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I was nonverbal until I was 4; Now i'm graduating from college

This guest post is by Hannah Tsukroff, a young woman with a diagnosis of ADD and Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), a form of autism. Until 4 she was completely nonverbal. She today is currently a senior in college who is studying developmental disabilities.

It all started when I was very young. I don't remember some memories, but my mom has filled me in over the years. My mom knew something was up when I couldn't speak. My sister, who is 3 years older than me, was diagnosed with Asperger's a few years back, and I started showing classic signs.

The echolalia, being non-verbal, lining toys... my mom knew I had autism. A few years pass and my sister and I are playing kickball with some kids. One of the boys grabs and runs off with a base, and my sister yanks it out of his hand. He cries and runs to his mom. Later, she comes to our back door and tells my mom that her "retards" can never play with her kids again.

Retard.

That word cuts through me now that I know that it was an insult. I was always bullied up until middle school. The bullying is what made me realize that I'm different... and I'm proud of being different.

School was always hard for me, and in high school I was always eager to go to college. Every year on my IEP, I would write that I want to go to college. When that time finally came I was diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder.

Why? Well, I was always behind my peers in writing, and my Special Education teachers never pushed me to write 5 page papers. I was a wreck. I wanted to drop out so many times, but with the support of my family, my fiancé, and my friends, I am happy to say I will be graduating from college in the Fall of 2017.

Have a story about growing up on the spectrum you want to share for our “In Our Own Words: Living on the Spectrum,” series? Email us at InOurOwnWords@Autismspeaks.org.

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.