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For me it's always been about ability instead of disability

This guest post is by Rachel Barcellona, a young adult on the autism spectrum and reigning Miss Florida Collegiate 2015.  Rachel’s platform “The Ability beyond Disability” is focused on autism and related disabilities. You can learn more about Rachel here. This post is part of an initiative on our site called “In Our Own Words: Living on the Spectrum,” which highlights the experiences of individuals with autism from their perspectives.

As a girl living with Asperger’s Syndrome, my life was not a fairy tale. As a child I was always told by numerous people that I would never be able to do anything of worth or contribute to this world, which lowered my self-esteem. However, my parents were very supportive of me and had no doubt that I would do something with my life; my lifelong goal was to prove the naysayers wrong.

Things were worse at school — the place where my Mother first found out I had Asperger’s Syndrome. I wanted to be alone and I rarely talked to anyone, which worried my teachers. I, however, thought I was normal. I thought I was just an introvert who didn’t want to be a part of silly childish games. When I told my teachers that, they thought I was crazy.

Today, I am the international spokesperson of C.A.R.D. USF (Center for Autism and Related Disabilities) and have spoken at several Autism conferences and panels. I’ve done community service in the Autism community and feel absolutely liberated to be a leader for others like myself. I have also won the title of Miss Florida Collegiate and will compete nationally this summer.

My mission is to help people see their potential in life, and I can gladly say that I see that happening among typical individuals and Autistic individuals every single day. Today, I am a very happy person who sees the world in black and white, but I always try to be optimistic about everything. Even though I struggle with that, my parents always tell me that I can do anything I set my mind to. One day, I hope to become a neuropsychologist, who preferably works with children with disabilities and give the help that so many children need. I hope to inspire children of the next generation and give future patients a happier life.

Have a story you want to share for our “In Our Own Words: Living on the Spectrum,” series? Email us at


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.