Our family wishes to express our heartfelt gratitude and special thank you to Sharon Koczaja, Family Service Coordinator at the Children's Annex for her guidance, patience and support, and for her role as MJ's scribe.
Learning about autism
Sharon first told me about high-functioning autism during our counseling session on December 18, 2002. I was 10-years-old. I wondered what does having autism mean? Isn't everyone like me?
At first, I only wanted to share things about myself with Sharon or my teacher. Later on I began to share some of my thoughts and feelings with my parents and my three older sisters. Now I don't mind sharing some things about myself with other people who wonder about autism.
The first lesson I learned about was my strengths and talents. Some things that I can do well and enjoy doing are:
What Is Autism?
Another thing I learned about me is that I have autism. I know most children do not have autism and some do. There are people all over the world who have autism. I know lots of kids who have autism. We are all different from each other.
Some kids with autism never talk at all. Some kids talk a lot and some kids talk a little -- like me. I'm shy.
Autism can be called many things, like High Functioning Autism, Asperger Syndrome or Asperger's, PDD or PDD-NOS and Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD for short. I was diagnosed with high functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 5 1/2.
Autism causes my brain to work differently than other people's brains. Sometimes I experience things the same way as most people. Other times, I experience the world differently. Autism makes me who I am.
Doctors and scientists are not sure yet why I have autism. There are some things that scientists do know for sure:
My Special Interests
An important thing about autism is that my special interests become very important to me which makes me feel good. My favorite special interests used to be Shaggy from the Scooby-Doo cartoon, scary stuff, trains and roller coasters.
I enjoy thinking about my special interests, reading about them, talking, drawing, and to write and play about them. Sometimes special interests last a long time or may change after a few months.
Many children with autism have good memories and notice little things called details like numbers, names, signs, dates, and many other things. Some details that I notice are not important to other people, so they might not notice or remember them.
I usually remember details that are important and interesting to me. Especially those that are about my special interests. Some details I notice and remember are the names of roller coasters and what happens in my nightmares.
Children learn in different ways and in their own learning style. Autism affects the way I learn too.
I like it when there are pictures I can see, words I can read and it's about my special interest. I learn easier when I read the words, rather than when I listen to someone talk.
Many children are good workers because we like things to be perfect. Sometimes being perfect can cause problems.
I don't want to see any mistakes on my work. If it doesn't look right, I give up and get anxious or angry. I want to be free instead of doing work. I don't like it when it isn't right in my head.
Everyone makes mistakes and everything cannot always be perfect. If I make a mistake I can try to ask someone for help with the mistakes I don't understand. I can try to continue with the activity or assignment.
I might feel sad and my face starts to sweat when I make mistakes, but I can fight it. I don't need to start over from the beginning again and again. I don't need to feel bad about my work.
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