Preparation for the future starts in the summer for 15-year-old Jeremiah A.

Jeremiah smiling

Fifteen has been a big year for Jeremiah A., the soon-to-be sophomore at West Valley High School in Hemet, CA. Not only did he land his first part-time job this summer, but he’s coming off a freshman year where he attended his first homecoming dance and made memories with his classmates that will last a lifetime.

“I told my mom that I didn’t want to go to summer camp because I thought I was too old. She told me if I got a job I won’t have to go, so I went to a few local places to see if they were hiring. I met the assistant manager at Chuck E. Cheese, and she told me to come back for an interview the next day. That’s when I got the job! I keep the game room clean, help guests with games/rides, assist with parties and keep the salad bar stocked.”

Diagnosed with autism at age 3, Jeremiah says he has enjoyed his first summer working a part-time job. He has loved the freedom of having some down time to play video games, swim and ride his electric bicycle, but he’s ready to start his second year of high school. He said he’s looking forward to a new year of art classes because he loves to draw, but is most excited to meet new people and create new friendships. He’s finished his back-to-school shopping with his mom, cleaned his room and is ready to embrace the new experiences that come along with the start of a new school year.

“I try to relax as much as I can and be myself. I like to meet new people, so I’ll just be friendly and introduce myself.”

Jeremiah isn’t sure what he wants to do when he graduates high school, but he’s got plenty of time to figure it out. He said his dream career has always been to be a pilot for Southwest or United Airlines or an aircraft mechanic, but for now he’s focused on living in the moment.

“I’m most looking forward to seeing my friends and joining the Future Farmers of America (FFA) group. Also getting my driver's license and first car. I would also like to get better with my reading this year.”

Learn more about Jeremiah and his autism journey in this Q&A with his mom, Michelle:

Jeremiah and his mom, Michelle smiling

In a few sentences, introduce your son to the world and explain why you are so proud of him.

Jeremiah James is a thriving 15-year-old young man who is responsible, caring, loving and friendly. It’s been 12 years since his autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis. Since that day, Jeremiah has grown so much. He’s faced challenges and didn’t quit when things got difficult.

I’m very proud of my son. I know many parents are proud of their children, but the joy I get watching and helping Jeremiah become who he is has been very rewarding! I believe God gave me Jeremiah first to teach me so many lessons because I learn from him daily. I’m confident that he will be fully prepared when he goes out into this world.

When you first found out Jeremiah had autism, what thoughts ran through your mind?

Jeremiah was 2.5 years old when I noticed something was different. He didn’t have many words and gave very little eye contact. Over several appointments at the University of Washington Autism Center, the findings were that Jeremiah had ASD. The report was overwhelming - 15 pages with the last four pages being a list of what I needed to do for my son. After coping with the grief that came along with the diagnosis, I went to work gathering Jeremiah’s team of doctors and specialists. We enrolled him into an early education autism school in Bothell, WA., and then the work began.

What services and educational supports has he received throughout his life to help get where he is today?

Jeremiah has had speech therapy, occupational therapy, applied behavior analysis (ABA), social group, Sylvan Learning Center counseling and special sport groups.

Do you worry at times when your son faces new experiences like changing grades and getting his first job?

In the beginning, I did a lot of prepping with Jeremiah for what’s to come, so that was very helpful for him. Now he faces new adventures with a smile. He is a very confident young man and that has been a huge blessing!

How do you help him acclimate during these times?

I talk to him. I like for him to express his feelings and concerns. Then I’m honest and comfort him when I need to.

Jeremiah and his mom, Michelle, walking down the aisle at her wedding

Can you talk a bit about Jeremiah’s progress in school and how he’s grown?

Jeremiah has been in school since he was 3 years old. Now, he’s a sophomore and he’s come a long way. He’s been on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and is currently mainstreaming for 60% of his classes. His strengths are in math, and he struggles with reading and comprehension.

What makes you most proud of your son?

So many things! His spirit, his heart, his personality to name a few. Jeremiah is also a great big brother!

What advice would you give to other parents just beginning an autism journey with their child, especially when it comes to education, therapy and crucial services?

I know autism is a loaded diagnosis but trust me when I say that you will get through it. Take the time to mourn the life you thought you would have with your child. Then prepare for the lifelong journey that will bring you tears of sadness as well as tears of joy. Watch your child grow leaps and bounds throughout the years. Always advocate for your child. Accept your child has autism, but autism doesn’t have your child. Be proud of small accomplishments and praise your child’s efforts.

What is your family’s connection to Autism Speaks? How has the organization made an impact of your lives?

Throughout the years, Autism Speaks has been very helpful to my family. Jeremiah has been lucky enough to be included in pieces like this that help to raise awareness and acceptance. Whenever I speak to families struggling with their child's diagnosis, I point them to Autism Speaks.

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