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Heart of Autism: Teacher on the Spectrum Inspires Students with Autism

This Heart of Autism post is written by Ann Kagarise, the Assistant Director at IDEA House Educational Services, a published author, a journalist, an amazing photographer, a counselor, a volunteer in her community. She also happens to be on the autism spectrum! Below is a beautiful poem written by Ann about her experiences as a woman on the spectrum teaching students with autism: "There is no other place I would rather be than at a school that ‘gets’ me."

Pull up a blade of grass, sit down and get to know me
Sit quietly with me. I love your company, but I love the silence.
Look at life, with me, as if you are looking at it for the first time.
Watch my eyes dance as I think of something fun.
Look at the world as a toy.

When I hear others speak of Autism, they miss the best parts.
“People on the spectrum do not connect.”


When I look into the eyes of a child with Autism, I feel a connection that goes to my soul.
I feel what they are feeling. I hurt when they are hurting. I feel joy when they feel joy.
I empathize. I love them deeply.

There is no place I would rather be.

I would have done anything to have a school like IDEA House when I was a kid.
I would have done anything for someone to ‘get’ me.’

“She doesn’t make eye contact.”
“She doesn’t make friends.”
“She likes to be by herself.”
“She’s different.”

You think we don’t hear that?
Yes. We do. While thinking, if they knew how much we feel, they would understand why I have to get a break from life at times.

If they knew just how much connection I feel with the people around me they would understand why my skin hurts at times and why I just cannot look at them.
There is no other place I would rather be than at a school that ‘gets’ me.
A place that offers more for kids on the spectrum than I ever had as a kid.

To come alongside a kid on the spectrum and show them that they can do it, gives me purpose.
It makes my life of struggles all worth it.

IDEA House is a place that took me in. They allowed me to grow and to be who I was at first.
We meet kids on the spectrum where they are. I have a degree in counseling and there is no other place I would want to work than beside a child with Autism.

“I have Autism, too.”

I have a masters degree. I took the gift of seeing connections in behaviors and turned that into my passions for people and life.
People on the spectrum don’t feel?
They don’t know the kids I know.
They love deeply. 

They notice when someone is sad before anyone else in the room does.
They will sit in silence with someone hurting.  
They will meet anyone where they are, but the question is, will you let them?
The world is so busy trying so hard to get people on the spectrum to meet them where they are that they do not understand that if they just sit...

Just sit.
Pull up a blade of grass and let them lead.
Let them speak in the way they speak.
They will let them in.
Speak their language. Don’t make them speak yours.
They have something to say.
And it’s worth hearing.

Below is a post written by Ann's employer, Angela DiSpina-Shumate about how wonderful she is!

Ann Kagarise is one of the most accomplished people I have ever had the pleasure to meet! Ann works with students on the Autism Spectrum each day. She teaches, counsels, advises, and supports our students with patience, love, empathy, insight, and true belief in each and every one of them. Her connection with our kids is incomparable! With her help and the amazing example she sets, our students are achieving heights previously unimagined!

Ann pours her heart and soul into every day and everything she does with our students. She is the most caring, loyal, and enthusiastic person I know.

I have worked with individuals with ASD for over twenty years. No one I know has done more to contribute to awareness, acceptance, and achievement within the Autism Community than Ann Kagarise! Her unending desire to give... to her students, to her community, and to the people in her life sets her apart as an outstanding individual, not just within the Autism Community, but within the world! 

Do you have ideas for our Heart of Autism series highlighting individuals on the autism spectrum giving back to the community? We would love to hear from you! Email us at Check out previous Heart of Autism stories here

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.