Wednesday, April 3, 2019

I'm Elizabeth. I'm 32. I live in central New Jersey. I was a special education student since elementary school but my diagnosis was a learning disability. I was a very quiet and anxious child which turned into selective mutism. My parents kept sending me to therapists because I was always having difficulty in school and world meltdown at home. I always drew a lot and could concentrate better when I was doodling. The only classes I liked in school were art and music. I was talented in both areas. In sixth grade I tried out for the select choir. I had made it the year before so was pretty sure I would make it again. I stood in the choir as the teacher announced the names of who made it in front of the class. My name wasn't called. Then she said in front of me and the choir that "if Elizabeth keeps her grades up she can be in the choir". I was so embarrassed. I was trying my hardest and to have someone take away the only thing I was good at contingent on something I couldn't control was horrible. I tell everyone with autism to focus on your strengths. In a world where everything can be so difficult it's so important to have things you enjoy and are good at. I have always worked with people who have disabilities because having a disability myself it was easier to relate. In high school I nannied for a little boy who had autism and his sister who did not. I spent summers living with families and nannying for their autistic children. I went to college for special education and taught for a while till I experienced burnout and quit. Right now I'm re evaluating what I want to do with my life. I know it will be autism related somehow. Last year I was still teaching and I had the worst principal ever. I wasn't formally diagnosed yet but thought it would benefit me at my work to have formal documentation. I went for the testing. My parents were interviewed and they filled out rating scales. I did the same. Funnily enough my parents rating on one scale and my rating of myself on the same scale was only off by one number it was that close. Having a formal diagnosis means that more programs and services are open to me. I go to a women's social group called Felicity House in NYC. I also am part of the Special Olympics. I go to occupational therapy and see a speech therapist to work on social language. All my life I have tried to keep up with everyone else but now I am okay with going at my own pace and accepting my limitations. Since college I used to live alone but was never able to really take care of myself. Now I live with my parents and I am much happier. I just want to help others, whether that's parents who have an autistic child or others with autism or other disabilities. I like being autistic because it's part of me. Yes it can be hard and challenging but I get to be part of an amazing supportive group of other autistic people.

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