'I am not a label:' CWU fashion student defies the odds despite his disability


ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- One local young man is defying the odds and challenging stereotypes in the process.

It's a big day at Central Washington University (CWU) for 20-year-old Dylan Rothwell, who was recently accepted to the school to study fashion design.

But his journey to this milestone hasn't been easy.

“It's just me and the sewing machine, and the thread and fabric,” said Rothwell. “I'm enjoying the process; it's very calming.”

A 'happy place' for Rothwell, who has always been fond of various forms of art and discovered fashion at a young age.

“I was very inquisitive; creative; different,” said Rothwell. “I decided to take action and learn more about it instead of viewing it from the sidelines.”

The sidelines, where he often found himself growing up among other kids.

Diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at age 10, it's been a tough road for someone so determined to express himself.

Two years ago an interview wouldn’t have been possible, and loud sounds and strangers are still an adjustment. But Rothwell pushes through.

“I live for creating things and making a difference any way I can through design,” said Rothwell.

The Ellensburg native is now preparing to study fashion design, following a family of CWU Wildcats, with his mother and sister being his rock during difficult years of childhood learning.

“They called me in and they said Dylan can't cut with scissors with the rest of the kids, and they were really bothered by that, and I went, 'But he can read Harry Potter,” said his mother Jamie Rothwell.

Despite the struggles, graduating after years of long-distance learning and specialized instruction with the Insight School of Washington has now brought him here.

Delayed motor skills are still not stopping Rothwell, who hopes to break down barriers and redefine an industry that's shifting to become more inclusive, with designers now featuring people with disabilities.

“I try to find ways to challenge the system; not just be fine with the way it is," said Rothwell.

Overcoming obstacles, he has been an inspiration to his older sister.

“He's actually pushed me to go outside of my box and I think some people would think the opposite in our relationship,” said Meghan Rothwell.

Sharing a heartfelt poem on autism, even contributing to CWU’s autism research project have been steppingstones on his journey as his family roots him on.

“I think when we label people then we miss out on who they are,” said Jamie Rothwell.

Defying the odds in a clear vision for Rothwell.

“I want to bring pure innovation so a whole industry is changed for the better,” said Rothwell.

And a future by design in more ways than one.

Rothwell was accepted to CWU as a sophomore through credits in the Running Start program. He calls the university a home away from home, with his sister pursuing her Master's Degree there and his mom being an employee.

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