All my life, I have always waned to work with young children in the classroom, especially with young children with disabilities. I myself received special education services growing up and am on a mission to help provide the same services to children that helped me become who I am today. I was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and didn’t start speaking until the age of two and a half. In elementary school, I began to develop anxiety disorder and a learning disability and struggled with attention. I had trouble focusing in middle and high school. I have also struggled a lot with my social skills. My parents have been told by people that they do not know if I will be successful or not, but they always knew that I will be successful and can beat the odds. I love and trust my parents, and they were correct. Despite all of these setbacks, I did beat the odds and have proven that nothing can stop me from being on a path to pursue my dream. Some school personnel didn’t know if I would be able to graduate from high school with a standard diploma. Well guess what, I did it! It was uncertain I would be able to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree. Well guess what, I did that too. It was uncertain if I can have a healthy relationship and get married. Well guess what, that has also happened and my husband and I are living happily together with our sweet cat that we adopted from the local humane society. I am now a teacher assistant at an Early Head Start center in Utah working with high-needs children from low-income families and children with special needs. I feel that having autism helps me be successful with teaching young children with disabilities as it helps me see their needs from a different perspective, as I can relate to them as I too have a developmental disability, in which I view as a different way of thinking rather than a “limitation” or a “disability. My autism makes my teaching style unique as it adds character and a distinct personality when working with the children. I feel that whenever I interact with children, they sense my animated personality as well as my natural demeanor of accepting each child for who they are individually. I know each child’s special interests and personalities and embrace each child as equal. I have always believed that education starts from a young age and that tolerance, social skills, kindness and acceptance are just as big of an importance as core academic subjects, such as reading and mathematics. Without these personal traits, it is often hard to be successful. There is so much no-so-good-news that the last thing we need is intolerance and exclusion. I feel that I have experienced a lot of this myself and it has made me a stronger person instead of bringing me down. I feel much of this adversity has built up resilience in myself and has made an impact on how I help the children I work with become resilient as well. Although the children I work with are very young, with many still in diapers, they can still learn resilience as resilience helps overcome trauma and adversity one may be facing. The early years are the most important years to become resilient and to educate about acceptance of individuals with disabilities. Not only do I educate the children, but they also teach me as well. I hope to get the message out to more and more people about my message. I aspire to become the head teacher someday and always want to remain in the classroom on the floor with the children because I have always believed that makes the most impact as an activist, and I am an activist. I do not sit on the sidelines and wait for things to happen, I make things happen. The children look at me each day and look up to me as their superhero to help change the world. Many people may not realize this, but these children are going to be the next generation to make an impact in the world and we have to help them foster their skills, which is what teachers do. Autism doesn’t stop a child from pursing his or her own dreams or being successful. That is just a mindset. It comes from the heart and only the sky is the limit. Hopefully one day there will be no labels or barriers. I can see one day where inclusion classrooms will be the norm and more individuals with autism being employed and going to college. I know the future is bright for individuals with disabilities and I can feel it.
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