you think about the show ideas and how we can continue to help you or referrals to a great guest, through our Facebook group had exceptional leaders podcast, or email us at x leaders podcast@gmail.com.


Martyn 26:41

Yes, Mai Ling. I totally agree. I know we are both really mission driven people. And for me, it has always been this big mission, to have a world that’s fully inclusive for all people. And in the end, that is probably why we've bonded and come together so well on this podcast, Xceptional Leaders Podcast(https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/xceptional-leaders-with-mai-ling-chan-martyn-sibley/id1435433350), because we get to meet cool people, give them a platform to share their story, and really just make such an impact in the disability world. I love it. Also, for everyone listening, please do head over to Disability Horizons (https://disabilityhorizons.com/). This is the magazine that I co-founded about 10 years ago. We have got a free mailing list there for all the latest article news, discounts for the shop if that's your kind of thing. And do get your copy of becoming an exceptional leader book. We want you to get as much information as you need and to be as successful as you can be.

Jackson RobolProfile Photo

Jackson Robol

A little bit about us

Jackson Robol attends Ayden Grifton High School in Greenville, North Carolina. He is a junior and was born in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. His favorite baseball team is The Cincinnati Reds, basketball are the San Antonio Spurs, and football the Denver Broncos.
He runs both cross - country and track. He's looking forward to taking his driving test soon and driving his brothers car nicknamed "The Taco".

Ken Robol

Ken Robol is an Instructor of Information Technology at Vance Granville Community College where he teaches classes on game development, computer programming and podcasting. He has been married to Anne Marie Robol for 28 years. They have three children, Alex is 26 and works for IBM, Zac is 22 and works for Sequence a tech company out of Raleigh.