The main reason in which I began the Trailblazing autism blog was to spread the word about autism awareness and disability rights to the world and show that there is no specific way in which autism looks like and to show beyond the stereotypes often associated with individuals on the autism spectrum. I would not want to be known as a blogger, and I have no intentions on being a famous celebrity with fame and fortune (nor would I want to). Although my blogs and social media do reach out to people to show awareness, it is not the only way. Instead, I consider myself a disability rights activist and an autism self-advocate. The reason why I consider myself an activist and self-advocate is because I have reached out in multiple ways. From artwork to speaking at local events and for events at USU best buddies to the work I do with children with disabilities and the passion I put into it, I am totally an activist who wants to make the world a better place for individuals with an without disabilities to live together in love, peace and harmony.
Ever wondered about being a superhero? I have always been interest in superheroes since I was very young. I have always loved going to superhero movies. I like superhero movies because of all the action and the cool technology and graphics of the superpowers. I like so many superpowers, but if I had to choose which superpower I would like to have the most, I would choose telekinesis, because I can manipulate minds and use mind-power. I have always been very memory based and curious about different things, so that power would suit me well. However, overall, I would say I actually do have a superpower. It is very hidden and it is not like any superpower that a lot of people see in superhero movies. It is so hidden that you cannot really see it. No, it is not invisibility and believe it or not, it is not telekinesis. It is a very secretive superpower. My superpower is my autism. Although I may not have a cape or a fancy costume, I do consider myself a superhero. My autism is my superpower because it helps save and change the lives of others. Yes, it does create barriers. However, it also makes me who I am as a person. My autism makes me who I am; Sarah Michelle Ramos. It is what my fiancée is attracted to and he cherishes all of the great qualities in which I possess. My autism in my opinion is what makes my personality and characters a very vibrant and positive one. It is what attracts people to wanting to be my friend or hang around me. This superpower of mine is so powerful that it even influenced my mom to switch fields of study within her medical career. She enjoys her current field so much that she doesn’t even miss her former one as much. I have inspired not only my mom, but others as well, including families at my job at an early childhood center. I truly am a superhero by helping run the center and empower the families. Every task I do at my job helps change lives for the better. Seeing all of the children walk in the center and smile at me and give me hugs and shout my name in excitement makes me happy and puts a smile on my face. This makes me feel like I am a super hero, it makes me feel even better, because I truly change lives on a long-term basis instead of a short-term. People are often shocked when they find out about my superpower because they cannot see it. They cannot hear it and they surely cannot feel it. What they can do is that they can believe in it. They can believe in me and I can believe in them. When I was a child, I was often seen as a little different because sometimes I acted a little awkward and was also very short for my age. I was also one of the younger children in my grade and also have always looked young for my age. For example, when I was 12 years old, many people thought that I was 8 or 9 years old. When I told them that I was really 12 years old, they were often shocked. Others often bullied me because of having autism and being a bit socially awkward. I use these experiences to build myself up instead of letting them bring me down. I embrace the characteristics of what autism makes me special instead of dreading it as a disability. I see it more as a different ability instead of a disability. I have always been told that I have an exceptional memory. I can memorize so many things that many people forget. I remember people by their names, birthdates, etc…. I help people out in many ways with these super special abilities and they sure appreciate it. My fiancée embraces my autism as well as he tells me everyday that he likes my “autism quirks” and my quirkiness makes him and his parents smile everyday. My parents also embrace my super special abilities and always encourage me to always shine and stand out. They want me to show the world that nothing can hold me back because I am on the autism spectrum. All of this information absolutely supports my point of why I feel Autism is my superpower. A superpower creates a special feel like no other and is meant to stand out and not blend in. A superpower creates an environment in which diversity is tolerated. A superpower inspires others to be the change in which they can bring to the world. My autism does match all of these definitions and descriptions in which I feel matches a superpower, so in this case, Autism is my superpower and I do not need a cape to prove it.
