ON SALE NOW: Russell’s NEW book “On the Outside Looking In”
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 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.
Join Russell on his mission
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 15 years, 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 a brief time 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.
In July of 2021, Russell became fully independent for the very first time when he moved to Los Angeles without barely knowing a soul. Russell's motivation for this huge step was his yearning to not only grow personally and professionally, but also to embark on a journey of self-discovery. While this move produced, and still produces, intense growing pains, it is a shining example of the doors that open when you follow your heart, for 6 months into his move to LA, Russell was invited to the Finnish Parliament in Helsinki to discuss government supports for those with disabilities, and was also selected as a speaker for TEDx UCLA. Russell ended the year by being recognized by the Autism Society of America as the "2022 Advocate of the Year".
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.
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.
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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 of the United States and the Legal Reform for the Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled (LRIDD), is a council member for the Autism Society of America, a founding member of ProFound, and an advisory board member for NEXT for Autism.
Russell was previously appointed by the governor of Nevada to serve on the State Council for Developmental Disabilities and 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.