I have dedicated my life to helping people with autism and their families. Why? Well, I may be partial or biased but I just love people with autism. I love their innocence and their honesty. They are such hard workers and they are so much fun to be with. I love trying to understand what they might be thinking or how they might react in a situation and of course, they often surprise me.
When I first began working in the field I worked with a boy named Peter, he was 11 years old and he was just a great kid. I didn't think so much about the fact that he had autism at that time I just tried to teach him and engage with him as much as I could. He had a great smile and a sense of humor and I always remember him making my day better.
The first student I ever worked with was a young man who had some verbal ability but also engaged in some very intensive behavior. I remember wanting to learn more in my courses so that I would be better prepared to support him.
I then began working with a 2 yr old... and I saw the changes happening moment to moment as he was learning. I was amazed at how I was able to apply what I was learning to help him learn.
Through the years I have worked closely with many families of children with autism and I have seen them when they first received the diagnosis or when their child was in the hospital due to extreme behavior or when a first seizure may have happened or when they were trying to find a residential or adult program to transition to. I have also seen them when their child's first words were spoken, the first time their child called their name or said "I love you". I watched as a child read a book to their parents or asked a question for the first time. I have seen parents who have given so much of themselves for their child, so much that sometimes it felt like there was nothing left. But they are warriors in their own right. They fight for their children and they are there for the good and the bad.
When I was a child and everyone else wanted to be a teacher, I wanted to be Mother Theresa. I suppose I just wanted to help people and somehow I made my mission to support people with autism. I have never regretted my career choice, not a day in my life. Seeing their smiling faces and teaching a child to speak a first word or point for the first time or to learn how to communicate has just been such a reward to me...
I teach students at the University level so that they can become special education teachers and behavior analysts and I hope that through them I can reach many more students with disabilities.
I know that some people work to live but I have always lived to work (or maybe loved).. and I thank all of the students with autism who have made my life so meaningful.
I hope you might support my life's passion by helping me support individuals with autism as I walk for autism in October. THANK YOU!!