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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

Autism Caregiver both professional and family

I work with autistic people and I also have wonderfully brite autistic people in my family, both children and adults. This site has been a godsend to me in helping me understand so much more than any book learning could ever have taught me. I have found wonderful support here. As a caretaker, who has trouble finding time for myself, 7 Cups has been invaluable in helping me keep my perspective and has added to my self care so that I can continue to give 100% to all of my clients. If you find yourself coming close to caregiver burnout, please consider checking out this wonderfully supportive sight that has trained listeners available 24/7. It is absolutely FREE!!! Always check out Autism Awareness for all your questions and needs, but also check out the site below for yourself and your needs.

http://www.7cups.com/12487056

Anonymous
wilmington, NC

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

The Power of Hope and Inner Light

My name is Brianna Pezon. I am 24, hold a bachelors degree in social work, three months away from gaining my Masters in Social Work, and I have Aspergers. My lifes journey has always been to help others. Even though I have been through torturous bullying and times where I could have and almost did take my own life, I stand here today trying to make a difference for those around me. I gave a TED talk last year that inspired me and others to tell their stories, and I am beginning the process of writing a book titled Autism Is Not My Name. This book (which you can find on publishizer.com) which will include stories of autism from those who live on the spectrum, and not from the caretakers or family, but from the pure eyes of the Autism Spectrum. I am just hoping that I will be able to help those farther down the scale than I and all others who need my help.

I have never been more excited than to wear my cap, gown, and Masters hood as I walk across that stage in three months :)

I just want to make a difference in this world, and I feel that I am well on my way!

~Brianna

Brianna Pezon
Eden Prairie, MN

Autism later in life.

I got diagnosed with Autism at 24, all my life so far, ive felt different, the specialist said the way I am is some stuff is high and some is low. Its frustrating not been able to understand things, like problems.

Its more social for me, I don't like loud noises, like ambulance sirens and babies screaming. I struggle to understand jokes and understanding why people are the way they are. I flap my arms, only at home, my parents use to tell me off for doing this. I struggle with change and I feel like stuff is the end of the world. I get really anxious going places on my own.

Emma Robson
Sunderland, United Kingdom

Making Sense of my Life

I was recently diagnosed ASD at the age of 28. I recognized the signs after reading an article in New Scientist magazine. After my diagnosis, things really started to make sense. I finally understood why I had so many tantrums or meltdowns as a child and why I had (and still have) such a hard time making friends. I finally understood my problem with loud noises and why I don't like to be touched. These are just a few of my quirks; there are many more. However, it is such a relief to know why and to finally be able to get the help I needed as a child.

Polly
LaGrange, GA

Autism and the Magical Step-Dad

We have the typical boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl live happily ever after story; but that's where the typical ends. Before we fell in love my husband and I had been married to other partners before and had 2 kids each. Falling in love was the easy part, blending 4 teenagers, one with profound autism, was the hard part. It was the first challenge of many, however we did blend the families and in doing so became better people.

My husband had absolutely no experience with special needs children, let alone a 14 year old non-verbal, self injurious teenager when we met, but he quickly fell for him too. My husband, Quinn, likes to say, "I know what I signed up for and your sons were here before I was." Quinn has set the bar high for all adults becoming a step-parent to typical and special needs children. Through his love for me, his love of my children has grown.

Quinn had a huge learning curve to catch up on with regard to Jason, my son with autism. Yet he handled it in the true style he approaches everything, with integrity, tenacity and acceptance. Through Quinn's example the rest of our family followed his lead. My husband began charity work, volunteer services and became involved with fund raising through Jason's school. With support from the company Quinn works for, Sonic Automotive, he has been able to raise over ten thousand dollars for special needs individuals. Sonic Automotive's compassion and spirit of family has helped facilitate our ability to grow as a family and community. It's not about being there since the beginning of the journey that matters most, it's about the impact you make on your part of the journey. All parents have a gift to give their children and Quinn's gift was becoming a magical step-parent who found his own way to bring us all together.

Cindy Burroughs
Rockville, MD

Kristen Nichole Manski

I have Asperger’s and PDD-NOS. During infancy I struggled with noticing others. I didn’t talk until I was two or three and didn’t speak full sentences until I was three or four. Due to my delayed speech, I struggled with telling people my wants and needs. When I was a preschooler, I was shy and quiet and didn’t know how to start games and conversations with others. I went to a neurologist who diagnosed me with autism when I was three. I went to a school for children with autism for preschool. From ages five to twelve, I went to a private special needs school.

During childhood and early adolescence, I was passive. People bullied me and took advantage of me. I became more assertive during adolescence, but still struggled with knowing when people took advantage of me and made fun of me. I also struggled with social cues, body language, social norms, and social appropriateness. I had acts of aggression and egocentrism. I had meltdowns, which are outbursts of screaming and crying. I often got made fun of, taken advantage of, discriminated against, underestimated, and avoided.

People lied to me to make me feel better. I want people to give me a chance by being honest and talking things out with me when I upset them so I could improve instead of avoiding me and lying. I am more honest than most people.

In college, I had an Asperger’s specialist who helped me with decisions, time management, behavior, remaining calm, other points of view, social skills, and social cues. He helped me realize many of my weaknesses so I could change.

I have unique talents. I memorize many birthdays and ages with little or no effort. I remember being an infant. I work well with children, animals, and elderly people. I can solve Rubik’s cubes and shapes. I’m strongly interested in medicine, disabilities, psychology, and child development and know more about them than most people. I want to educate society about autism to decrease discrimination, bullying, and abuse towards those with it.

Kristen Nichole Manski
Garnet Valley, PA
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