Mitchell’s Life with Autism
This selection of blog posts includes “My New Dog”, “Accommodations”, and “Social Opportunities.” Read more on Mitchell’s Life with Autism.
My name is Mitchell and I am an autistic teen. I want to share my life with the world in hopes that I can bring awareness of what it is like to live with autism. I believe spelling as a form of communication is not well understood and I hope to bring awareness to this lifestyle and change that for autistic people everywhere. I am on the move a lot because it helps me concentrate and apply myself. I don’t think it is a problem, I just think I am different. I want the world to see different as beautiful and not scary like they do now. I know I may not act like everyone else, but that is what makes me awesome! I use a letter board to communicate and I am starting to use a keyboard on my iPad. I hope you enjoy my blog and I would love to hear from you!
My New Dog
I recently got a new dog. It all happened very quickly and it has been very exciting for my family and I decided to name him Cooper, so I can vocalize the vowels in his name if I ever want or need to. It will also be in my device. I hope he will also listen to commands from my device or using sign language after some practice.
I don’t have any experience with dogs, so I have been learning how to interact with him. He is quite calm and loves to cuddle, which isn’t my favorite thing to do so I am working on tolerating it more. I do really like playing ball and going for walks, so I hope we can do more of that instead. I am not used to being the one to lead an interaction. I don’t always know how to initiate a game with him and that is something I still need help understanding. Cooper can probably figure it out better than I can at this point, so I think I would like to take a class to help me understand him more. Overall, I love having him around and I can’t wait to get to know him better.
I went through a rough emotional time last month. My school was kind enough to offer me two accommodations for my spelling. They offered me a stand for my iPad and a chair I could rest my arm on while I type. I was initially crushed and angry at the offer. My spelling was not believed for so long that I misunderstood and assumed they were trying to take my communication partner away and refuse me my general education classes if I couldn’t type independently right when the stand showed up. I realize now that I misunderstood, but at the time I was in a full panic. Now, I look forward to working with people like them with good intentions.
There are only three adults outside of my family that I feel I can really trust. That number is far too low. The only accommodations I am not afraid of come from them. I hope that as spelling becomes more accepted, new spellers can go into their IEP meetings without fear.
This is where presuming competence comes in. Educators have to believe we are capable of more than kindergarten level work. You are doing much more harm when you give low level work than if you were to give work that is too hard. I am the perfect example of why. Limitations were put on me as a young child and it traumatized me so bad that I am still terrified that every professional is out to take what I have away.
Accommodations are supposed to be helpful, but only if they are coming from a system that is supportive at its core. There shouldn’t just be one or two people fighting for you, it should be a team. Accommodations are the root of special education, but they should never be taken so far that they limit a student’s full potential.
Finding social opportunities is tough for non-speakers. It is hard to find communication partners that take the time to understand our tendencies and how to communicate with us. I love the communication partners I have and it’s hard for me to get to know new people. I can get nervous with new people, which limits my social opportunities.
While my parents are great, I would love to participate with peers without them sometimes. In time, I might be able to type without a communication partner, but for now it is time for me to be better about accepting new people. This is the only way I will be able to go to adult living and have social opportunities that are more autonomous. While I would love for my letterboard-trained therapists to be there all the time, it’s just not realistic. I want to do more social and support groups and I am determined to have an open mind.
Open Minds Silicon Valley provides platforms to elevate the voices of diverse students, professionals, and families. We encourage writing submissions to be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to being in touch about possible feature options.