This is about me, Brian, who, after receiving many misdiagnoses, received the correct diagnosis of high functioning Autism at age 18. Many years of transitioning from school to work, moving into my own apartment, learning independent living skills, becoming a strong self-advocate, and being a contributing member in my community have followed.
My lifelong dream was always to work with children. Upon completion of 12th grade, I had made no progress toward achieving my goal until early that summer when a program was found at a technical college teaching students to work with elderly people, people with disabilities and young children. I enrolled as a postsecondary option student. I was making slow but steady progress through the program when the college conducted an evaluation of my employability in that field, and recommended that I change programs. The college changed my program to job-skills training, for which I received a certificate.
Following graduation, I worked in a grocery store and fast food restaurant, but continued to dream of working with children. I got so depressed, I didn’t want to live. I searched for people and organizations that could help me. Within a year of graduating from Partners in Policy-making, a leadership training program for adults with disabilities sponsored by the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities, I moved into my own apartment and got the job of my dreams working in a day care, where I’ve been for seven years. I attend conferences sponsored by the Autism Society of Minnesota, Arc, and the self-advocacy organization Advocating Change Together, where I am accepted and valued. I am empowered to speak up for myself and others. I am given knowledge about disabilities and inspired to do things I never thought I could do. I’ve mentored at Autism camp. I’ve volunteered at a day care. I get involved in my community. I help children at two elementary schools and Sunday school, play on a church softball team, give presentations at our library, and do public speaking. This past summer, I pulled the curtain for the children’s theater and the community theater musical production.
Throughout my school years I had unpleasant experiences most of the time because I was different than other people my age. It was helpful when teachers were patient and kind, and when they reassured me that they believed I could do it and stood up for me. The teachers who were not helpful were the ones who were impatient, short-tempered, constantly harped on me and put me down. Every year classes got harder and harder and it got easier for me to give up.
As an adult, I have workers who help me learn independent living skills. I want them to respect me and treat me like I am capable. For example, if I make a mistake, let me figure it out and correct it myself. If I don’t know how to do something, I want people to help me find a method that works for me so I can do it.
Even though I did not have the advantage of early diagnosis, I did not give up. I have achieved a successful, satisfying life. I encourage everyone to work towards their dreams and goals even when it gets difficult. Never underestimate the abilities of any person and never give up on their dreams!
Brian Heuring lives in Litchfield, MN. The title of this article is from a song in the Disney film Cinderella (1950).
Reprinted with permission from Impact: Feature Issue on Supporting Success in School and Beyond for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Fall/Winter 2006/07, published by the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota. The entire issue can be found online at http://ici.umn.edu/products ; a free printed copy can be requested from the Institute at 612-624-4512.