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In Their Own Words – The Prom that Almost Wasn’t

July 2, 2010 21 comments

This “In Their Own Words” was submitted by Cynthia Drucker, whose son has autism.

Brandon, who is now 19 years old, went to his senior prom, but it almost didn’t happen. I wrote the following (edited for content) and e-mailed it to news stations. Minutes later, I received a call from one of those stations.

Brandon, age 18, graduates with a special diploma from high  school this year. He has made many friends in this school. Brandon enjoys making new friends and staying in touch with them on the phone. He was excited to purchase the yearbook to have the friends sign it. Brandon neglected to attend a class he was scheduled to be in. He “skipped” class. He was looking for more friends to sign his yearbook. He can not tell time. He doesn’t understand the passage of time. The principal suspended Brandon for two days because of this action, as well as prohibiting him from attending his senior prom, which is just two days away. Her claim is “if he can’t be trusted to be where he is supposed to be, then how can we trust him to remain in the designated area of the prom?”

I pleaded with the principal to allow Brandon to go to senior prom. My pleas went unnoticed. Feeling it was hopeless, I cancelled Brandon’s tux rental. I don’t know if it was family outreach, prayer requests, local news stations, or numerous e-mails to newspapers that made a difference. But moments later I received a call from the principal. She said that it had been arranged for Brandon to attend the prom with a teacher escort. His  personal chaperone would be with him at all times. The news stations cancelled their story, since it had a happy ending.

Brandon attended his senior prom, dateless, and he had the best time!

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

In Their Own Words – Through My Eyes

June 24, 2010 103 comments

We recently received the following e-mail and poem submission:
Hello. My name is Cassie Madison. I am 15 years old and I have PDD-NOS. As a child, it was very difficult for me to interact socially with other children. I wrote a poem about a day in kindergarten, as seen below. I decided to read it for my high school’s Poetry Day a few days ago. When I read it, I had no idea what would happen. Many students were actually crying because of what I wrote. Teachers and students alike have been coming up to me for the past week telling me how my poem touched them. I thought I would share it with you, because I want the world to know what it was like to be a child with autism. Though we may be different, we are still living, breathing humans. Though we may have difficulty expressing them, we still feel the same emotions as everyone else.

Through my eyes,
behind the long bangs,
I see the children playing.
I want to play with them.
But they don’t want me to.
A boy chases a girl around the room,
shrieking with laughter.
Girls play house in the corner next to the blocks.
To my right the children sit
with rag dolls on their laps,
styling their yarn hair
and dressing their flopping bodies.
Me?
I stand awkwardly in the back of the room,
watching everyone play happily
with a sense of envy, thinking,
I will never be normal like them.
I am the child nobody wants to play with,
the silent girl who can’t look anyone in the eye.
I am outcast.
Through my eyes I see the world,
but can the world truly see me?
Am I no more than a blip in the scenery,
another smudge of grey
on the paint-covered canvas of life?
I am more than what meets the eye.
I am more than the awkward child sitting silently by herself.
I can write stories about magical characters
that leap off the pages when read.
I can do math at a level higher than anyone in the class.
I can read chapter books,
I can sing songs;
I can be a person, too.
But what does this matter
in the eyes of a kindergartner?
To them, I am Different.
But through my eyes, they’re all just the same.

This “In Their Own Words” poem was written by Cassie Madison, a 15 year old who has PDD-NOS.

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

In Their Own Words – Awe, Autism

June 22, 2010 7 comments

We recently received this e-mail from a parent:
My son was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at the age of two and a half. He’s had years of Skills Trainers and Autism Consultants who have helped him navigate his world. He’s fully mainstreamed in a public school here in Hawaii (he’s in the seventh grade) and is doing exceptionally well (scoring A’s in his Advanced Placement math, etc.) Although his autism diagnosis is his “Big Secret” which he shares with a very select group of people, his English teacher encouraged him to write about his struggles for his English paper (she promised she wouldn’t share it with the class). I wanted to share this story with the autism community because it can perhaps give others some perspective and inspiration with respect to their struggles.

Have you ever had a challenge that you had to overcome, but you did not want anybody to know about it?  Hi, I am (name redacted), and I have been dealing with this challenge for as long as I ever lived. I was born with a disability called autism. Yes, I seem like I am functioning regularly in society, but appearances can actually be deceiving. I will explain later what autism is, how I dealt with this and what I have learned from this experience. Come and explore my deep secret of my life.

First, I will tell you the many things I experienced while I had autism. I sometimes had a hard time in school. I was disorganized and I also sometimes couldn’t focus when I was young. I had a hard childhood and this struggle for my “survival” was hard to overcome.  I sometimes ask my mom, “Why me? Why did God choose me to lack what other people have?”  I felt like I was an alien in school and was I thought I was very different from other people. I felt so discouraged that I ran away from home and ran as fast as I could. I brought clothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste, money to survive and I also wrote a note to tell my mom that I was leaving. I finally came home within four hours of running away from home.

In addition, I will tell you how I solved this dilemma. I try to think positive and try hard in making friends, which was hard for me to do. I was actually good at the academics, but I was (and am still) struggling with planning and applying my strategies to the real world. There were many people out there to help me and I do give them credit to all of their accomplishments. I tried to follow their advice and sometimes failed, but yes they did help me out. I also stay on a special diet so that I can concentrate more. I find it does help.

Next, I shall tell you what I learned from this experience. I learned that I am not an alien and am normal. In fact, I think that this is actually a good experience. I am more grateful to what I can do. I had things that I could not do that other people could do, but now I can do those things, which I do not take in vain. I also finally learned that I have the strength inside of me to overcome challenges. Now, when I do face challenges like this, I can know inside that “I AM AN OVERCOMER!”

Overall, I have reflected on this challenge and I feel good that I could face this challenge and almost beat it. However, I am still facing with this challenge of autism. So far, I am doing well and I think that I have gone farther than I have ever thought I could go. This is a message to all of you: whatever challenge you are facing, find the real problem and solve the real problem. Believe in yourself and have inner strength to fight the problem if it’s physically or mentally.

This “In Their Own Words” essay is written by a seventh grade student in Hawaii and was submitted by his mother.

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

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