Listen to the digital audio version of “Just an Ordinary Girl’s Struggles.”
Ever since I was little, I’ve faced many problems, but the biggest obstacle I have ever dealt with is my Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis. I am who I am now because I stood up for myself and grew beyond others’ expectations of me.
When I grow up, I want to become a forensic pathologist. When I was young, I started watching the show “Bones” and was hooked on the steps and research needed to solve the crimes. I began to notice the show was mainly focused on the men and not on the girls.
I wanted to show the world that women can do the same things as men, but I didn’t always have this confidence and focus.
In fifth grade, I realized I was different than other kids. It was hard for me to make and keep friends even though I would try to fit in. During seventh grade, everything turned into a big nightmare. I would throw chairs and refuse to go to school. At the end of the school year, my parents decided to put me in a day treatment program called Headway, which made everything worse.
I was stuck in a “school” with kids who had all sorts of diagnoses, but I still did not fit in. During this time, my depression started developing. My parents believed I wasn’t in the right place. One day, I had a panic attack and ended up in the hospital. After that traumatic experience, my mom took me out of Headway and decided to get a mental health assessment for me.
I had been previously diagnosed with ADD and ADHD, but I felt like something was missing. I researched medical diagnoses with my symptoms. That’s when I came across autism in a manga called With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child. It mentioned the same symptoms I had. After I finished the book, I knew it was autism. I had found the missing piece.
I explained my idea with my therapist. He told me how impressed he was I diagnosed myself. He said Autism is different for everyone so that’s why they call it ASD. I explained how hard it was for me to make friends. He said some people with ASD tend to be independent and find it challenging to make friends.
I went back to school, but I needed to be in special education. I had a staff member come with me to every class. I began noticing the looks students made when I walked into class, which made me feel even more “different.”
When 10th grade started, I told my parents I didn’t want to be in the program. They told me my diagnosis does not define me in life. After my parents removed me from the program, my depression started to get better. I immediately improved in school. I started making friends, I started doing my homework, I asked my teachers for help on assignments, and my F’s became C’s. I had regained confidence again.
I wouldn’t be able to grow as much as I did without the inspiration of my parents and my own self advocacy. I began to feel comfortable with my diagnosis. I often forgot about it. I joined a S.T.E.M program just for girls that guides you from eighth grade to college, which helps me develop all the skills I need for beyond high school. I’ve taken classes at the University of Minnesota. I worked as an intern at Rainbow Research. My friends and I have talked about living together after high school. I feel confident enough to go to college to become a forensic pathologist. I know I’m not “disabled.” I’m just a teenager facing challenges and celebrating successes in life just like everyone else