This guest post is by Bree Bogucki, an 18-year-old singer and athlete who has autism. 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.
My name is Bree Bogucki and I am 18 years old. I was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder when I was 5 years old at the University of Chicago Medical Center and re-diagnosed at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System when I was 10 years old.
When I was very young, I was developmentally delayed, not crawling until after my first birthday. I did not walk until after my second birthday and my speech and language skills were much delayed. In addition to struggling with communication, I suffered from extreme sensory processing disorder. Any movement (like swinging or riding in a car) caused me to have a meltdown. I rocked constantly and my only comfort was found in listening to music.
To deal with my meltdowns, at first my parents chose to keep me home, away from unwanted stimuli. I spent every day rocking and listening to music. When I was 3 years old I entered my school district’s early childhood program and began receiving speech/language and occupational therapies. I began to improve almost immediately.
I was mainstreamed from Kindergarten through 8th grade with the assistance of a one-on-one aide. Being mainstreamed forced me to learn how to adapt in a world I wasn’t comfortable in. There were many times I felt alone and different from my peers. I was teased for rocking my head. Because my disability is invisible, people didn’t understand my differences. When I was 9 years old I joined NISRA, our local special recreation association. For the first time, I began to participate in sports with Special Olympics Illinois. I finally felt accepted and began to experience success. My confidence began to improve and I began to make friends. I no longer was afraid to participate and no longer felt so different.
After listening to music for years, I developed perfect pitch and now am an accomplished singer. I won a talent competition called “Special Talents America” in 2012 and as part of the prize, a song was written for me to record. I recorded “I Was Born Yesterday” written by Grammy award winner Jim Peterik and Lisa McClowry. The song’s lyrics talk of my struggles growing up with autism.
Today, I am a Special Olympics athlete and Global Messenger. I compete in 4 sports, Gymnastics; Volleyball; Softball and Basketball through Special Olympics. I compete in Track and Cross Country through my high school.
Recently, I was invited by Coca Cola and Special Olympics to take part in recording a song for the Special Olympics World Games with Marc Roberge (OAR), Cody Simpson and Madison Tevlin.
The reason I am sharing my accomplishments with you is because my main goal in life is to make a difference. I want to be a voice for those who are different and who often go unheard. People with disabilities CAN DO GREAT THINGS! I want all of those who are different to be heard and understood. I want them to feel like their life matters.
My family and I want to give HOPE to those just recently diagnosed with Autism. We want to show those families that with the right help, improvements can be made. We want those struggling to find help through organizations like Autism Speaks, Special Olympics and other Autism support groups.
Every life matters. I hope I can do my part to show that to the world.
This performance was at my high school in front of my peers. I chose “Try” by Colbie Calliat because I want people to be proud of who they were born to be.