Overcoming Employment Statistics

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This is a great concept, however, we need to take more action than only just spreading awareness. Although many efforts are in place to help individuals with disabilities become successfully employed here in the United States, we still have ways to go. According to disabled world https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/statistics/2019-chart.php, 37% of adults with disabilities are employed, while around 77% of adults without disabilities are employed. Often times, many of these employed individuals with disabilities are working part-time (not full-time) and are paid only minimum wage, or even worse, paid a sub-minimum wage. A sub-minimum wage is a separate minimum wage that some states have allowing employers to pay individuals with disabilities less. In Florida, its $2 an hour. However, efforts are being put in place to get rid of sub-minimum wages. I am thankful I am employed full-time with benefits and above minimum wage. Although I am beating the odds, I want to help others beat the odds as well.

Dear Congress:What About Disability Rights?

Lately, We have heard a lot of young people around the world protesting, demanding that their countries’ government officials take action on tackling climate change. It is not about politics, its about creating a better world for everyone, which has nothing to do with politics. Greta Thunberg is such a powerful force for demanding environmental action in tackling climate change. Yes that is a big issue, but what about Disability Rights? Although we have come a long way here in America when it comes to the rights of individuals with disAbilities, I personally feel that we still have ways to go. Just like the climate change protests, this isn’t about politics, it is about the people and is a people issue, not a political issue. Public Special Education, in particular, is very under-funded and a lot of services for individuals with disabilities are very expensive. Luckily, there are many new laws that are being created to benefit the families of individuals with disAbilities to help them have the financial support for therapies. I am telling all of you families out there of individuals with disAbilities that I am on your side. I am very vocal and am committed to changing the lives of individuals with disAbilities and making the world a better place for people of all abilities!!!

Happily Ever After: 26, Autistic and Married

Me and my Husband Anindya pose during a wedding photo shoot!
Father/Daughter Dance
Me and my Husband Anindya
Indian Attire for Wedding Ceremony
The whole wedding party

What does being married really mean? To many people, marriage means a sacred bond between two individuals who share love and joy for each-other. Getting married is often looked at as a coming of age event to a new beginning and a new life. Marriage is often on most of our bucket lists and we are all hoping for a great, long-lasting marriage that in which we strengthen it and it lasts forever. Yes, marriage can be scary, but it is the same as most new things and many major life events. Marriage is very rewarding and something most of us look forward too. However, for many individuals on the autism spectrum, marriage often times can be something “out of reach”, as most individuals with autism do not get married. There are often numerous “roadblocks” in the way of marriage for many individuals with autism. Often times, many individuals with autism who do get married do get divorced, but that didn’t stop me from marrying the man I love. My husband and I strengthen our marriage with each-other by supporting each–other and making decisions together. Together, we live a great life. The two of us, along with our jubilant tabby-cat. We don’t see ourselves as the “autistic/immigrant couple” we see ourselves as a couple who loves and cares about each-other and we are just like any married couple and just like any couple in general. I feel that at times, in my point of view as an individual on the autism spectrum, people often do not take individuals with disAbilities serious when it comes to romantic interests and relationships. I feel that society as come a long way and that many options in many areas are now available to individuals with autism and other disAbilities. However, I feel that the area of romantic relationships is often overlooked. More people need to realize that individuals on the autism spectrum and with other disAbilities are wanting to engage in romantic relationships. We have the same desires for intimacy. Most of us want to be able to get an opportunity to engage in an intimate relationship. On August 31, 2019, me and my husband tied the knot at our wedding. We had a celebration filled with food, fun, dancing and laughter and joy. It was a nice, serene Saturday evening at a western heritage living museum overlooked by the mountains. It was gorgeous and we were surrounded by family and friends. Is marriage attainable for individuals on the autism spectrum???? Absolutely!!!! People need to realize that we are all humans and almost all humans have a desire for love and harmony and that happily ever after….

So here you go!!!!!!!!!! I am 26, autistic, married and am living happily ever after…….

Trailblazing Autism Made FeedSpot Top 50 Autism Blogs

Great News!!! Trailblazing Autism is 12th out of the top 50 autism blogs of FeedSpot’s top 50 autism blogs for the year of 2019. https://blog.feedspot.com/autism_blogs

The main reason in which I began the Trailblazing autism blog was to spread the word about autism awareness and disability rights to the world and show that there is no specific way in which autism looks like and to show beyond the stereotypes often associated with individuals on the autism spectrum. I would not want to be known as a blogger, and I have no intentions on being a famous celebrity with fame and fortune (nor would I want to). Although my blogs and social media do reach out to people to show awareness, it is not the only way. Instead, I consider myself a disability rights activist and an autism self-advocate. The reason why I consider myself an activist and self-advocate is because I have reached out in multiple ways. From artwork to speaking at local events and for events at USU best buddies to the work I do with children with disabilities and the passion I put into it, I am totally an activist who wants to make the world a better place for individuals with an without disabilities to live together in love, peace and harmony.

