Adrian Patayon has a book signing on May 24 hosted by Arc of Snohomish County, an organization that supports people with disabilities and their families. Patayon, who has cerebral palsy and deals with depression and alcoholism, is the author of the book “Adrian’s Aloha Song.” (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Adrian Patayon has a book signing on May 24 hosted by Arc of Snohomish County, an organization that supports people with disabilities and their families. Patayon, who has cerebral palsy and deals with depression and alcoholism, is the author of the book “Adrian’s Aloha Song.” (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Everett author hopes to inspire others with disabilities

Adrian Patayon doesn’t want you to pity him.

He was born with cerebral palsy. He walks with a limp, has slurred speech and his hands shake.

Growing up in Hawaii, kids teased him because they saw him as “different.”

“I fit in, but I didn’t fit in,” Patayon said. “I couldn’t do what the other kids were doing, or if I could, I was slower.”

The pain of feeling unaccepted by his peers led him to drink and then become depressed. His drinking didn’t mix well with his depression. It only made it worse.

“I lost jobs, I lost family members, I lost my oldest friends because of my drinking,” Patayon said. “The more I drank, the more depressed I got, the more I drank.”

When he was 26, he moved from the Big Island to the mainland as a way to start over. He moved in with his brother’s family and put himself through treatment for alcoholism and depression. It took years and a lot of hard work, but he found his second chance.

“I know I can’t change, that I will always have this leg and this limp,” he said. “Once I finally accepted it, my life became easier. I knew I could do what I needed to do.”

He shares his story in his book “Adrian’s Aloha Song,” a memoir of his life with cerebral palsy. He recounts his ups and downs through childhood and into adulthood dealing with his disability and explains how he learned to accept himself for who he is, imperfections and all.

He will have a signing of the self-published book May 24 at the Arc of Snohomish County’s annual membership dinner. Order the book from Trafford Publishing at It’s a quick read at 96 pages.

Now 52, Patayon is happy to be himself. He’s nearly 22 years sober and managing his depression. He has a job he loves and shares a house in Everett with his former sister-in-law.

His hope is that his story will help others who are struggling with their disability to accept themselves for who they are, too.

“I’m not here to ask for your pity,” he said. “I’m here to help you change your life.”

Tell me about your book.

It’s the story of my life. I was born with a disability called cerebral palsy or CP, but I didn’t find that out until I was 12. Kids made fun of me. They would call me names like “MR” because they thought I was mentally retarded or “drunk man” because of the way I walk. It was really hurtful. I didn’t understand why kids were teasing me. I didn’t understand why I was the way I was. After I was diagnosed, doctors told me I would never use a knife, never climb a ladder, drive a car or operate machinery. So many people told me, “There’s no way you can do this.” But in my heart and my mind I told myself, “You can do it,” so I kept on trying. I proved them wrong.

What inspired you to write a book?

I want to help other people with disabilities (and their families) realize that they’re not alone. There are a lot of safety nets out there now — research, services and support groups — that I didn’t have in the ’60s when I was a kid. All you have to do is make a call, and you can have answers to your questions. I just want to say to them, ‘Hey, you can do it. Just give yourself a shot.’ ” I hope I can change someone’s life. If I can touch one life, then that would be my honor.

Regarding the title of your book, do you sing or play?

Yes, I play the guitar. I picked it up when I was 5 years old. My oldest brother, my uncle and one of my grandpas used to play Filipino songs on the mandolin, so I would grab my guitar and just follow along. It feels good to play. I love music. I don’t know the chords, I just play from my heart. I just listen and go with the flow. I play Hawaiian, jazz and Filipino. I bought a brand new guitar two years ago, but I haven’t had a chance to play it. My focus has been on getting my book published.

You mention in your book that you wanted to be a disc jockey. Why a DJ?

Because I love music and I love to talk to people. I wanted to be a DJ since I was very young. When I was 15, I called the radio station in Honolulu and started talking to the DJ off the air, and then he invited me to the station. I started buying my own collection of LPs and 45s, which I still have today. I have Three Dog Night, Chicago, The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac. Disco came out in the ’70s, so I have a lot of disco. People told me I couldn’t be a DJ because of my speech. I did some speech exercises to learn how to talk like a DJ, but I couldn’t do it. I had to look for a different career.

Instead of a DJ, you became a janitor.

That’s right. I’ve been in the custodial business for 40 years, working for small companies and big companies. I’ve worked for Boeing, the city of Everett, the city of Lynnwood, the Everett Naval Station. I even had my own company. Right now I work for Varsity Contractors as a janitor part time because I’m semi-retired. I clean three buildings in Mill Creek. I really enjoy what I do. I look at it like I’m cleaning my own home. You want to keep it tidy and looking good in case you have guests. I want my customers to walk into a building that is nice and clean. I always try to do my best. If your customers are happy, then your boss is happy. I really love to be a janitor. I don’t know why, but that’s my passion right there. I’ll do it until I retire.

