Autism Awareness Month

Autism Awareness Month

My experience in Special Olympics and understanding autism
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In honor of Autism Awareness Month (April!), I am going to share with you my experience with the Young Athletes Program at Merrimack College. The Young Athletes Program is run to prepare children between the ages of two and seven for the Special Olympics. The children have intellectual disabilities including autism and down syndrome. We work on different motor skills every week, and it gives the children a chance to play and learn while giving their families a time to take a break and mingle with other parents they can relate too. I chose Young Athletes Program for my service learning requirement in a diversity class, and I am so glad that I did. Not only has my experience been fun, but it has challenged me and taught me so much about disabilities.

What drew me to the program was that I would be getting to work with young children, which I’ll do anything to play with cute little kids. But, I also wanted to get myself out of my comfort zone. I do not have a lot of experience with special needs, besides what I have learned from my mother who is a special education teacher. I knew that I would learn a lot more about disabilities, patience, and children in general. I was most nervous about unintentionally doing something to make a child uncomfortable and dealing with challenges I was not used to.

What I thought was absolutely amazing was that my buddy can follow directions best if they are written out for him or spelt out by the person talking. Instead of saying, kick the ball, I usually need to write it on a whiteboard or spell “K-I-C-K!” Not to mention he is 5 years old, and he can read and process when his mom spells out phrases quickly. That is amazing!

Being surrounded by other kids, I got to work with several other buddies in the program. One of the most valuable things I learned is how wide the autism spectrum is. I have always been super interested in how the brain works for different people. When it comes to autism, I find it so fascinating that each and every child with autism is so different, and how their brains work differently from each other. Many people do not realize that there are several forms of autism with a huge variety of characteristics, signs, and abilities.

According to Autism Society, Autism, or more specifically Spectrum Disorder, is defined as follows:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability; signs typically appear during early childhood and affect a person’s ability to communicate, and interact with others. ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a “spectrum condition” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause of autism, but increased awareness and early diagnosis/intervention and access to appropriate services/supports lead to significantly improved outcomes. Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills’ and sensory sensitivities. Again, a person on the spectrum might follow many of these behaviors or just a few, or many others besides.

In my experience, I have been able to see this play out. Some of the children cannot understand social cues. Some of them have echolalia (repeating what others say to them). Some are higher functioning. Some are lower functioning. Some of them are sensitive to certain sounds or stimulation. Some are nonverbal. I would never be able to list out all the unique aspects of people with autism. I think that being able to understand that every child is so different is helpful to me because I understand the difficulty of getting accommodations and making sure these children are getting the love and support they need to grow up like any kid should be able to. I also am more aware of the signs and I am able to put myself in their shoes.

I want to be an elementary teacher when I am older, and I know that this experience will help me a lot in the future when I am working in inclusion classrooms. In general, by working with people with intellectual disabilities, I now am more aware of autism and how to go about working with people in everyday life.

Autism is a wide spectrum, which can make it very difficult to understand. I think Autism Awareness Month is the perfect opportunity for people to learn more about it and help raise awareness. Read more about it, take part in fundraisers, or find some way to get involved. Addtionally, I highly recommend that any Merrimack students join Young Athletes Program and that any other people find a chance to volunteer with Special Olympics or another program for people with autism.

Cover Image Credit: NJEA

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6 Things You Should Know About The Woman Who Can't Stand Modern Feminism

Yes, she wants to be heard too.

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2018 is sort of a trap for this woman. She believes in women with all of the fire inside of her, but it is hard for her to offer support when people are making fools of themselves and disguising it as feminism.

The fact of the matter is that women possess qualities that men don't and men possess qualities that women don't. That is natural. Plus, no one sees men parading the streets in penis costumes complaining that they don't get to carry their own fetus for nine months.

1. She really loves and values women.

She is incredibly proud to be a woman.

She knows the amount of power than a woman's presence alone can hold. She sees when a woman walks into a room and makes the whole place light up. She begs that you won't make her feel like a "lady hater" because she doesn't want to follow a trend that she doesn't agree with.

2. She wants equality, too

She has seen the fundamental issues in the corporate world, where women and men are not receiving equal pay.

She doesn't cheer on the businesses that don't see women and men as equivalents. But she does recognize that if she works her butt off, she can be as successful as she wants to.

3. She wears a bra.

While she knows the "I don't have to wear a bra for society" trend isn't a new one, but she doesn't quite get it. Like maybe she wants to wear a bra because it makes her feel better. Maybe she wears a bra because it is the normal things to do... And that's OK.

