Shane, an 18-year-old who was diagnosed with autism at age 2, has made remarkable gains in his life. He’s grown from an anxious child who found it hard to make friends into a young man who’s thriving as a biology student at Trent University. He loves living away from home and has a solid social circle. He credits his successes, in part, to ABA therapy conducted by Shayna Gaunt. Here, Shane shares highlights of his story.
By Shane Finkelstein
Having autism was one of the most difficult things I experienced as a child. When I was in grades 1 through 6, I hardly made any friends because of my disorder; it was hard for me to cope with other people. Then I was bullied severely. People made fun of me by saying that I would never have any friends and that I was ugly. And one of the people on the school bus punched me in the face because of my autism. That really hurt.
However, I did make a lot of amazing friends at WillowWood School, which I attended from grade 7 to 12. (I still keep in touch with many of them.) I was in a small classroom with a small group of students. This helped me to grow as an individual, because when I am in a small group environment or in a safe place, it’s much easier for me to make friends.
Other aspects of life were challenging, too. I used to get really anxious when things were not running as smoothly as expected and I was not confident when writing tests and exams. However, I have come a long way with the help of ABA, my parents, guidance counselor, school principal, teacher, camp counselor and psychologist.
ABA and my parents’ guidance, in particular, have helped me grow out of my autism. They have taught me that, when it comes to anxiety and lack of confidence, I should take small steps so I know exactly what I need to do to be successful. I have also learned to listen to my friends or family members when they are having a bad day and to give them the best, supportive advice possible to make their day better. I have learned that it is important to make people proud and to crawl out of my shell and step up to the plate, so I can help my family and help myself academically, financially and socially. I have also learned that I should always treat people with respect, fairness and kindness. This is what makes a mature, young adult like me.
Photo courtesy of Shane Finkelstein