Lara Schaeffer
 

A Message to Newly-Diagnosed Students from a Summit, NJ Teacher

Updated: 3 hours ago



Getting a diagnosis of ASD can be intimidating, whether you are the patient or the parent, but it doesn’t have to be. I have autism, and despite the challenges it brings to my life, I am a very happy and fulfilled person. My daughter is autistic, too—she is soon to graduate from New York University and is excited to move on to the next chapters of her life. I hope I can help you understand a little about what your autism diagnosis means, as well as what it doesn’t have to mean.


Autism symptoms can be subtle in some people. Additionally, it’s sometimes the case that symptoms do not fully develop until an individual is school age, pre-adolescent or adolescent, when social relationships become increasingly more complex. That might be why doctors didn’t know you have autism until recently.


I think the main reasons a diagnosis of autism can be scary and intimidating are the stigmas attached to autism in our society and the stereotypes which are so often false. I am committed to uncovering autism like ours, autism that can be hard to spot—so hard to spot, in fact, that it frequently goes undiagnosed or can be misdiagnosed. I am also committed to educating the world about how autistics have a LOT to offer. Students diagnosed with autism after early childhood usually have academic skills that are on par with their peers’, but they also may have exceptional intellectual abilities in one or more areas, or tremendous musical talent.


Having autism essentially means that our brains function differently. In terms of problem solving and analysis, different can be a real asset! You may have heard of “out-of-the-box thinking”—that means creative, innovating thinking that others are not likely to come up with. Someone with ASD often has this type of mind. One of my favorite statements about autism is that someone with autism may miss what others see, but they can see what others miss. The potential which comes out of that statement is very exciting. Other positive traits people with autism often hold are a strong sense of honor and a very kind and sincere heart. I’m honestly proud of my autism and the ways it makes me different.


While autism has positive sides, those with autism also require support. How that all looks to each individual varies tremendously, and there’s a huge array of ways that speech and language can be affected, and a wide range of social challenges and sensory sensitivities that can play in. Finally, anxiety can be a small or large factor in different people with autism. It’s important that you and your parents recognize how your autism affects you so that you can live your best life. The way I look at it, it’s a very GOOD thing that your autism has been diagnosed, whether you are in Kindergarten or a higher grade, so that you can understand yourself better.


If you are being diagnosed around middle school or later, instead of the situation being scary, I would encourage you to try to see the value your diagnosis will bring. You are who you are…we are ALL unique individuals with distinct gifts and talents as well as weaknesses and challenges, whether or not we are autistic. Your diagnosis is going to help you and your parents understand you better and better understand how you interact with the world.


I wish you all well on your journey. Take good care, and please reach out to me with your experiences, both the good and the bad!

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