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Fellow Canadian, Sam is an amazing young man with autism who is a Starbucks barista, sharing his joy and positivity through dancing- and he’s got some serious moves!
Told that he would never be employable, the life-changing story of Sam through meeting a Starbucks manager Chris shares the warmth in giving people with autism chances, and the amazing results that come through.
In an interview with Ellen, Sam continues to inspire others by what he has to say about autism, and his smile that moves the hearts of many. To people like Chris, I am so grateful that there are those out there who believe and want to provide opportunities for people with autism, and I know it means the world to individuals like Sam and their families. As a sister of a brother with autism, it certainly does to me.
Keep choosing to help others in need, there is no doubt of the many blessings and special experiences that are produced from it.
Perhaps not something that is always thought about, but what does it feel to live with autism?
This video may shock you on what it is like.
Today reminds everyone the reality of autism around us and provokes the question of whether society as a whole is not only willing to be aware of the many special individuals that have autism, but also want to make a difference in this matter. World Autism Awareness Day shares something that should be acknowledged by everybody not only on this day set apart for this reason, but whenever and wherever possible. As April is Autism Acceptance month, it provides opportunities for people to understand and connect with autism- which is prevalent in different places throughout our lives, perhaps at home in a family, at school from the aspects of students, teachers, special education assistants, or even in the local community like in a public shopping mall. If we choose to be aware and keep our eyes, ears, and most importantly- our hearts open to autism, learning experiences will definitely come our way.
I came across this video by Apple, sharing the inspiring story of Dillan, a high school student with autism. When finally given the ability to communicate and voice himself through the iPad, the message of autism and giving a chance for all people with autism to speak, in a different way but equally effective empowers and changes how we should perceive autism and the unique individuals facing their lives with strength and courage.
Dillan shares autism in the perspective that ultimately matters the most- his own. In powerful words, he describes what it feels like to have autism and also the judgmental attitudes of others that hurt and isolate him. There is maturity, sensitivity, and sincerity in everything he says, it truly touches my heart to hear what he wants to share.
In a second video, more details of Dillan’s life is revealed and the overall journey he takes to arrive at the destination he is at now. His mother and communication partner also shed some light on their thoughts on autism, the impact Dillan has made in their lives, and their personal message to others for autism awareness and acceptance. Encouragement and inspiration overflow from the stories that are told.
I hope Dillan’s story helps others to reflect on what autism means and what actions, whether big or small can be done to support these very incredible people that deserve more.
How will you be aware of autism and accept it in your own life?
This blog has been one of the ways I choose to advocate and share about my brother Harrison, but there are many other ways to express autism. For my English class, I had the opportunity to present a speech on any topic that I wanted. While thinking about what I wanted to focus on, my experiences with my brother popped up. I was hesitant to share my personal experiences, but I knew it would be powerful and effective in helping others, especially students in the school community to understand autism better.
So my journey began, and writing my speech wasn’t as easy as I thought it was. Although autism was a topic I was passionate about, fitting what I wanted to say in under 5 minutes was a challenge. There was so much to explain and share, I felt restricted in some ways. I was able to eventually to narrow it down to a few main points that I wanted my audience to be able to take away and be affected by. Another hurdle in my way was being sick and losing my voice. I sounded like a hoarse frog a few days before my presentation day which frustrated me as I wanted to make sure others could understand me clearly so my message would get across. After I was feeling a lot better, and it helped that I was last to present so I had ample time to recover and prepare.
After presenting my speech, I could feel everyone be impacted by my words because people responded in supportive ways, giving me hope that they would be able to acknowledge and accept autism. I found that words, whether in writing or in speech contain powerful effects that could only be unleashed if it is expressed in the right way.
Here is my speech, and I hope it can change those who read it as it did with those who heard it in my class.
