My parents got divorced in 2005 and my mom has always focused on me and my sister. Sometimes it’s hard having a here and there dad. But mom works extra hard to make sure I can be the best me no matter what.
The hardest time was in 8th grade when I was bullied because I was different. Kids were so mean to me. School didn’t do much. My special education teacher was my best in school ally but it was more than she could fix. I hated going to school, got so sad I wanted to die and started saying violent things and doing violent drawings. The pain I felt inside turned me into a different person. A person even my mom was afraid of. She said she felt like calling me by a different name because I was so not me.
Mom says this was a time that showed what great people are in our lives because my doctors, therapist and our friends all pulled together to help. My mom pulled my out of that school. I spent a week in a hospital to get started healing. Then she home schooled me for a few weeks while she had meetings with school and looked at other schools. The happy outcome, I started at a new school, called Kradwell and it was educational heaven after having been through educational hell.
Since kindergarten I had been in scouting. My mom was my Cub Scout Den Leader. I told her I wanted to be an Eagle Scout from the very beginning. She told me that I could do it and would help me in any way needed. So when I crossed over to Boy Scouts she went to every camp out with me because I didn’t feel comfortable without her. She because a leader to stay connected to the troop. When service projects or events happened she took me. She helped me post my Eagle video on you tube, All Are Welcome, a video for our church and synod welcoming all abilities.
In January I had my Eagle Court of Honor. It was awesome! Everyone who helped me was there. I made it. This has taught me that I can do the things I want to with focus, hard work and a little help from my friends…and family.
When I tell mom my Microsoft job goals she reminds me of the small steps leading to that goal. She said it’s just like Eagle rank. I need to focus on each piece of the goal, do my best, grab it and pull up to the next step. To get my degree I need to focus on each class and getting the best grade. Each class is like each merit badge toward Eagle. Then I will look at each level of education like scout ranks. My associate degree will be like getting Star rank. On the way to the big goal, a step on the trail. This really helps me.
Mom said her dad told her to ‘help in any way you can’. So along with college classes we volunteer for things to help people. We lead a support group for adults and teens with autism called Wisconsin Aspergers Empowerment. There are great people in the group. We also help with church projects as needed like helping to remodel the basement into an urban retreat center. It was fun taking down a wall!
Advocacy has been an important part of our family mission. We have gone to Madison to testify at a Senate hearing and committee hearing on insurance coverage for autism services and educational reforms to make sure kids like me don’t fall through the cracks. Now we’re trying to save IRIS, a program for special needs adults in Wisconsin. We also go out and speak where ever education about autism, aspergers or special needs is needed. Just yesterday mom and I spoke at the in-service for the college security staff at my college, Milwaukee Area Technical College. We taught them how to better interact with students, visitors and staff on the autism spectrum or with other special needs. Each year we speak on a panel at Marquette University’s School of Education and Nursing. We presented at the Urban Autism Summit last year and a panel for parents on how to better help us succeed.