Someone may ask “Why is it important for individuals with disabilities to be resilient?” The answer is simple…… “Because to show that you can do things just like everyone else, you have to fight for it.” Life is always an uphill battle for anyone, but for someone with autism, it is an even more treacherous one. The employment statistics for individuals on the autism spectrum are very bleak. The full time employment statistics are even worse. According to the Autism Now (https://autismnow.org/on-the-job/employment-research-and-reports/) less than 1/3 of individuals with autism are employed, and a vast majority of those employed are employed part time. What makes things worse is that states are actually allowed to set their own minimum wages for individuals with disabilities. My home state of Florida apparently has a separate minimum wage for individuals with disabilities, which is $2.00 an hour. That is very unfair and unjust. Luckily, I get paid way above the national minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, but that still isn’t ok, because I am still seeing people with disabilities getting paid unfairly. That is simply ok. However, I feel very accomplished as I have fought this battle, but will continue fighting. I am in a career profession (in my dream career profession) doing something that I love to do. I am doing very well at my job and love it everyday. The fact that I can make a difference to young kiddos from underserved backgrounds makes me blessed each day. I feel by doing this I am showing that I am winning this uphill battle. I may be accomplishing a-lot, but there are still ways to go, as I want other individuals with disabilities to also thrive as well. The key is to be resilient. When you get knocked down, you get back up!
I am getting married, I live on my
own with my fiancée, I can drive, I have a bachelor’s degree and I am employed
full time working with young children with and without special needs. Someone
may ask me why I wanted to pursue working with young children with and without
There are quite a few misconceptions people may have when it
comes to Autism. Many people may think of autism predominantly being a male “disorder”
and may see most individuals diagnosed with autism as not being very social and
lacking empathy. I am very opposite from that. First of all, I am a total
extrovert and am very social. I am also very compassionate and have tons of
empathy for others. Secondly, I am also female, not male. And last but not
least, I do not view autism as a “disorder!” I view it as a different way of
Flashback to the year of 1993, which is the year that I was born, in South Florida. I was born very healthy and was developing typically, but then when I was around 18 months old, my parents began to get very concerned, as I wasn’t beginning to speak much. They also noticed that I wasn’t paying much attention to responding when my name was being called and that I wasn’t interacting as much with others. I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2. When a professional told my parents that I am on the autism spectrum, they were at first very overwhelmed, because they were worried about my future and if I would ever be successful. That never stopped them from believing in me. My parents always worked hard with me to make sure I can be able to speak and socialize with other people. They brought in lots of professionals to work with me, from therapies to social groups, and it eventually paid off as I began to show lots of progress. At the age of 2 ½, the speech therapist came to my mom and said “Sarah can now speak, but she will not stop talking”. My parents were very happy, but they were now concerned about my younger sister Emily, since if you have your first child diagnosed with autism, there is an increased chance of the second child also showing signs of an autism diagnosis. My parents then kept an eye on Emily to see if she might potentially be on the autism spectrum. It ended up that she was typically developing. My parents never cared about the labels anyways. They treated us both the same and had high hopes for both of us. My sister and I were very close to each-other growing up, and are still have a close relationship presently today. Emily was always very accepting of me and we always stood up for each-other. Emily was never embarrassed or ashamed of me being her sister because I was on the autism spectrum. Instead, she has always embraced it from a very young age. We both had a great childhood together growing up in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida suburb of Parkland. Both of us were always big into nature and the outdoors and developed a passion for the visual arts from a young age. I was mostly mainstreamed at school in classes with typically developing children, but despite being able to keep up with most of the academics and expectations, school has always been tough for me socially. I have switched schools several times throughout grades Kindergarten to 12th, attending various public and private schools in the Fort Lauderdale area. I was bullied a lot (especially in middle school and early high school) because I came across as “awkward” to a few other children my age and because I was short and looked younger than my actual age. Until high school (I repeated 9th grade), I was most often one of the youngest children in my grade and came across as a little socially and emotionally immature. On top of that, I struggled with attention and focusing in the classroom, as well as struggling with math, leading to being diagnosed with a math learning disability and emotional behavior disorders. When high school approached, my parents were nervous about me being put back into regular public school because they were worried I may not pass the exit exam required to graduate high school with a regular diploma. They then enrolled me in a small private high school recommended by a parent who also has a child with autism. It ended up being a disaster as a teacher at the school upfront told me that I do not have much potential for the future. Despite being bullied, my parents always encouraged me to pursue my passions and show that I am better than the bullies. I have always inspired my mom that when I was around 10 years old, she changed her field from being a General Pediatrician to a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician. My dad always believed that I can show my true god-given potential past my autism and multiple disability diagnoses and accomplish anything that I put my mind to. My parents began to feel that I needed to be more challenged (socially and academically) and prepared for life and wanted to transfer me to a larger school. In the middle of my high school career, my parents made the decision (against the advice of the principal of the school, who felt I wouldn’t ever be able to pass a public high school exit exam) withdrew me from the school and enrolled me in the large public high school that Emily was currently attending. I proved the principal of the former high school I went to that I can pass a high school exit exam, and that is what I did. In June of 2012, I graduated high school with a regular diploma in the top half of my graduating class with a 3.5 GPA and special recognitions. I was a First Class Senior, I received a community service award and I received the overall ESE graduating senior award out of every ESE senior in the entire school. I joined Best Buddies my senior year of high school and was nominated by the president of my high school’s best buddies chapter to become a best buddies ambassador, which I still am today through Utah State University’s chapter. I have done a few public speaking gigs as well since the age of 16. Didn’t I mention that I became a brown belt martial artist as well? I developed to become conversationally proficient in my dad’s native language of Spanish as well as the language I studied in college; American Sign Language. My goal is to become 100% fluent in English, Spanish and American Sign Language, as well as my fiancée’s native language that I am currently learning, which is Bengali. As the Nike Motto says “Just Do It,” that is how I approach my aspirations in life. I eventually graduated from Utah State University in 2017 with a 3.29 GPA and a Degree in Special Education General Studies and American Sign Language. I am now working full time as a teacher assistant at an early childhood center. I am thriving at that job. I am also going to be marrying my Fiancée, who is a PhD scholar from India and is getting his PhD in electrical engineering.
