At Autism Speaks, we are dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the life span, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In doing so, we work very closely with a wide range of communities, including the Latinx community.
Autism Speaks’ mission has also been my personal mission for many years. Autism has had an impact on my personal life since age 3. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. Back in the early 1990s, there was not a lot of information about autism. In looking for answers, my parents received conflicting information in regard to what was “wrong” with me. We had to deal with a lot of ignorance and combat different stereotypes, which has been one of the challenges that families impacted by autism in the Latinx community often face.
As someone on the spectrum, I’ve encountered numerous challenges. I was nonverbal until age 4. I have dealt with social communication issues, short-term working memory, anxiety disorder and struggles in building relationships. As time went by, I was able to improve my social communication skills, but struggled to make friends throughout my school years. As a result, I suffered with depression and loneliness.
I prevailed in spite of these challenges, and have accomplished a number of key life goals over the years. I was able to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree in business and worked in customer service, sales and management for 10 years. In addition, I wrote my own book called An Autism Unscripted Life, also available in Spanish, became a professional speaker and even worked in television and media for a time.
Today, I am so proud to be part of the Autism Speaks Autism Response Team, which is an information line for the community. Our team members are specially trained to provide personalized information and resources to people with autism and their families. I am a member of our bilingual team, which also provides support through our Spanish line.
Autism Speaks has made a point of increasing its outreach to families impacted by autism in the Latinx community. As part of this outreach, we have adapted and translated essential materials and resources. For example, our 100-Day Kit is now available in Spanish, offering families of children recently diagnosed with autism guidance and tools to make the best possible use of the first 100 days following the diagnosis.
We also have a Facebook group called “Voces Latinas de Autism Speaks,” which helps families in the Latinx community connect with and support each other in their shared journey.
This World Autism Month, we invite you to join us in driving awareness and celebrating the autism community, beginning with United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2. Throughout the month, we focus on sharing stories and providing opportunities to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism and fostering worldwide support.
Everyone is encouraged to participate in World Autism Month. Whether you have autism, love someone who does, or are looking to support a diverse, accepting and kind community – you’re invited to take the pledge to help all people with autism reach their full potential at autismspeaks.org/WAM. Let’s continue to work together in creating a better world for the autism and special needs community!