Being Different is Beautiful
How my career turned me into an advocate for those with Autism
My view of Autism
To me, Autism is just a different way to learn. If you think about it, those with an Autism Spectrum Disorder do everything anyone else does just in a different way.
For example, if an individual cannot talk, they would need a different way to communicate like pictures or sign language. How is that different than anyone else? We use our mouths to talk but they use a communication book with pictures. It is the same thing just a different way to engage in the same behaviour. There are many many examples of this I have seen over the years in my career working in the field of applied behaviour analysis.
Book published by Blueberry Illustration, the author, Lisa Jacovsky, has the rights to the book.
[Disclosure: This post contains references to a published children’s book, Lets Talk! A story of Autism and Friendship, that may be found and purchased at the reader’s discretion at common booksellers or the author’s website].
My career and its effect on my outlook
The way I was raised was to be open to everyone no matter gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, skin colour, we are all equal. It really made the most sense to go into a field that would work with those individuals who are different because they have a disability.
I learned so much by working in residential group homes with adults that have disabilities. I learned the disability does not stop them. But you know who does? Their families and the staff, unfortunately. Because of our limited knowledge and resources, I totally understand it can be difficult to work with an adult with a disability.
But I could never understand why families and staff would not at least try. I worked with some staff that were amazing and felt the way I did and some families too. It was because of these staff and families I was able to plan amazing events for my clients, I always invited all the other houses too, each month.
We went to Crayola Factory which was suggested by a client. We went to Dorney Park, apple, and pumpkin picking, had karaoke parties, a sparkling cider paint and sip and I started a Special Olympics bowling team with them. We very rarely had an issue in the community. We, unfortunately, had one individual that struggled when in the community due to their disorders. I will say the staff jumped immediately to help me any time something occurred and thankfully nothing serious ever happened.
I talk about this time in my career often and it is a time I will never forget with memories I honestly cherish. I talk so much about it to let families know that having the diagnosis is not a negative, but something to just learn about. That experience really reinforced how I was brought up and I am thankful to have been taught that everyone is equal. It really showed me that not only can I do anything I want to but these individuals with a disability can too. I am not saying all individuals with a disability can do the things we did, but if there is something that one individual wants to do why not let them try.
Becoming a voice
I moved into working with children with Autism doing in-home ABA after four years of working with adults. I missed working with kids, but the adult world really has a lot of work to do on itself. Working with kids brought up some similar issues.
One big issue I saw is that children just do not understand other children with Autism. And if their parents do not step in to help them then they do not even try. It was one day that a family I was working with told me of an incident where a child really tried playing with my client. It felt good to hear this other child continued to try but I also felt bad for both children because no adult stood up to help.
This is when I decided to write my first children’s book, Lets Talk! A story of Autism and Friendship. It has been meant to inspire families to teach their children to break down those barriers. In doing publishing this book I have found I have become an advocate for families of any child.
A goal of mine is to really break that negative stigma around Autism and inspire our families so that our children are raised to be open and love equality too. It is my hope that in my lifetime there will not be a need for people to advocate. That our children, our adults will all be treated equally and given the same chances as anyone else that does not have a disability.
Autism really is just a different way to learn and if you have any kind of voice, whether through your mouth or otherwise, let us use it to show the beauty that is being different.