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Transformation from "lower-functioning" to "higher-functioning."

Aaron Stuart was was told leave a third adult day training program in January, 2015, for once again exhibiting "behaviors" considered too difficult to manage. Aaron was 24 years old, and built like a football player. He has the personality of a teddy bear, but suffered from digestive issues his parents didn't know about at the time: hiatal hernia and ulcer. He couldn't speak of his pain; only act out by grabbing someone's arm in desperation. That was all it took to have him ejected from three well-known programs in Florida. Michael and Harriet Stuart had had enough of this treatment of autistic individuals, and, after saying a prayer, started a program in their home that is unlike anything offered in Florida to date, or most of the nation. Operation Meaningful Life was born that February, 2015, with a unique goal: train the developmentally-disabled adult population in skills they were not receiving in schools and day programs, which would enable them to lead productive lifespans. Using unique and individualized methods and approaches individuals would be taught career, vocational and life skills; and the special emphasis would be on those rejected and ignored by society: the so-called "lower-functioning." The program has been amazingly successful. Aaron is now employed part-time by two national restaurant chains; and works part-time for a large regional supermarket bakery chain that makes up-scale products. His language propelled quickly and became functional. He is now considered "higher-functioning," and happier because he is being productive, and feels accomplishment every day. OML operates a "Home Base" in Jacksonville, Florida, where it professionally duplicates numerous career and vocational environments and skill sets to successfully transition the disabled individual to the actual work setting. The program is so efficiently run that, unlike other programs, financial donations have not been accepted nor sought. Being "higher-functioning" is merely, to OML, a matter of appropriate training and instruction; something most adult training programs do not recognize, nor understand how to accomplish. Operation Meaningful Life now has a Facebook page that is dedicated to inspiring families and professionals around the country to accomplish the same results.

Michael Stuart
Jacksonville, FL

Learning About Autism Through Kids

I recently wrote a children's book named, "Learning About Autism Through Kids" to teach children who

aren't autistic how to interact with children who are. It also helps adults

identify with the many characteristics and behavior of autism.

Each short story is about characteristics associated with autism. They are

also narrated through the voice of a child. The readers get to spend time

in the mind of the little girl that's non-verbal, the little boy who's

having a meltdown, the child who nearly has a panic attack from the sound

of a pencil tapping on the desk, and more.

We can go on a 1000 charity walks, hashtag every *Autism Speaks Awareness*,

and the list goes on but until we experience what that child is

experiencing, we can't really relate. This is why it's so important to me

for this message (book) to get out. I can honestly guarantee if you read

this book you will have a new outlook on autism. Yes, it is a children

book, but every reader will be rewarded and educated. You can purchase this book directly from Amazon.

Rasheema Kearney
philadelphia, PA

Autism Survivor now Composer

By four years of age, Christian had attained several labels including autism. With the guidance of neurodevelopmentalists, his mother worked with each of her son's function and sensory problems with exercises that created auditory/visual processing and development, normalized tactile and auditory sensitivity and eliminated stuttering. Christian is now a twenty-one year old composer, traveling, performing and speaking out about how to find hope and help for the journey with his mother, Stephanie Anderson. They just released a book, "From Unlikely to Unlimited!" and music CD "Unlimited" through Tate Publlshing/Music Group.

Stephanie Anderson
Helena, MT

"I don't like being defined. I just am who I am." How Asperger's Syndrome changed my life for the better

My name is Christopher, and I'm a recent high school graduate. I've been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome since the age of three. As a kid, I had trouble socializing, I did certain repetitive behaviors, (Repeating a part of a video or song over and over again), and just to put it short, I was, different, for lack of a better word. I've had a somewhat rough childhood because of my problems alone, but also having to take care of a physically handicapped parent since middle school didn't help either; but during that time I learned basic life skills like making my own food and cleaning my own clothes without outsiders telling me how to do so. I'm generally a fast learner, and I'm thankful for that; because I wouldn't be where I am today.