What do you do to help others with disabilities?

I serve on the board for the Arc of Snohomish County, which offers support for people with disabilities and their families. I’ve been a director since 2006. We’re one of the smaller chapters in the state, but we have many services and programs that offer lifetime support. I’m also a director-at-large for the Arc of Washington State’s board and a member of the state Developmental Disability Council. I advocate for people with disabilities. I mostly advocate for programs that help people who want to live independently. The thing I’m worried about now is Medicaid because so many people with disabilities rely on it for medical care. I don’t know how far the government will cut the budget.

If you could share a meal with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I would have a meal with Lee Bussard. He was an author and had CP just like me. (Bussard died in 1999 at the age of 42, two years after publishing his memoir “More Alike than Different.”) I read his book. He had a similar story to mine and wrote about what it’s like to live with CP. He was a motivational speaker who would travel around the world talking about living with a disability. That’s my goal for this book.

Finish this sentence: People would be shocked to know…

That I’m in recovery. I live independently, I have my own car, I work on my own. I’m involved in a lot of organizations dealing with people with developmental disabilities. And I think they would be more shocked to know that I try to help or save lives in any way I can.

What is your most proud moment?

I don’t have just one proud moment. Each time I prove the doctors wrong is a proud moment. I’m living a life no one imagined for me. I’ve been appointed by two governors to serve on the Developmental Disability Council. I have letters from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen thanking me for all the work I’ve done to advocate for people with developmental disabilities. I was named Arc of Snohomish County’s Citizen of the Year in 2004.

Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; Twitter: @sarabruestle.

Book signing

Adrian Patayon will be signing copies of “Adrian’s Aloha Song” May 24 at the Arc Annual Membership Dinner, held at The Old Spaghetti Factory, 2509 196th St. SW, Lynnwood. The book will be available for purchase. A paperback is $13.95; hardcover $23.95. Dinner is optional for $13. Membership to the organization is not required to attend. Registration opens at 5:15 p.m.; dinner is at 5:30. For more information, go to

Talk to us

More in Life

Photos by Karina Andrew/Whidbey News-Times 

The Jacob and Sarah Ebey House will open to public visitors Memorial Day weekend.
A landmark steeped in 19th century history reopens on Whidbey

Beginning May 28, you can venture inside one of the state’s oldest buildings: The Jacob and Sarah Ebey House, which dates from the 1850s.

Caption: Incorporating frozen vegetables into your menu plan is a fast and cost-effective way to save money on rising food costs.
The secrets of cheap meals: frozen veggies and slow cookers

They not only stretch your food budget, but also timesaving godsends for busy parents. Here are three recipes to try.

Cinderella_Red.jpg: Red Riding Hood (Katelynn Carlson) gets advice from Cinderella (Grace Helmcke) in Red Curtain’s production of Into the Woods, running May 20-June 5 at the Red Curtain Arts Center, 9315 State Ave. in Marysville.
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Marysville troupe stages a Stephen Sondheim musical masterpiece. Jazz, featuring the sons of legend Dave Brubeck, takes over Edmonds. And there’s this music festival in downtown Everett …

Navigating the rough, often scary seas of a hospital stay

After helping a friend who underwent major surgery, Paul Schoenfeld reflects on ways to cope for patients and their loved ones.

Sam Bowles records the run off the water from a chalk drawing with friend and co-artist, Rhyanna Mercer, Tuesday afternoon in Everett, Washington on May 10, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Jackson High’s global TikTok star is chalk full of ideas

Sam Bowles, 18, uses vibrant videos and social media fame to raise awareness of autism.

I canceled my flight to Frankfurt, but now I can’t use my credit

Melissa Crespo receives a $2,060 ticket credit when she cancels her flights to Frankfurt, Germany. But now her online agency has told her she can only use 25% of the credit at a time. Can it do that?

Lonicera ciliosa, commonly called orange honeysuckle or western trumpet vine. (Richie Steffen)
Great Plant Pick: orange honeysuckle

Its orange trumpets announce spring is here, and hummingbirds are irresistibly drawn to it.

Home & garden happenings in Snohomish County

The Mill Creek Garden Tour will return this summer after a two-year absence due to COVID-19.

Photo Caption: Would you believe a zipper sold for $18,450 at Morphy Auctions? What about a diamond necklace that looks and works like a zipper?
X-Y-Z spells ‘big money’ with this high-fashion zipper

It’s actually a necklace, but the zipper function works. Someone paid nearly $18,500 for it at a recent auction.

Most Read