Meet Jason H.
Jason H., 22
Huntington Station, New York
[My disability] taught me that I might have to work a little harder to achieve my goals, but with a strong support system behind me and many forms of therapy and autism services, I can do anything that I put my mind to.
My name is Jason H., and I am 22 years old. I currently work as a farmhand at Elija Farm in Huntington Station, New York. (Elija CSA is an Innovative Community Supported Agriculture Program producing sustainably grown, local, farm fresh produce). When I’m not working, I am studying to earn my bachelor’s degree in film studies at C.W. Post, Long Island University. I hope to one day use that degree to obtain a fulfilling career in the field that will last a lifetime.
I was diagnosed with autism at 20 months of age, and I believe that my disability has shaped me into the person I am today. It taught me that I might have to work a little harder to achieve my goals, but with a strong support system behind me and many forms of therapy and autism services, I can do anything that I put my mind to.
I don’t remember much from the time that I was diagnosed, but I remember one of my first my Early Intervention Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) sessions. That was when I started to realize that I exist, and I am a person. When I look back, that was the time I found myself. It wasn’t until middle school or early high school that I understood my autism and how I was different from others. It was hard for me to make new friends and to connect with others, but I continued to work on myself with my therapists.
Today, I live independently in my own apartment with minimal support because of the many services and supports that I’ve received throughout my life.
Read more about Jason and how ABA and other services helped him reach his full potential in this Q&A:
How did your autism diagnosis come about?
My parents said that I had no eye contact and several challenging behaviors. This made them seek out answers and I was diagnosed at 20 months.
What services/therapies have you received to help you along your autism journey? How have those supports enhanced your life?
Applied Behavioral Analysis, speech and language, occupational therapy, physical therapy, resource support room, self-contained/subject specific classes, and self-direction support. These sessions reduced my challenging behaviors and taught me methods to make good choices. Speech, OT and PT helped me develop necessary skills to be successful in life.
What struggles have you faced as a result of your autism?
I tend to obsess over things, have difficulty tolerating change and have a high sensitivity to certain sounds.
In what areas of your life has your autism helped you excel?
I have a photographic memory which has helped me be successful in my life. I am a visual learner and if I see it, I can memorize it easily. If not, it’s more difficult for me.
What Is Your Personal Experience With ABA?
People came into my home to work with me. I had one-to-one support from kindergarten through 5th grade and daily home services through 8th grade. It simply started off with commands then transitioned all the way to independent work.
How important do you believe early intervention services are to younger children with autism reaching their full potential?
I think it is really important because the earlier you start implementing instruction, the more successful the child will be in the future.
What advice would you give to adults who just received an autism diagnosis?
Take a step back and know you are okay. Help is out there. I would recommend a therapist and would let them know they are not alone, and that services and support groups are available. I would also be happy to explain my own personal experience and the successes I’ve had.
When you reflect on your life to this point, what are you most proud of?
I am most proud of being independent enough to live in my own apartment with minimal support. This was all supported by my K-12 education, Nassau Suffolk Services for Autism (NSSA), consulting with my support staff and the ELIJA Transitional Programs and Services, which provides coaches to prepare and support adults on the spectrum to live and work independently. They have been with me since 2016 and helped me to achieve my goal of living independently.
What are five words that best describe you?
Energetic. Kind. Inspirational. Resourceful. Ambitious.