Why I Consider Autism My Superpower

Ever wondered about being a superhero? I have always been interest in superheroes since I was very young. I have always loved going to superhero movies. I like superhero movies because of all the action and the cool technology and graphics of the superpowers. I like so many superpowers, but if I had to choose which superpower I would like to have the most, I would choose telekinesis, because I can manipulate minds and use mind-power. I have always been very memory based and curious about different things, so that power would suit me well. However, overall, I would say I actually do have a superpower. It is very hidden and it is not like any superpower that a lot of people see in superhero movies. It is so hidden that you cannot really see it. No, it is not invisibility and believe it or not, it is not telekinesis. It is a very secretive superpower. My superpower is my autism. Although I may not have a cape or a fancy costume, I do consider myself a superhero. My autism is my superpower because it helps save and change the lives of others. Yes, it does create barriers. However, it also makes me who I am as a person. My autism makes me who I am; Sarah Michelle Ramos. It is what my fiancée is attracted to and he cherishes all of the great qualities in which I possess. My autism in my opinion is what makes my personality and characters a very vibrant and positive one. It is what attracts people to wanting to be my friend or hang around me. This superpower of mine is so powerful that it even influenced my mom to switch fields of study within her medical career. She enjoys her current field so much that she doesn’t even miss her former one as much. I have inspired not only my mom, but others as well, including families at my job at an early childhood center. I truly am a superhero by helping run the center and empower the families. Every task I do at my job helps change lives for the better. Seeing all of the children walk in the center and smile at me and give me hugs and shout my name in excitement makes me happy and puts a smile on my face. This makes me feel like I am a super hero, it makes me feel even better, because I truly change lives on a long-term basis instead of a short-term. People are often shocked when they find out about my superpower because they cannot see it. They cannot hear it and they surely cannot feel it. What they can do is that they can believe in it. They can believe in me and I can believe in them. When I was a child, I was often seen as a little different because sometimes I acted a little awkward and was also very short for my age. I was also one of the younger children in my grade and also have always looked young for my age. For example, when I was 12 years old, many people thought that I was 8 or 9 years old. When I told them that I was really 12 years old, they were often shocked. Others often bullied me because of having autism and being a bit socially awkward. I use these experiences to build myself up instead of letting them bring me down. I embrace the characteristics of what autism makes me special instead of dreading it as a disability. I see it more as a different ability instead of a disability. I have always been told that I have an exceptional memory. I can memorize so many things that many people forget. I remember people by their names, birthdates, etc…. I help people out in many ways with these super special abilities and they sure appreciate it. My fiancée embraces my autism as well as he tells me everyday that he likes my “autism quirks” and my quirkiness makes him and his parents smile everyday. My parents also embrace my super special abilities and always encourage me to always shine and stand out. They want me to show the world that nothing can hold me back because I am on the autism spectrum. All of this information absolutely supports my point of why I feel Autism is my superpower. A superpower creates a special feel like no other and is meant to stand out and not blend in. A superpower creates an environment in which diversity is tolerated. A superpower inspires others to be the change in which they can bring to the world. My autism does match all of these definitions and descriptions in which I feel matches a superpower, so in this case, Autism is my superpower and I do not need a cape to prove it.

The Importance Of Resilience

Someone may ask “Why is it important for individuals with disabilities to be resilient?” The answer is simple…… “Because to show that you can do things just like everyone else, you have to fight for it.” Life is always an uphill battle for anyone, but for someone with autism, it is an even more treacherous one. The employment statistics for individuals on the autism spectrum are very bleak. The full time employment statistics are even worse. According to the Autism Now (https://autismnow.org/on-the-job/employment-research-and-reports/) less than 1/3 of individuals with autism are employed, and a vast majority of those employed are employed part time. What makes things worse is that states are actually allowed to set their own minimum wages for individuals with disabilities. My home state of Florida apparently has a separate minimum wage for individuals with disabilities, which is $2.00 an hour. That is very unfair and unjust. Luckily, I get paid way above the national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, but that still isn’t ok, because I am still seeing people with disabilities getting paid unfairly. That is simply ok. However, I feel very accomplished as I have fought this battle, but will continue fighting. I am in a career profession (in my dream career profession) doing something that I love to do. I am doing very well at my job and love it everyday. The fact that I can make a difference to young kiddos from underserved backgrounds makes me blessed each day. I feel by doing this I am showing that I am winning this uphill battle. I may be accomplishing a-lot, but there are still ways to go, as I want other individuals with disabilities to also thrive as well. The key is to be resilient. When you get knocked down, you get back up!

