chloe’s story

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{one of my favorite pictures of Chloe, Katie and Brooke}

Almost two years ago, I met Chloe, a young woman on the autism spectrum who had reached out to me through Diary. Within days of our meeting, she and Brooke connected via email. I wrote a post about their initial interaction HERE. It’s a little confusing as I referred to her as Cammy at the time for the sake of overly cautious anonymity before I knew that she was perfectly comfortable being known to the world as Chloe, which, well, is a pretty awesome thing to be, but I trust that if you can follow this sentence, you can also follow that Cammy = Chloe and Chloe = awesome. And if you really, actually followed that sentence without having to read it four or more times, give yourself a prize on me* (and make it something good).

Early on in our friendship, Chloe told me why she was so driven to share her perspective on autism and to actively advocate for others on the spectrum. She had had a terrible experience the previous summer, she explained. It was the result of a perfect storm of ignorance and misperception and it had left her traumatized, afraid, and hurt. But being Chloe, she didn’t fold inward, as so many of us would, but instead used the experience as a springboard for a new beginning. This month marks the anniversary of that time and of her emergence as an advocate. This is Chloe’s story, in her own words.

As the end of June nears I am reminded of how 3 years ago this year the meaning of summer changed for me. Summer used to be fun, day camps, swimming, end of school year etc. And don’t get me wrong, it still is. But, with that being said the summer of 2011 was a real eye-opening experience for me. June 2011, I walked at my high school graduation ceremony with all of my peers, some of which I’d went to school with since elementary school. But, the graduation ceremony was different for me, my parents, myself, and my IEP team made the decision that I would walk at graduation, but continue to receive school services. This was the best decision for me. I have made so much progress and grown so

much in the past 3 years. This next school year, the peers I want to school with will be seniors in college. I try not to compare, as I did what was right for me. I believe that life is not a race, I am doing great things! The summer of 2011, also brought a life changing encounter with ignorance. The months following this experience were challenging at times. I could choose to relive it each summer through flashbacks and memories. BUT, I don’t, I’m not going to tell you about what happened, since it is not what I want you to get out of reading this. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. What happened the summer 2011, made me rethink what I wanted to do in life, I decided on autism advocacy, I wanted to fix the ignorance out there. I want to teach people so they can help people who have autism better. This is what I celebrate each summer. I celebrate how far I’ve come, my accomplishments, the opportunities I’ve had, the people I’ve met on my journey, and the things I’ve learned. I owe a big thank you to everyone who has helped me in all my life. I am a part of a wonderful group of people in the autism community, a community that I’ve been welcomed into with open arms. Being mentored by adults with autism

I am grateful for so many things.

I also want there to be awareness for autism and trauma. Please, please think before you respond to an individual. If you don’t feel comfortable or know what to do, listen to the individual and don’t ever be afraid to ask for help, ever. Remember behavior is communication. Reacting or getting upset towards an individual who is already struggling isn’t helpful. Criticizing or lecturing the individual while they are in a meltdown isn’t helpful. Embarrassing an individual out of a behavior most likely won’t work, not to mention that it’s degrading and disrespectful to the individual. What works best during a time of crisis in my opinion is listening to the cues from the person struggling, stay calm, offer time and space, help make sure the individual is safe, let them know that you are there when and if they want to talk etc. Sometimes little language is best during a meltdown, but what helps during a meltdown depends on the individual.

My main point I want you to get from this piece is that all it takes is one traumatic situation for an individual to be traumatized and experience PTSD. My experience was over a short period of time, yet I struggled months later, and still remember what happened. The trauma experience can be short but the impact is long lasting. Trauma can be many things, it’s different and can vary by individual. Remember just because a situation isn’t a big deal for you doesn’t mean that the individual with ASD can’t be experiencing trauma. These experiences are very much real, and need to be worked through with, help, compassion, support and respect. Think before you act it only takes once for a traumatic situation to occur, but a long time and impact on one’s life.

Thank you

*please note, prizes are not really on me because I’d have no way to give them to you, and well, that would be kinda weird anyway, wouldn’t it? Anyway, moving on.

** Click HERE to follow Chloe on Facebook.

4 thoughts on “chloe’s story

  1. Chloe does equal awesome – there is no doubt about that! She has taught me so much about my son. She has insight that I value tremendously. I’m so sorry that she had such a painful experience. I feel very lucky to have her in my life.

  2. Chloe, thank you for what you do and thank you for sharing this with us. When my daughter was struggling today I remembered your words – you helped both us. Thank you!

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