When I was in kindergarten, I was suspended from school for the first time. In the Third Grade, I was expelled for the second time. Although when I was in school my academics were never an issue, I had meltdowns in class and would run out of school, and it goes without saying I was never especially well-liked by my peers. No one knew what was going on with me, and my parents struggled to find clarity. To find answers as to why their intelligent, inquisitive and kind daughter had so many social issues in school. Teachers told them there was no hope, but they continued to have faith.
Eventually, a therapist at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond put together the pieces of the puzzle. Although I had been previously diagnosed with everything from Oppositional Defiant Disorder to ADD, none of those quite fit, and the treatments I was given did nothing but make me feel and act worse. For around two years, I faced an incredible amount of uncertainty- I wondered if I would ever be okay. Throughout my childhood I was constantly reminding how “atypical” and “problematic” I was- and I desired, more than anything, to just be considered “normal”.
I wondered to myself how I had been saddled with a disability that had made most of my childhood so difficult, how I had been made the way I was when it made it harder for me to make friends, when it made me a constant target for bullies. Why so few people believed I could ever come close to achieving the dreams I set for my life. But eventually, I realized that the hardships I encountered growing up on the Autism Spectrum had formed me into the person I am today; someone who was able to graduate from high school and college in six years, who was able to obtain her Juris Doctor at the age of 23 and to become an entrepreneur at 24. The trials I encountered on my path made me stronger than I ever could have been without them. Using my experiences, today I work towards creating more inclusive, effective & empathetic cultures. When I speak, I do so with the purpose of not only inspiring, but equipping my audience with the tools they need to promote inclusion in their communities, in their workplace or in their school. I work with the mission of making every person feel their worth, understand their value and walk away with the knowledge that as a single individual, they are capable of making an impact.
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