Our autistic loved ones have touched our lives in profound ways. Each day, they teach us something new about ourselves. Last month, we asked you, our readers, to share what makes you thankful for the autistic individual(s) in your life. We are grateful for the stories you all shared. We chose to share these because they exemplify the gratitude that ran through all of the contributions that came in.
Sue Abramowski (Buffalo, N.Y.)
As an autistic direct support professional, I continue to learn new things every day I work with other autistic individuals on the job!
“My peeps,” as I endearingly refer to them, are all unique amazing people! I believe in advocating for the people I serve, as well as encouraging them to be self-advocates, as I am! We all have rights as human beings, and we are all entitled to be viewed as integral parts of society. I use my own experiences to help others every day. I feel that since I see the world through a similar lens, I can understand where my peeps are coming from.
My peeps inspire me to be my best self. I feel I’ve found my niche, and that I was put on this planet to help others. I see how they appreciate the little things in life, and that drives me to do the same. It’s great to have found a career working with others to whom I can relate and learn from!
My daughter, Stephanie, is my inspiration. She has five life-threatening diseases plus autism just to keep it interesting. She changed my entire career path. I was tired of struggling with the medical and educational systems that were supposed to be helping our family. I became an advocate so other families wouldn’t have to go through the same struggles.
Despite 15 hospitalizations in three years (some lasting four months with “codes” and ICU stays), Stephanie is always cheerful. Even if something major happened requiring multiple transfusions, she would say, “Eh, minor setback.” She’s braver than I ever could be.
Jonathan Bauman (Torrance, Calif.)
A defining moment for me came when I traveled to Denver to pick up my son from a college transition program. He attended the program the summer before starting college 1,000 miles from home. I could see immediately that he had experienced a huge leap in independence and self-confidence. It strengthened my belief that he could be capable of living in a dorm and meeting his basic needs on a college campus far away from his parents.
When he started college, the academic part proved much more of a challenge for him than the daily life skills part. Fortunately, through years of IEPs and advocating for services from government agencies, his mother and I knew how to research what supports were available and how to advocate with the staff that oversaw the supports at the college. We helped our son utilize those supports to get through his college classes one by one (though it’s still a work-in-progress).
Those research and advocacy skills help us in our own lives too, since all people face challenges where those skills help find solutions. My son has shaped my outlook by increasing my patience and my respect for people’s differences, celebrating the diversity instead of feeling a need for all to conform to some single standard.
Inspired by your fellow readers? It’s not too late to share your Thankful Story.