Being a Woman with Autism: Expressing Myself Beyond The Spectrum

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I am getting married, I live on my own with my fiancée, I can drive, I have a bachelor’s degree and I am employed full time working with young children with and without special needs. Someone may ask me why I wanted to pursue working with young children with and without special needs.

  There are quite a few misconceptions people may have when it comes to Autism. Many people may think of autism predominantly being a male “disorder” and may see most individuals diagnosed with autism as not being very social and lacking empathy. I am very opposite from that. First of all, I am a total extrovert and am very social. I am also very compassionate and have tons of empathy for others. Secondly, I am also female, not male. And last but not least, I do not view autism as a “disorder!” I view it as a different way of thinking.

   Flashback to the year of 1993, which is the year that I was born, in South Florida. I was born very healthy and was developing typically, but then when I was around 18 months old, my parents began to get very concerned, as I wasn’t beginning to speak much. They also noticed that I wasn’t paying much attention to responding when my name was being called and that I wasn’t interacting as much with others. I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. When a professional told my parents that I am on the autism spectrum, they were at first very overwhelmed, because they were worried about my future and if I would ever be successful. That never stopped them from believing in me. My parents always worked hard with me to make sure I can be able to speak and socialize with other people. They brought in lots of professionals to work with me, from therapies to social groups, and it eventually paid off as I began to show lots of progress. At the age of 2 ½, the speech therapist came to my mom and said “Sarah can now speak, but she will not stop talking”. My parents were very happy, but they were now concerned about my younger sister Emily, since if you have your first child diagnosed with autism, there is an increased chance of the second child also showing signs of an autism diagnosis. My parents then kept an eye on Emily to see if she might potentially be on the autism spectrum. It ended up that she was typically developing. My parents never cared about the labels anyways. They treated us both the same and had high hopes for both of us. My sister and I were very close to each-other growing up, and are still have a close relationship presently today. Emily was always very accepting of me and we always stood up for each-other.  Emily was never embarrassed or ashamed of me being her sister because I was on the autism spectrum. Instead, she has always embraced it from a very young age. We both had a great childhood together growing up in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida suburb of Parkland. Both of us were always big into nature and the outdoors and developed a passion for the visual arts from a young age. I was mostly mainstreamed at school in classes with typically developing children, but despite being able to keep up with most of the academics and expectations, school has always been tough for me socially. I have switched schools several times throughout grades Kindergarten to 12th, attending various public and private schools in the Fort Lauderdale area. I was bullied a lot (especially in middle school and early high school) because I came across as “awkward” to a few other children my age and because I was short and looked younger than my actual age. Until high school (I repeated 9th grade), I was most often one of the youngest children in my grade and came across as a little socially and emotionally immature. On top of that, I struggled with attention and focusing in the classroom, as well as struggling with math, leading to being diagnosed with a math learning disability and emotional behavior disorders. When high school approached, my parents were nervous about me being put back into regular public school because they were worried I may not pass the exit exam required to graduate high school with a regular diploma. They then enrolled me in a small private high school recommended by a parent who also has a child with autism. It ended up being a disaster as a teacher at the school upfront told me that I do not have much potential for the future. Despite being bullied, my parents always encouraged me to pursue my passions and show that I am better than the bullies. I have always inspired my mom that when I was around 10 years old, she changed her field from being a General Pediatrician to a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician. My dad always believed that I can show my true god-given potential past my autism and multiple disability diagnoses and accomplish anything that I put my mind to. My parents began to feel that I needed to be more challenged (socially and academically) and prepared for life and wanted to transfer me to a larger school. In the middle of my high school career, my parents made the decision (against the advice of the principal of the school, who felt I wouldn’t ever be able to pass a public high school exit exam) withdrew me from the school and enrolled me in the large public high school that Emily was currently attending. I proved the principal of the former high school I went to that I can pass a high school exit exam, and that is what I did.  In June of 2012, I graduated high school with a regular diploma in the top half of my graduating class with a 3.5 GPA and special recognitions. I was a First Class Senior, I received a community service award and I received the overall ESE graduating senior award out of every ESE senior in the entire school. I joined Best Buddies my senior year of high school and was nominated by the president of my high school’s best buddies chapter to become a best buddies ambassador, which I still am today through Utah State University’s chapter. I have done a few public speaking gigs as well since the age of 16. Didn’t I mention that I became a brown belt martial artist as well? I developed to become conversationally proficient in my dad’s native language of Spanish as well as the language I studied in college; American Sign Language. My goal is to become 100% fluent in English, Spanish and American Sign Language, as well as my fiancée’s native language that I am currently learning, which is Bengali. As the Nike Motto says “Just Do It,” that is how I approach my aspirations in life. I eventually graduated from Utah State University in 2017 with a 3.29 GPA and a Degree in Special Education General Studies and American Sign Language. I am now working full time as a teacher assistant at an early childhood center. I am thriving at that job. I am also going to be marrying my Fiancée, who is a PhD scholar from India and is getting his PhD in electrical engineering.

