My first exposure to autism came when I was about fourteen years old, and chose the topic for a term paper that was assigned in class. I remember being fascinated by a diagnosis that isolated people from others, leaving an individual unable to talk, interact, or show interest in others.
Of course, our understanding of autism has changed significantly over the past few decades. We now know that it is a “spectrum disorder” affecting about one in every 88 children in the U.S., although autism is diagnosed in people of all ages all around the world. People with autism are unique individuals, each with their own abilities, interests, dreams, fears, experiences, emotions, etc. Yet each typically displays differences or delays in language and communication, social interactions, and behaviors. Often they also have difficulties with sensory processing.
I have had the privilege of knowing countless people with autism. I am humbled by their genuine friendship and willingness to accept me as I am. I am inspired by their ability to notice the little details around them. And I am jealous of their ability to memorize facts and statistics. I am determined to make the world a more friendly place for them; a place where their abilities are recognized and used in meaningful ways, and where their challenges are accommodated or addressed with beneficial strategies. And in our recent survey, 88% of you indicated that you are also interested in autism spectrum disorders!
Like most diagnoses, autism creates difficulties for people with that diagnosis, and for the people who work to interact successfully with them. Only those who have walked in their shoes can truly understand the pain, frustration, fear, and practical dilemmas that arise alongside the symptoms associated with this diagnosis.
That’s why I can’t imagine not helping people with autism… and those affected by autism as parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, classmates, administrators, therapists, co-workers, employers, and friends. I am passionate about utilizing my love for people with autism, my understanding of the diagnosis, my experience with developing useful strategies, and my personal and professional knowledge of the strengths and challenges associated with the presence of autism, in order to help people succeed!