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What is Autism ? Overview for Teens

Autism is a lifelong developmental disorder that affects the way a person communicates and relates to other people. The range and intensity of disability varies widely, but all individuals affected by autism have difficulty with communication, learning and social skills. There is no definitive cause or cure, but specialized interventions can give individuals affected by autism the tools they need to lead full and productive lives.

Personal Experiences of a Teen with ASD

playing a gameMy name is Kerry and I have Asperger’s Syndrome. For me this has meant having very poor social skills and having to work on them everyday. It has meant not knowing when people are joking with me or when they are being serious. It has meant not having many friends and being anxious around kids my own age. It has meant feeling like I don’t fit in. In school, it has meant not wanting to work in groups, sometimes not understanding what’s important, and struggling to stay organized.

When I was younger, I remember how hard it was for me to fit in with the other kids. In most of elementary school, I was teased and made fun of because I was different. I was shy and nervous around the kids and really didn’t focus on what I was supposed to be learning. I wasn’t good at sports and was pretty much a loner. Rather than help me fit in, they treated me bad because they didn’t understand why I was different.

Being me is difficult sometimes but I am who I am. I am proud of myself and of what I have accomplished. I wouldn’t change who I am. I still struggle with social skills and probably always will. I sometimes stay too focused on topics I like, but I think that is because they make me feel comfortable. However, I feel I have improved so much in all areas that I find challenging.

There are different things that help me manage my day. I write down what I have to do and if I need help, I ask for it. Breaking things down in steps helps me learn. Doing tests orally has helped and being given more time to write tests and things has helped. Being told to never give up and keep on trying has also helped.

It is important for parents to check out what is available in order to help their child. I was part of some social groups like summer camp and social skills groups that helped teach me skills. I was part of Beavers, Youth Group, and other things that helped me interact with other people my age. I had a support worker that I went out with on a regular basis and that really helped.

My parents told me about Asperger and this helped because I could see why I struggled with some things. It helped me feel that I wasn’t stupid or strange. They have always encouraged me to take whatever opportunity I get to try new things. They have always let me talk about things when I’m anxious or stressed, and have encouraged me to be as independent as possible.

My interests are politics, history, travelling, trivia, and wrestling. I like to listen to music, read some books, and hang out with my friends when I can. During the week I go to Tuesday night group through Kerry’s Place and once a month, I go to Liberal Party meetings. I have also been volunteering with the different political campaigns that have been happening lately. I have travelled to NYC, Florida, Hawaii, Quebec and Darien Lake on trips with my family or with school.

High school is fine. While I was still in grade 8, I went to the high school to see what it was like when everyone was there. The summer before I started, I got my schedule early, visited to learn where my classrooms were, and practiced using the city bus to get to school. I am in grade 12 now and I will be graduating in June and have Prom in May. I have some friends there and for the most part it has been a good place to be. I had help from Program Support, especially in the first 2 years of high school. I did a Co-op placement at IGA through school and worked part time at Wendy’s for over a year. However, I did not find these positive experiences for me. I found out that customer service is very difficult for me mostly because of my struggle with social skills.

I have just been accepted to Durham College in September for a 1 year certificate program. The program is General Arts & Science. It will take me 2 years to do it because I am doing a reduced course load. After this, I would like to come back for a 2 year diploma depending on if I can do history or political science courses, or enter university if I can for a degree. I have also been approved for the Employment supports Program through the Ontario Disabilities Support Program. They will help me with an employment plan when I am ready. They can help with job placement, job coaching, training, wage subsidy, and more.

Hopefully, I will get a job in the political field someday and run as a candidate. I want to be Prime Minister of Canada someday!!

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