High school felt so much more better. While I still disliked school, I learned a lot and I know how to manage my time, and also just how to work hard in general. One day during freshman year, the last year I was still in all special education classes, I sat there, and thought "If I'm going to invest my time into college several years from now, I need to take much harder courses." Sophomore year that exactly happened. It was stressful; and the high school that I went to is well known for its academics. It was self-discipline for me; but I learned one thing. It's better to take a hard course and get a C then take an easy class with an A. I was B-average student, and I graduated with an overall GPA of 3.2. I've also made so many friends during high school, because I learned that I really could connect with people. I felt awkward at times, but I was a well loved and respected student. Of course, it can only keep getting better. Right now I'm taking a gap year, to decide which part of the STEM field I want to major in, that will make me happy. To my friends and family, thank you, for everything. <3

Christopher Barth
Bryn Mawr, PA

update on story of my our life

hello I wrote about three years ago I would like to give you an update about my brother and I he is currently in high school am currently 27 years old now my brother is 20 year old we still living at home mom dad if you do find out that you have autism just remember that god made you this way he will always show you the way of life their be people out their that will not understand what you going threw but god dose I do to had people tell me that autism is nothing or we act this just because we want to have friends who think other stuff worse part ever have a meltdown in pubic and no understands I have new stuff that am currently interested in Florida sate football and rocky balboa crabs and outside lot of other stuff that we are interested in did lean the color purple and black make a child or adult go into a met down !!! really didn't want inn one my family have deal my brother and I being born with it but we made it god we love us thanks read our story hope this helps you family out

Anonymous
fayettville, GA

ERIC'S FIRST FISH

Eric was born March 17, 1998 he was smart, active crawler, he could grab the sofa walk along the side. We were so proud that he could say dad, mom, agua (water), papa (potato). Eric would crawl fast his little knees were always red.

His mother calls me that Eric need his yearly vaccination and that she would take him. That evening she called me told me Eric was not feeling good, that he had a high fever. I went over picked him up raced to the McAllen Medical Hospital.

They gave him something for the fever, they took all his cloth off so that his body could cool down. After hours they told me that he could go home, that we should take him to his pediatrician in the morning. When we arrived we had to put him in a tube with normal tempter water. She took him first thing in the morning his fever was still their. Eric stop talking, stop crawling, became a very sad baby just lied in his bed, he could not even swallow his food. After a few months with stimulation therapy he started to come back to us. He was totally different he could not say words he would just make noises, he started dragging his body a cross the floor, he could not crawl on his knees. He did this for about 2 years, Eric took his first step at 4 years 6 month. He is now 18 years old, 6'1" tall, 185lb, has never learned to talk, but he can write, read, use computers, Just Graduated from high school May 28, 2016. I am so proud of him because he has been through so much, doctors therapy, medications. Thanks Edward

EDWARD DOMINGUEZ
EDINBURG, TX

Inclusion is Essential

Kelsey is 12 years old and has been diagnosed with PDD. She started her life in a Russian orphanage where I found her at 11 months of age sick, starving and alone. Since being adopted, Kelsey has thrived. She is currently a 5th grade special education student who lives life to the fullest. She is active in dance, gymnastics, swim team and cheer team. She is also an active community volunteer donating more than 300 service hours during 2015. During the past year, she has received a Presidential Volunteer Service Award from the White House, met with the Governor, was named a finalist for two National Youth Activist Awards, received state level awards for academics and community service and raised over $5,000 for a variety of charities.

Unfortunately, despite all of this success, Kelsey has experienced the sad reality that so many individuals with developmental disabilities face. While a student at her local elementary school, she has only been allowed to participate in self-contained special education activities. She was not allowed to be on the honor roll; was not allowed to participate in the science fair; was not allowed to represent the school system at the state Special Olympics Games with her peers from other elementary schools in Georgia; was not allowed to participate in her school's extracurricular activities such as chorus and the dance squad; and was not even initially allowed buy a ticket to attend the 5th grade dance. While we appreciate everything her special education teachers have done for her, we are disappointed in the multiple barriers to inclusion and equal participation in the general school environment Kelsey has faced. As she enters middle school this fall, we will continue to fight for equal access. Kelsey believes that individuals with disabilities can achieve great things in life and make a tremendous positive difference in the lives of others. When she grows up, she wants to be a role model for others and start her own charitable foundation that will support children with special needs. Kelsey's experience reminds us that separate is not equal. Inclusion is essential.