Art has always been a way I have expressed myself. My sister
and I were enrolled in drawing and painting classes from a young age and have
both had art gigs growing up. At the age of 16, I entered a recycled fashion
show at a local children’s museum as a dress designer. I designed a dress made
out of toilet paper rolls and though I did not get first place, I was one of
the highest scoring dresses (I think I placed 5th out of over 20
entries). A real model wore my dress and fashion critiques were the judges. I
won an art contest (first place) at the age of 19 for a post-college
transitional program I went to and my painting is in a gallery. My art style is
mostly abstract art. I look up to multiple artists as inspirations, but
especially admire the works of artists such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock,
Georgia O’Keefe, Andy Warhol and Romero Britto. I see art as a way to express
myself and show awareness of the causes most important to me; the education of
young children and individuals with disabilities, the environment, ethnic and
cultural diversity, animal rights and most importantly, disability rights and
autism awareness!! I now have my own blog called Trailblazing Autism and an Instagram
account for autism awareness (of the same name) to empower individuals with
autism and other disAbilities to pursue their potentials in life and to show
that only the sky is the limit!! I also hope to become more involved with
autism and disability rights activism and public speaking and am in the process
of writing a children’s book. I also have plans to begin graduate school next
fall in 2020.
When many parents first find out that their child has autism, often times it can be a rocky start. You may think in your head “Will my child be able to make friends” or “Will my child be able to get a job and live on his/her own, drive, graduate from high school and college, etc..” My mom was one of those parents and I proved her that the answer to all of this is yes. The sky is the limit and anything is possible. Individuals with autism can get married, have children and live happy lives. An important thing to do as a parent, as my mom did for me, is to advocate for your child. Advocating comes in different forms and can fit into anyone’s schedule. Try to seek out services from your local public school district as there are many public schools that have a lot of services to help children with autism be successful in their schooling. There are private school services as well for children with autism if that is your preference choice. Look into organizations, such as Best Buddies, Special Olympics and parent support groups. Be informed on disability laws and autism laws in the government. You can be an advocate in multiple ways, but there is only one requirement you have to put in, and that is you need to believe in your child. Because only the sky is the limit!!
If you saw Kodi Lee on America’s Got Talent this past week, he is blind and autistic, yet his voice goes far beyond any label or any disability. A disability isn’t label, nor is it an inability. Having autism doesn’t mean that you aren’t capable of accomplishing your dreams and goals in life. There have been several individuals with autism who have proven that their disability hasn’t stopped them from pursing their dreams and goals in life. Examples include animal science professor/autism activist Temple Grandin, Amy Schumer’s husband, etc…. A disability doesn’t mean that you are disabled, it means that you have a different ability and have a different perspective on seeing and viewing the world.
When most people meet me, they often are shocked when they find out that I have autism. Many people often do not meet a high functioning female with autism, as autism is disproportionally see in males. So, someone may ask “What does autism look like in a girl versus in a boy?,” and I would tell them that “It looks different in each person and there is no specific mold. Society has really come along way when it comes to acceptance for individuals autism in society, but there is still ways to go when it comes to perspectives. I still have observed and met some people whose visualization of an individual with autism is a person who is anti-social and lacks emotion and/or empathy. I can tell you that is false and is a misconception. It depends on the individual with autism, because as I have said, every individual with autism is different. I, for example, am very empathetic and outgoing. I am a very social person while another individual with autism may not be.