The transition to school can be a challenging time for anyone. When you add having a diagnosis of autism and/or other special needs, though, it may be overwhelming. This is the main reason I want to become a champion for the cause in our schools. This is where my story begins of wanting to speak in our schools.

When I was diagnosed with autism at 4, I was just starting Pre-K. My parents had to transition to helping me find supports while I had to transition to going to school for the first time. Ever since that day, I knew I was special, although it wouldn’t be until I was 11 that I learned I had an autism spectrum disorder.

My early years were difficult to say the least. Between being overweight and dealing with sensory overload and extreme shyness, I never wanted to be around any of my peers. It didn’t take long until I was bullied for being different. Until I went out of district in the fifth grade, I was one of the only kids with autism in my classrooms.

I look back at that scared kid who didn’t really understand the world around him, and that’s why today I have a passion for spreading education about autism to our students. I grew up a victim of bullying and not understanding my diagnosis. After becoming a professional certified speaker a few years ago, I now have a resume that has given me the opportunities to
speak at school assemblies and paraprofessional events to make the entire school community aware about autism.

Each school has taught me something different that I’ve been able to put towards my talks and presentations. Through my presentations, and seeing a need for mentors, I became a mentor to high school students on the autism spectrum to prepare them for adulthood.

If any educator ever reads this, I hope you will understand that more and more kids will likely know someone with autism. When that happens, I hope we can answer some of their questions and help break down barriers of ignorance to help protect our kids.

I grew up feeling different, but now I know I’m different and not less. Hopefully we can make our students feel the same.

Temple Grandin Award WinnerAutism Society's Outstanding Individual with Autism (2)