Autism Awareness Month

Nate Powalie, Sports Columnist

Poet T.S. Eliot once said that “April is the cruelest month.” For students who live with autism, April is a time to recognize what they live with.

For those who don’t know, I live with autism myself. I was diagnosed at just four years old. My life has changed a lot since then. Now, I’m about to wrap up my final semester of college and graduate on May 7. April is recognized as Autism Awareness Month around the U.S. As of April 2020, 1 out of every 54 children lives with the condition.

And those numbers continue to grow, as it is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the world. Recently, the recognition was changed to Autism Acceptance Month in the U.S., with the drive for people to be more inclusive and accepting of those with disabilities in society.

Since 2018, I’ve been thankful to have the opportunity to work with Silvia Henriss from the Student Accessibility Center here at Ashland University. Silvia has been able to work with me by providing an accommodation letter to teachers that work similarly to a high school Individualized Education Plan, or IEP for short.

Thanks to that plan and those letters, I can have certain accommodations such as time and a half on tests, perhaps an extra school day to work on projects, or having a distraction-reduced/distraction-free environment to take exams.

There are some days, however, that I feel like my autism can drive me completely insane. When I’m alone in my dorm room, I don’t have an easy way to release my stress. And especially considering that the school year is winding down and we’re getting close to spring finals week, as a graduating senior, I feel like I’m all over the place mentally.

But this is no time for sadness. This is a time for reflection. And for me, I think my autism is more of a blessing than it is a curse. And as we continue throughout the year, I have become extremely grateful for all of the opportunities that life has given me and also thankful to those here at Ashland University who has been with me every step of the way.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also made life harder for those who live with autism, and society tends to view those with it in a negative light. People should learn to take a more inclusive approach toward those who deal with autism and the families who have someone with disabilities.

Yes, it’s difficult at times for people to live with disabilities, but in the end, they learn to make the most of what they have. Autism is certainly no different.

Sometimes, autism can drive people to multiple different emotional extremes. And yet, it also can create shades of genius.

So with a final parting word, all I can say is this. Thank you to the Collegian staff and everyone in the JDM department for four wonderful years, and let’s all be more inclusive and accepting of those who live with autism.