Maybe she wants to put wear a lacy bra and pretty makeup to feel girly on .a date night. She is confused by the women who claim to be "fighting for women," because sometimes they make her feel bad for expressing her ladyhood in a different way than them.

4. She hates creeps just as much as you do. .

Just because she isn't a feminist does not mean that she is cool with the gruesome reality that 1 in 5 women are sexually abused.

In fact, this makes her stomach turn inside out to think about. She knows and loves people who have been through such a tragedy and wants to put the terrible, creepy, sexually charged criminals behind bars just as bad as the next woman.

Remember that just because she isn't a feminist doesn't mean she thinks awful men can do whatever they want.

5. There is a reason she is ashamed of 2018's version of feminism.

She looks at women in history who have made a difference and is miserably blown away by modern feminism's performance.

Not only have women in the past won themselves the right to vote, but also the right to buy birth control and have credit cards in their names and EVEN saw marital rape become a criminal offense.

None of them dressed in vagina costumes to win anyone over though... Crazy, right?

6. She isn't going to dress in a lady parts costume to prove a point.

This leaves her speechless. It is like the women around her have absolutely lost their minds and their agendas, only lessening their own credibility.

"Mom, what are those ladies on TV dressed up as?"

"Ummm... it looks to me like they are pink taco's honey."

She loves who she is and she cherished what makes her different from the men around her. She doesn't want to compromise who she is as a woman just so she can be "equal with men."

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My Adoption. My Life. My Business.

PSA: Stop trying to fit me into a box. Thanks.

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I want to start off by saying that I love being adopted. I don't wish for my life to be any different, and I wouldn't change the past, either. I love all the amazing people it's brought into my life. I love all my amazing family and friends. But most importantly, I love the amazing mom it's given me. I could not have been any luckier when it comes to my mom. She is amazing, understanding, strong, and someone I will always admire.

But some days being adopted can be annoying.

As a child, my race or my culture made sense to me...until third grade. My teacher assigned the class a culture project about our families and where we come from. Both my parents are Polish, therefore I know quite a bit about Polish culture. I was so excited and couldn't wait to talk about my family's culture and traditions. When it was my turn to present, I stood up in front of all of my classmates, looked at their faces, and said, "My family has a very strong Polish culture." The minute those words left my mouth, confusion appeared on everyone's faces. I saw them whispering to one another; some of them were making faces. I felt my face getting red and my hands start to sweat. I thought I had done something wrong or said the wrong thing.

I was adopted and came to the United States when I was three months old. As I've gotten older, some common questions I encounter are "Wait...you're an Asian girl with a white girl accent?" or "You're from Korea but you don't speak Korean?" I don't take it personally, I just simply respond with, "I'm adopted." Most people nod their head in an understanding fashion, but others are still confused and continue to question.

Look, I get it, you look at me and you can clearly tell I'm Asian. Anyone would assume that I only practice Asian culture and not Polish culture, which I understand. People always ask questions after I tell them I'm adopted, which is also fine, but they always want my whole life story. But they don't really want my whole life story, they just want the easy, short, five-minute version. Even when I'm done that speech, they still have comments and questions, which is where I get irritated.

My parents wanted their daughter to be a part of THEIR culture and THEIR traditions, which is what most parents hope for. People try to tell me I'm "not Asian enough," or that "I should do more Asian stuff," and even question "why I know Polish stuff." These questions are not even because they are curious about me, they are just questions that these people need answers to in order for them to understand the situation. They try to shame me for my outside not matching my inside.

When I was younger, these questions would get in my head. I would consider the idea that they were right. That I should try and know more Korean things, try to "be more Asian." I started to feel like I was doing something wrong or that I was breaking some social rule. But then I would try and "be more Asian," only to be told I was a "typical Asian" or that I only like those things "because I'm Asian."

As I've grown up, I've come to the conclusion that I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. I learned that I can't please everyone and that I shouldn't have to. If I like who I am, then who cares what others think?

That being said, I just have one thing to say to those people: Mind your own damn business.

In my eyes, I am the perfect amount of Korean and Polish. Stop trying to tell me who I should be or what I should know. Stop telling me what I should and shouldn't like.

Most importantly, stop trying to figure out which box I belong in.

I am perfectly okay with not fitting in a certain category. Being adopted has made me more open-minded and taught me to never believe in stereotypes. I love that my life is this big melting pot of cultures. If I like something, it's because I like it, not because it's common among my race and vise versa. Being Korean AND being Polish are big parts of who I am. If that doesn't make sense to people, that's not my problem. I am who I am, and I love who I am.

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