It takes a community to assist those with autism

Jeremy Sicile-Kira


I am 21 and I have autism. Recently, the state Senate passed a resolution making April Autism Awareness Month in California. The reason the resolution passed is because there are a lot more children diagnosed now than ever before (one in 110, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Autism is a label that is shared by people who have different abilities and challenges.

People in the autism community often say, "When you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism." To be diagnosed with autism, you need to have challenges in the areas of communication and social relationships, and intense attachments to objects or topics.

I have been very lucky, and I would like to give back to my community by telling people what having autism is like. There are many people on the autism spectrum in our community, so it is important to realize what your fellow citizens have struggles with every day.

My greatest challenge is communication. I cannot talk very much. I have found a way to communicate, and this has changed my life. In high school, I learned to point with one finger to a letterboard or keyboard to do my homework and to communicate.

It has not always been easy. My mom never gave up on me. Once my mom found a way to teach me, the high school teachers were really great about trying the method and were successful. In June, I am graduating from Torrey Pines High School with a full academic diploma. I have a 3.5 GPA. I am concurrently taking a community college class. I am lucky to live in such a great community.
I behave strangely because of my sensory processing difficulties.

Because of sensory processing issues, my eyes and my ears do not process the things I am looking at and listening to. Like Helen Keller, the deaf and blind girl, I am stuck in a body that makes it hard to see and hear. Helen Keller had a teacher, Anne Sullivan, who took her out of isolation and taught her appropriate behaviors ("The Miracle Worker").

My first great teacher was my mom, and then she found others to help me. I thank the San Dieguito Unified High School District for all it has done to help me. When Helen Keller grew up, she graduated from college, became an author and an advocate for people with disabilities. I hope to follow in her footsteps.

Like most people my age, I would like to be in love, have my own place to live and earn money. Nicely there are people working on autism regional task forces trying to find ways to help us become productive adults.

Our families can't do it alone. Truly, it takes a community.

JEREMY SICILE-KIRA writes a column for the TPHS Falconer and presents at conferences. His mother, Chantal Sicile-Kira, is the co-chairperson of the South Counties Autism Regional Taskforce to the California Senate Select Committee on Autism and Related Disorders, representing San Diego, Imperial and Inland counties


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