Giving Thanks: Autistic adult credits his family, friends and therapy for his good life
Advises others with autistic family members to reach out to doctors, therapists and Autism Speaks for resources and information
My name is Sean H. I’m 34-years-old and I have autism.
I was diagnosed at 2, but I didn’t really understand that I had autism until the third grade when I started being bullied for being different. Unfortunately, it would continue through eighth grade until the administrators in the school finally decided to listen to the concerns of my mom, Kimberly. Even though I was somewhat of a loner and had my struggles, I didn’t deserve to be treated poorly. She has always been there to advocate for me and ensure I was treated with respect. Honestly, she was the reason things started to turn around in my life. I’m thankful for her and the support she has shown me through thick and thin.
Before I entered high school, I was introduced to the local Boys and Girls Club, which helped me in a lot of ways as well. When I finally entered high school, I felt accepted and started to make friends, which was a big weight lifted off my shoulders. After graduating high school, I went to college in Florida and got a degree in business. I also worked at Disney, Universal Studios and Busch Gardens, which were amazing experiences for me to expand my horizons. I’m not currently employed due to health complications, but I wouldn’t change any of my experiences for the world.
Currently, I live at home in Indiana with my mom and dad. Having the in-person support of my family and the online friendships I’ve made on TikTok, especially Rick and Jodi B. and their family, who I met on the app in 2020, is so important. Whether it’s online or in person, having a community of people who I can count on is a great feeling. I’m thankful for the unique journey I’m on, but it’s the people who have always been there for me who I’m most thankful for.
Learn more about Sean and what he is most thankful for this holiday season in this Q&A.
What services and resources are you most thankful for having access to during your autism journey?
I’m most thankful for the therapy sessions I still receive to this day. They are beneficial because I get to speak out about what is on my mind. That helps with my depression, PTSD, anxiety and with other things that can be an extension of my autism. We do exercises to help with the things that happen regularly throughout my daily life. This has proven to be a big help.
How would your life have been different if you had not had access to early intervention services?
I think my life would have been different if I didn't have these services because I don't think I would have known how to cope with life and deal with the daily complications that can come with having autism. I think my life would have been harder. I would have struggled more than I did.
What inspired you to share your story with Autism Speaks? How has the organization impacted your life?
I learned about Autism Speaks through the app, TikTok. I decided to share my story with the world to inspire others with autism to be proud of who they are. Seeing other people share their stories on social media made me want to be more vocal about autism, so I’m hoping that I can do the same for others. If I can be a role model to even one person, I’d be glad to do so.
What are you most thankful for this holiday season?
There are multiple things I am thankful for. The first thing I am thankful for is my mom. With all the trials and tribulations that I have been through in my life, she has been right there by my side. She has always fought for me and is still fighting for me today. I love her so much. I am also thankful for my dad, Jeff, who took me in when I was 3. I have two brothers and two sisters, and he became a dad to all of us. To this day, he is still there for me no matter what and he is my best friend.
I am also thankful for my siblings and my biological dad and stepmom. They have been there for me in various ways, and I love them for that. The last thing I am thankful for are my best friends who I have met through TikTok. We talk every day and are there for each other no matter what. Even though it’s a virtual connection, it’s an important part of my daily life and I cherish my friendship with them.
What advice would you give to other people on the spectrum or those with autistic family members as they prepare for the holiday season?
The advice I would give to other people and families is to hold your loved ones close because tomorrow is never guaranteed. I would also tell them if you’re having trouble with your autistic family member or want to understand their needs better, ask for help. Reach out to doctors, therapists or even Autism Speaks. They are always there to provide information and resources.