Hello, everybody. I'm glad you've come to learn about my life. My name is Christopher and I am ten-and-a-half years old; a student in fourth grade (at least I was when I wrote this story in the year 2001!). I go to the same school as my neighbors and my little sister Hilary. When I'm in school I have a teaching assistant working with me. That's because I find it hard to sit still and listen to the teacher. You see, I was born with a problem called autism. Autism also makes it tough for me to understand and follow instructions. It makes printing letters difficult for me, too, but luckily I can use a keyboard for that. Worst of all, this problem makes it difficult for me to know how to talk with people, particularly other kids. 

I know first-hand about having autism. My sister knows a little bit, but only from my parents and me, since she doesn't have it herself. She does know why I am different than her, though, which is very good. Though in some ways we are different, in other ways we're very much alike. For instance, we both have blue eyes and blonde hair, and we both have the same mom and dad. We both like music, swimming at the beach, going to the park and  the library, and eating at McDonalds. Hilary has more friends than I do but that's ok.  Sometimes they play with me when they come over to visit. Of course there are times when Hilary is angry with me, but even then I know she still likes me.  She hugs me when I am sad or hurt. It's great to have her for a sister!

There are some things that I especially enjoy. For example, I work really hard with my teachers and I am good at writing stories on
my keyboard.  I love to tell my class-mates about things that interest me like trains, construction equipment and airplanes. I know a lot about them, too. I also I like to play with my tonka trucks in sandpits and to watch videos and to play on the computer. I am getting really good with the computer, particularly with science, math and creative writing games. Maybe some day I'll get a job working with computers.  I understand them better than people and they don't get mad at me.

It is not fun having autism. I find school hard, and as I've mentioned,  I don't make friends easily. Sometimes kids are mean to me.  Especially the big kids.  They call me stupid and retard and weirdo and it makes me feel bad. Wouldn't it make you feel bad, too? My mom and teachers explain to my class-mates that I am the same as they are in many ways but different in how I learn and how my brain thinks. They tell them what autism is and explain that I was born this way and make sure that they know that my having it is definitely not my fault. 

I want people to treat me like everyone else and not to be scared
of me.  I want to have friends.Though I still have trouble knowing what to do with the other kids, I am learning how to play with them. Sometimes they read with me or play on the computer with me.  They remind me about the playground and lunch room rules when I forget, and best of all, they buddy with me to learn new things. 

Sometimes too much noise or too many things happening at once makes me really upset. When that happens, I cry and run to get away from everything. I wish I could explain just what it's like to you. At least when I feel that way, my teachers and my classmates help me calm down.  Because my brain can't block out the noise and the activity, it is hard for me.  The good new is that I've been learning to help myself calm down, and I don't get upset nearly as often as I used to. I found out that classical music really helps me to relax.  So do my ear protectors, when the noise seems too loud to me.

My mom helps me learn to express how I feel. When I am mad or lonely she works with me to talk about how I feel.  She also comes to the class to talk to my friends about how they can help me.   Mom tells me she loves me and I am special.   I think so too.

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Joan Fleitas, Ed.D., R.N.
Associate Professor of Nursing, Lehman College, CUNY
Fairfield, Connecticut 06430

Last updated: November 14, 2004