Meet Kristina D: 35 years young and still realizing her untapped potential
Hi, my name is Kristina D., and I would describe myself as creative, strong, emotional, religious and a dreamer. I’m also autistic.
I work as an autism para-professional, an artist and just had my first book published. It’s titled “Autism: Life in the Prism,” and it’s the story of my journey along the autism spectrum. My younger self would have never thought I’d have a meaningful job in a workplace where people accept me or be able to write a book, but I’ve worked hard and achieved many of my goals.
I don't remember my age of diagnosis specifically, but I do know I was assessed for years while I was in school. In a way, I’m glad I didn't know I was different than my peers for most of my life because it let me just be me. I finally started to better understand myself during my junior high school and high school years, and that’s when my life started to take shape. Although I was angry about being different at first, I slowly started to feel relief. Getting a better understanding of myself allowed me to start on this path of sharing my story and helping others.
To me, having autism means navigating the world in such a way where my inner workings are just different from typical people. Some things about being different can be peaceful, fun and unique, while other experiences and situations can be frustrating and scary. It means seeing things in different colors and with a different perspective. This way of seeing the world has helped me to excel in music, connect with animals, nature and create various forms of art.
To say I’ve faced challenges throughout my life would be an understatement. I struggle to make connections and maintain relationships because understanding some aspects of conversations doesn’t come easily to me. I can be way too literal at times. I also struggle with anxiety and adapting to change and severe sensory issues. My autism is part of my life 24/7 and I’ve had to put in a lot of work just to manage some of the things that come along with it.
One of the things that I’m most proud of is how I’ve persevered through years of trying to find the right job. Finally, I’ve found what I’ve been looking for in my role as a para-professional working with other people on the spectrum. Some of the services that helped get me to this place in my life have included occupational, sensory and balance and vision therapies, support groups, my relationship with my service animals and more. I’ve also found it helpful to connect with other autistic people in different parts of the world. A sense of community and understanding has provided me with much clarity.
For anyone out there looking for support, I’d highly suggest reaching out to Autism Speaks and other reputable outlets. Attend conferences, reach out to people online, find answers by talking to others in similar circumstances. There are so many resources available these days. Don’t give up when things get tough. We are all different, but we all share common struggles and need supports outside of ourselves.
I decided to share my story during World Autism Month because I want others on the spectrum to know they are not alone. It’s an opportunity for us to connect with each other, share helpful advice and resources and discuss the many incredible opportunities out there for us. To me, World Autism Month is a positive. It's incredible to see everyone light up their landmarks blue in photos because it promotes awareness and spreads joy among the autism community. Whatever we can do to make the world a little kinder, I fully support it.