Hello everyone. First, thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate it. To be honest, it is a dream come true to be able to see my thoughts, once trapped within my own brain, now outside of my head where others can read them. I do not take this ability to communicate for granted. I have been blessed to find a method that works for me, and I know that there are so many people out there with autism or similar disabilities who remain trapped with an intelligent mind within a body that prevents expression. I am writing this blog with those people always in my mind. If I can use my gift to increase understanding of their situation and to help others appreciate that we all have great potential, then I have succeeded in my mission.
So, about me. I am 24 years old at the time I am writing this. I was formally diagnosed with autism at age 3. My parents tell me that I started regressing and showing signs of it during my third year of life. I do have some verbal language but nothing very conversational. I can express basic things. I have a lot of phrases that I repeat (echolalia) to help me relieve anxiety. I have some repetitive behavior patterns, but not as many as I used to. I do like to pace, and I have a need to skip through my house to release energy. If any of you were to meet me in person, you would not doubt for a second that my diagnosis is accurate.
I started therapy from the moment I was diagnosed and did Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) full time in my home for many years. I eventually plateaued and then went to a private ABA-based school for a couple of years followed by many years of public-school special education with some private ABA supplementation. I appreciate all of my therapists and teachers for their kindness and perseverance. I learned a lot through their efforts but not at the pace that I wanted, and eventually I’d always get stuck on a plateau. When that happened, life became miserable because then everything became so repetitive that I couldn’t stand it, and I often quit trying.
Life was challenging for me because I knew that I was different, and I could see how other kids were progressing in a natural way without the kind of effort that I was putting in. I was intensely jealous of that. It got much worse as I got older and reached its peak during my teenage years. I was very unhappy and felt despair about my future. But, thanks to my Father in Heaven and the persistence of my parents, I found a way to communicate my true self, and that saved me.
The method is called Rapid Prompting Method and was developed by Soma Mukhopadhyay. She starts with a letter board and a pencil and teaches you how to use those tools to spell out a sentence. I was then able to transition to an iPad and that is how I type now.
Communication is a critical part of being human or at least feeling like one. So, I am determined to continue improving in that area. It has given me confidence to succeed in other areas of life, too. I love setting hard goals and working to achieve them.
An example of that is what I have been able to accomplish with running. I have strong legs and good running genetics, but running long distances takes a lot of mental fortitude, as well. I wasn’t sure that I had enough of that. But I set a goal to run a marathon, and I worked really hard until I accomplished it. I learned to love running in the process. I have now run five full marathons and am planning on more.
I also just accomplished another goal of learning how to downhill ski. It took many years and all kinds of creative teaching methods, but just last week, I figured it out. So, it reminds me to never give up. I can do hard things!
And so can others with disabilities! We just need extra support, great teachers, and lots of patience and perseverance.
Thanks again for reading and I hope that my blog will help someone who is struggling. That would make me very happy.