HI! My name is Courtney and I am from Germansville, PA. I recently graduated from Northwestern Lehigh School District where I attended work-based learning. Right now I attend Career Path and LIFE at LVCIL (Lehigh Valley Center for Independent Living). Both programs are teaching me the skills I need to reach my future goals of independent living and competitive employment!
With a primary diagnosis of Autism, I’ve learned that life is not always easy for me. There are certain tasks or concepts that I find difficult to understand. I have learned to accept myself and my disabilities. I cannot change who I am and what I have been blessed with, but I can work hard to better myself and the world around me.
An important thing that has been helpful in working toward my future is doing my own research. It helps me to better understand myself and things around me. Over the last year, with help, I have improved my skills and found accommodations that work for me. With these tools and skills I am able to make my day, every day as successful as possible.
As I said earlier, I attended the Career Path and LIFE program at LVCIL. Both of these programs have been huge in helping me to learn how to get a job and independent life skills. Throughout my time with them I found that these are some things that help me to make good choices on a day to day basis. They include: breaks outside or inside during the day to regroup, listening to music with headphones to block out noises that bother me, shutting off certain lights because of my sensitive eyes, and so many more. These are just a few that I know work for me in certain environments. Throughout the day I also have things to keep my hands busy or to chew on like: gum, mints, crunchy or sour foods, water bottle, oral chew pencil toppers, fidget buddy, silly putty, and anything else I can get my hands on that keeps them busy. I also tend to fidget a lot since it is hard for me to sit for a long period of time. I often use my weighted lap pad to keep me from getting up and walking around too much. The weight is calming and helps me focus while staying still. I LOVE compression. It keeps me calm and helps me to feel safe. Recently I started wearing under armor shirts and leggings under my daily clothes, which I know definitely helps me. I obviously know that I cannot do this under my daily clothes all the time, but I will take the opportunities as they come. I will continue to search for compression options for all seasons that will benefit me. Something else I am learning about is my feelings. I have a scale chart that has different levels, to help others understand what feelings I am having when I cannot explain them. My main goal from this program is to find a job that I enjoy doing. With the help of these tools that I have learned about, I know I can be successful.
Let me tell you about what I like to call ‘meltdown moments’. These are times in my life where things seem to be going in a million directions and my brain or body can’t process it all. It feels like a traffic jam in my head that’s stuck and can’t make it out or sometimes even a dream. My brain shuts off kind of as if I am not in my body anymore and I am on a mini vacation. I want to snap out of it but there are times when it is more difficult than others. It can be a very scary experience. During these times I can hear but I cannot always move. The more that people talk, the more intense it becomes. During these times I tend to gravitate to areas that are under something else: cabinets, closets or anywhere dark. Most times I don’t even remember why it happened, but my body definitely feels it. I typically come out of it with a headache and I am very, very tired. I know this might make people around me frustrated or they think I am annoying but I do not do it intentionally.
I have recently began to find methods to help me process what happened and how it affects me in a few different ways. First, I think about what happens and what could have caused it. Then I try really hard to process why I may have done it or what someone else did to make me feel this way. I am beginning to be able to take control of these moments, and it helps me to avoid future ones. I also recently found out that when I am trigger mode, listening to music while doing a word search helps prevent me from going into a full meltdown. This is because music relaxes my brain while the crossword is distracting from the source of the issue and keeps my hands moving. I like to keep my hands busy. If you happen to see me during the day, chances are I have a racquet ball in my hand. It is a type of security for me. I love the sound of it bouncing, the movement of my hand and the texture of the ball.
Home life is a little bit different for me, there are more options for me there. At home I like to play basketball, climb trees, do gymnastics, jump on my trampoline, and play WII Dance and so on. All of these things give my body what it needs. When I am hyper or stressed I seek sensory of any sort. I said I love compression, right? Well I have my own sheets and only I use them. I love wrapping myself up in them. I love the texture, tightness and smell of them. I also have a weighted blanket that helps me to sleep and calm down when things are just too much.
I live for myself and myself only. If I fail, I learn from that, brush myself off and try again. I am not changing myself to please anyone but I am learning how to be my best version. I love myself, my humor, my hyperness/quirkiness, my special talents, my compassion and everything else that makes me who I am. I am one of a kind and wouldn’t wish for anything else.