Jack had a school assignment to describe an obstacle in his life and what he learned from overcoming it. Jack will be the first to tell you that daily access to communication is going to be a work in progress for much of his life, but taking those first hard steps find a new way to communicate were worth all the time and effort.
I am autistic. My entire life has been an obstacle to overcome. I am struggling now as I write this to pinpoint that moment to focus on. But, I will try to stay focused for you, dear reader. I am going to focus on communication, which is a definitive obstacle that autistics face. Also, side note, almost every autist I know prefers to use “autistic” as an identity. That person-first language doesn't make me any less autistic. Now, onto my communication obstacle.
I cannot remember a time when speaking was easy for me. My parents tell me that I did start speaking just like any toddler, but, as far back as my memories take me, words have been hard for me. My voice, for the longest time, was my behaviors. I would throw a tantrum when I was upset or jump and flap my arms when I was excited. But I had no way to say “I love you.'' Even giving hugs was hard because I had no control over my body and didn't like being touched. Enter Soma RPM.
My amazing parents never gave up on me and always believed that I had more inside me than I could get out in those very difficult years. A friend of mine, also an autist, had seen a woman in Texas who taught him how to spell out his words on a simple laminated piece of paper with the alphabet printed on it. when my parents saw him communicating instead of hitting and grabbing, they immediately knew that they had to give it a try. We flew to Texas to meet Soma Mukhopadhyay then we never looked back.
Now, reader, let me explain. The ability to communicate by spelling did not happen overnight. The whole process has been years long, and I still have to rely on someone I trust to hold my letterboard or keyboard when I have something to say. Even typing up this essay has taken me far longer than any of my typical peers would take. And it required me to rely on a 30-something-year-old woman to coach and motivate me the whole way through as she holds my keyboard.
I want to be independent. I want to jump into conversations without someone else being right next to me. I don't want to be the reason every conversation I do join comes to a screeching halt while I spell out my thoughts one letter at a time. But it is a process and I'm still learning.
I have learned through this entire process. I have learned patience. I have learned to allow myself space. I have learned that I have so many people cheering me on. I have learned that there are no limits to the love of my family. But most importantly, I have learned that I am every bit as capable as all of my peers, typical, autistic, or otherwise abled.