“Are You Aware of Autism”
Have you ever considered what it is like to have a disability that confines you from the world? Or how it feels when others can’t see you for who you really are because of the label “autistic”? Are we actually aware of autism and understand what it really is? Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder affecting the communication, intellectual, and social capabilities of an individual. More simply, people with autism are unique and have their brains wired differently causing them to behave in ways others often do not understand. There is no direct cause or cure, but researchers and scientists continue to study the many unanswered questions about autism. However, many resources and professionals have been developed to help support people with autism. About 1% of the populations in Asia, Europe, and North America have autism and 1 in 68 children are autistic. One of out the one small but increasing percentage is my brother Harrison. As an sibling, I have a perspective on autism that is defined through my personal life experiences with Harrison. I would like to be the missing voice of my brother who can’t express himself freely so everyone can understand not only him, but all autistic people better.
Being a sibling always involves great joys and special memories, but the ones with my autistic brother are even more so. It also means, however that there are sometimes more challenging hardships and griefs. People with autism are more vulnerable to discrimination and segregation because they are merely misunderstood and disregarded on their capabilities. As kids, Harrison was always the one being stared at, bullied, mocked, and my mom and I were given hurtful responses simply when he had loud self-talk or unexplainable behaviors. But there are also victories and triumphs that shed the light of hope in my brother. Once my family was preparing to leave the house and after waiting for my mom for a while, Harrison suddenly exclaimed: “Mommy, get ready!” The simple phrase was so powerful because it was one of his biggest steps to independent communication. It is not expected that my brother would be able to produce sentences with his challenges in speech, but it made me believe that he has great potential, and nothing will stop him from learning what he can. Through all these past experiences, I have come to realize that autistic people are although different, are so special in many ways and need to be acknowledged, included, and supported.
Now there is a clearer understanding of autism, both by definition and by my personal experiences, the next big question we need to ask is “What can we do?” It is easy to think that there is nothing you can do, but if everyone takes part, we can make the world a better place for autistic people and for you and me. Powerful impact can only occur if we have the right attitudes to change, accept, and love. The most important action everyone can do is to change any personal false ideas, prejudices, and negativities toward people with autism. In reality, what we choose to say and do toward autistic people defines whether we accept and love them or not. Finally, it is also important to realize why autistic people are here in the world. I believe that people with autism are here to build a more understanding, inclusive, tolerant, and caring world so that they can shape society to be more accepting and harness the sense that everyone belongs. With that in mind, I hope that all of us can take a role in allowing people with autism feel that they belong.
Now I will ask you again: Are you aware of autism?
Since 2015 is drawing near to a close, I think it is a good time to reflect and count the blessings that Harrison and our family has experienced during the past 4 months as he transitioned to a new school and environment.
Deciding for Harrison to change schools was a tough one, but ultimately what driven my mom and I to transfer Harrison was to get what was best for him and better support. With lots of research, prayers, and consideration, Harrison moved to his new high school school, MacNeil. The school team and community there is so welcoming, caring, and inclusive. I haven’t seen Harrison feel that he belongs for a very long time, and now that void is filled, he is more happier and empowered.
MacNeil’s life skills program is larger but very strong in resources and support while tailoring each student’s education to their individual needs, but also encouraging social connections in an inclusive environment. Harrison is finally more involved in the school with his work experience by helping with the recycling program, developing his creative artistic talent independently in art class, and joining his peers in his P.E class.
I am very thankful for his resource teacher and all the E.A’s who work with him to ensure that he had a smooth transition but also in working towards achieving his goals and building new skills. The dedication, compassion, and determination in their support is so very appreciated, and assures me that Harrison has opportunities to grow and learn in a safe and healthy place.
I am very pleased that Harrison is thriving in his new school and that this change, although was a challenge at times became the beginning of a new hope for Harrison’s education and future.
Last week was the final week of volunteering at the Richmond Centre for Disability Summer Camp program. Even though it is my third year volunteering at this prorgam, I still learned so many new things, met amazing staff and volunteers that are so committed to making this summer camp possible, and worked with a diversity of children that are so special and dear to my heart. Continue reading “2015 experience at RCD Summer Camp”