Today I thought I would share a bit about myself, and how I started my journey to becoming an autism specialist.
Exceptional people have always been a part of my life. My older sister has Down’s Syndrome and so I began my life surrounded by people with differences. Wanting to be with my big sister, early on I volunteered with Special Olympics. That’s what she was doing and so I wanted to be there too. Then as my sister began to do more with a special recreation association, I did too. Eventually, I was working part-time with the special recreation association, and part-time working at an animal hospital, hoping to become a veterinarian.
One day I was asked if I would work with a little boy at the summer day camp, I’ll call him “Brad”. Brad had autism and needed a one to one counselor. It would only be twice a week, so it wouldn’t interfere with my job at the animal hospital. As it turned out I loved every minute working with him. Brad helped me rediscover the world as I tried to see things through his eyes. It was a gift I never expected.
The following year I was Brad’s full time counselor. I’m not sure which of us learned more. Of course, I don’t mean to make it sound like the experience was easy. Of course it wasn’t. Brad would dart out of the room suddenly. He would scream and pound the table. Brad would circle the room touching different objects and looking very carefully at the wall. Essentially, I had to learn a new language, after all Brad was trying to say something. I watched and listened carefully to see what I could learn. When I “listened” I discovered that Brad usually ran out to get a drink. Brad disliked the feel of glue, and he really needed to move. Brad had an interest in exploring every little detail of new objects in his environment. After I listened I knew what to do. Brad had many breaks for drinks and to swing (that was his favorite way to move.) When it came to crafts we used a glue stick as it was much less messy. If he did get sticky Brad could leave and wash as many times as he needed. (It was a way to get a break in too.) I should say, while I was learning to speak brad’s language he was learning mine as well. It seemed we had just figured each other out when camp ended. I will never forget the last day. We had to empty out Brad’s locker and put everything in his bag. As I put his camp supplies in his bag, Brad took them back out and put them in the locker. Back and forth we went until we were both crying. There we were, tears filling both our eyes, when his mom came to pick him up. I asked if it would be ok if I babysat Brad sometime. His mom enthusiastically agreed, and we were able to say goodbye, for now.
From that summer on, I became more and more involved working with kids on the spectrum, eventually pursuing a certification in special education. Now I am a Certified Autism Specialist, focusing on empowering adults and young adults with ASD. Every individual I meet sees the world in a different way. I am happy to have the opportunity to see the world anew and am truly blessed to have them all in my life.
Rebecca J. Weaver is a Certified Autism Specialist at Independent with Autism, working to empower individuals with ASD. Need help creating your success strategies? Check out IndependentwithAutism.com for more information.