It’s Building Character: Autism Speaks Volumes

This week I have a special guest blogger, Doleen Yeldell. Doleen has been an incredible part of our family as our oldest son, Elijah’s Behavioral Technician. She truly feels like a part of our family and has been with us for the last 3 years. The relationship she has built with Elijah has been so special and he has truly grown leaps and bounds with her. Doleen’s primary job is as a District Special Education Employment & Transitional Living Coach. Doleen is also a very talented and amazing children’s author, you can find one of her books HERE. We personally own this book and it is great for this current season we have all found ourselves in.

One major blessing of my career as an educator is my transition to Special Education.  I have had the pleasure of working with students on the spectrum for seven of my eleven years in education. My path began as an Early Childhood Teacher and transitioned to a district Special Education Employment & Transitional Living Coach. I must admit my pedagogical philosophy has been challenged to the core; however, I am fond of the journey and would not have it any other way. There are so many accounts of how these wonderful students impact me as I aim to provide them with tools for progress and success. The one constant theme with some of the young adults with whom I work, is never having to discourage being a follower or say just be yourself. They are themselves whether their employers and supervisors like it or not. This also reigns true for my younger after school student. He is a natural leader, intelligent, inquisitive and fun.  He will achieve what he puts his mind to. What he will not do, is succumb to the demands of peer pressure.

My students are so courageous, confident and bold in who they are and the hobbies they enjoy. I sometimes tell them, “I want to be like you when I grow up.” It reminds me of the scripture in Romans chapter 12 that states, “Do not be conformed to this world.” I love how my students will not conform to how others may want them to be or look. They will accomplish their goal, just not the way people may want them to. They are jovial just being themselves, and I discovered this trait inspires the people in their surroundings including bosses and supervisors.

Yes, I coach them on interviewing skills and what not to ask a potential employer. Yes, we go over time-management. Yes, we practice conversation skills and following work-place policy. Yes, we discuss how it is not appropriate to blast video game music from your cell phone while working or to wear flag attire instead of your work uniform. Nevertheless, I am so elated to never coach or counsel this group of amazing students to just relax and be themselves. We are faced with challenges and overcome many obstacles that result in learning, laughing, kindness, acceptance, determination, courage, growth and inspiration for the majority of the workday, (the occasional redirection too) for all this I am grateful. This, to me, is how Autism speaks volumes.