 Art has always been a way I have expressed myself. My sister and I were enrolled in drawing and painting classes from a young age and have both had art gigs growing up. At the age of 16, I entered a recycled fashion show at a local children’s museum as a dress designer. I designed a dress made out of toilet paper rolls and though I did not get first place, I was one of the highest scoring dresses (I think I placed 5th out of over 20 entries). A real model wore my dress and fashion critiques were the judges. I won an art contest (first place) at the age of 19 for a post-college transitional program I went to and my painting is in a gallery. My art style is mostly abstract art. I look up to multiple artists as inspirations, but especially admire the works of artists such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Georgia O’Keefe, Andy Warhol and Romero Britto. I see art as a way to express myself and show awareness of the causes most important to me; the education of young children and individuals with disabilities, the environment, ethnic and cultural diversity, animal rights and most importantly, disability rights and autism awareness!! I now have my own blog called Trailblazing Autism and an Instagram account for autism awareness (of the same name) to empower individuals with autism and other disAbilities to pursue their potentials in life and to show that only the sky is the limit!! I also hope to become more involved with autism and disability rights activism and public speaking and am in the process of writing a children’s book. I also have plans to begin graduate school next fall in 2020.

Dear Parents, Your Child Has Autism

When many parents first find out that their child has autism, often times it can be a rocky start. You may think in your head “Will my child be able to make friends” or “Will my child be able to get a job and live on his/her own, drive, graduate from high school and college, etc..” My mom was one of those parents and I proved her that the answer to all of this is yes. The sky is the limit and anything is possible. Individuals with autism can get married, have children and live happy lives. An important thing to do as a parent, as my mom did for me, is to advocate for your child. Advocating comes in different forms and can fit into anyone’s schedule. Try to seek out services from your local public school district as there are many public schools that have a lot of services to help children with autism be successful in their schooling. There are private school services as well for children with autism if that is your preference choice. Look into organizations, such as Best Buddies, Special Olympics and parent support groups. Be informed on disability laws and autism laws in the government. You can be an advocate in multiple ways, but there is only one requirement you have to put in, and that is you need to believe in your child. Because only the sky is the limit!!

Disability Ain’t Inability

If you saw Kodi Lee on America’s Got Talent this past week, he is blind and autistic, yet his voice goes far beyond any label or any disability. A disability isn’t label, nor is it an inability. Having autism doesn’t mean that you aren’t capable of accomplishing your dreams and goals in life. There have been several individuals with autism who have proven that their disability hasn’t stopped them from pursing their dreams and goals in life. Examples include animal science professor/autism activist Temple Grandin, Amy Schumer’s husband, etc…. A disability doesn’t mean that you are disabled, it means that you have a different ability and have a different perspective on seeing and viewing the world.

If you haven’t seen Kodi Lee on AGT yet, here is a link to the video: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=kodi+lee&&view=detail&mid=EBAFD69737C498B62E1EEBAFD69737C498B62E1E&&FORM=VRDGAR

Female with Autism

When most people meet me, they often are shocked when they find out that I have autism. Many people often do not meet a high functioning female with autism, as autism is disproportionally see in males. So, someone may ask “What does autism look like in a girl versus in a boy?,” and I would tell them that “It looks different in each person and there is no specific mold. Society has really come along way when it comes to acceptance for individuals autism in society, but there is still ways to go when it comes to perspectives. I still have observed and met some people whose visualization of an individual with autism is a person who is anti-social and lacks emotion and/or empathy. I can tell you that is false and is a misconception. It depends on the individual with autism, because as I have said, every individual with autism is different. I, for example, am very empathetic and outgoing. I am a very social person while another individual with autism may not be.