Carol Norris
Bonaire, GA

Jacob story

This is the story of my son Jacob Rickard. When he was 3 years old I found out he was austic. I took him to Louisville, KY and had him tested and the doctor told me Jacob was austic, adhd, and had mmd. Which for a mother to take all that in was over whelming for me. I knew I had to do my research on autism. I had heard of it but I wasn’t sure about everything that it involved. We got home and I had him enrolled in ot therapy and pt. therapy. They came to my house 3 times a week to see Jacob he was not all for it at first but once he got use to it he loved it. When he started school he was very behind. Then when he started middle school it was a whole new world for him. Kids would bully him and make fun of him. Jacob stays in a special needs classroom all day expect for the last two classes which the special needs teacher helps him out with the regular teacher. He does like those two class because he doesn’t feel different in those classes. Those are the classes he is bullied so much and he is a loner and very anti-social. He has a few friends but most of the time he doesn’t deal with too many people he is afraid they will make fun of him. He could come home and cry because they would make fun of him. As a mother I always tell Jacob he is my special angel and god made him this way to teach me that everyone is different. Jacob is now 14 and in the 7th grade. At home he stays to his self and plays video games. Jacob had taught me what true love really is. He is a sweetheart and very respectful young man. Every day I read up on autism and see if there is something new to know. It’s hard but it is worth everything to me.

Heather Hancock

Henderson, Kentucky

Heather Hancock
Henderson, KY

Courage, Joy, Love, and Hope.

My name is Sydney Krebsbach and I was born with Autism, but I did not found out until I was 8 years old where I was formally evaluated by a neuropsychologist in Anchorage and was diagnosed with Autistic Disorder.

I did not begin using one to two words until age two and I was not speaking in full sentences until age three. By the age of three my deficits in social communication were becoming more apparent. I entered a preschool program in Seattle for special children when I was three and enrolled in a similar program upon moving to Juneau at age four at the Mendenhall Preschool Program. I received speech therapy through the school district in Kindergarten until 5th grade. I received tutoring services through REACH to assist me with my homework from 3rd grade to graduation from High School. During high school I had an IEP and received special education services related to my autistic disorder.

My biggest accomplishment was graduating high school with honors. When I was 18 years old I had my learners permit, followed by a year later when I my drivers license at 19 which was another huge accomplishment. I have receive help with finding a job with an employment specialist from REACH. Across the course of my development, I had demonstrated marked impairment in my social interaction skills, has failed to develop peer relationships, and lack social and emotional reciprocity. I had a history with having difficulty with transitions and I have engaged in repetitive obsessive compulsive type behaviors.

I have had Autism for a long time but I have dealt with it. It has taken me years to overcome a lot of challenges I had to face along the way. There were times I just wanted to give up but I didn't I kept on trying until I accomplished it. My perseverance speaks so much to my great character. I never let my Autism stop me from continuing to try and work towards my future dreams.

Sydney Krebsbach
Juneau, AK

Oliver and Brendyn

Oliver and Brendyn are brothers who are both diagnosed with autism. Oliver is 9 years old and is currently participating in the outreach program with Haugland Learning Center. He has had delays since infancy following a stroke he survived after heaet surgery. At age 3 he had a heart transplant. Soon after he regressed into autism and began exhibiting severe behavioral issues. While his behaviors can be challenging at times, he always tries his best. He has never met a stranger and tries to make everyone his best friend, especially pretty girls with iPhones.

Brendyn is 3 years old and is currently attending preschool at Applied Behavioral Services (ABS) in Dublin, Ohio Brendyn has no major delays aside from his social skills. He is even advanced in some areas! He loves trains and vehicles in general. Recently he has really began to make a lot of progress socially and has found a friend at school that he plays with every day!

Both boys have progressed so much and continue to surprise us every day!

Jessica Shelpman
Grove City, OH
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