My name is Louis Scarantino. I am in my 20’s, I have Autism, and I advocate for Autism as an adult. Every adult with Autism has grown up with the disability, but how exactly was it like growing up with it?
In my time as a person who was born in the 90’s, Autism wasn’t very common. When I went to school, I was in a class with a bunch of other kids knowing I was different the day from I started. But, they didn’t know or understand why I was different. In fact, due to it not being as common and not enough awareness for Autism during my school years, none of those kids’ parents (except for my mom of course) knew why I was different. I lost my temper all the time over every little thing growing up in school with Autism. None of the kids knew why. None of my teachers even knew why. Because at the time, there wasn’t enough awareness for Autism.
I was regularly sent to the principal’s office, and I remember my mom telling me that my principal wanted to send me to another school. My mom didn’t let him do it. I had to get a TSS (Therapeutic Support Staff) worker who would help me manage my behavior in my class. I never understood until I was older why I had to have one and always said “Nobody else has to, why do I?” Throughout my life, I also saw psychiatrists and other therapists; people with autism can have anger issues.
The academic curriculum always gave me a struggle, and my biggest weakness was in reading comprehension skills. I remember one time opening up a book and having the first six chapters read in 10 minutes. The kids never knew how and said “there’s no way”. Although I was able to read quickly, I struggled with the comprehension skills.
Anger and weight issues caused me problems with playing sports as a kid. I would be taken out of games and kicked off teams. My temper wasn’t and still isn’t an excuse for anything, but we can find ways to work on them. Moving into high school, my issues continued to add up. I also dealt with a tough special education teacher who didn’t understand any of my issues and who always yelled and praised popular kids more than me. I loved doing school plays in high school but didn’t get a good part my last couple of years due to the issues the play directors had against me.
Jealously was a big struggle for me growing up. I was always jealous of the man who got the main part in the play. He was always cheered for, I wasn’t. I was always jealous of my siblings who got into better colleges than me, made more friends than me, and got other opportunities that I unfortunately didn’t get. I felt I was liked less than everyone else I interacted with, no matter who it was. Plus, I didn’t have any friends because I didn’t know how to make them and no one understood me.
When I finally grew up, I went to college graduating cum laude in 4 years with an Associates Degree. I worked in a few different jobs throughout my life. From fast food, warehousing, call center, and now a Photo License Technician at a DMV.
Here are a few tips for parents as soon as they hear that their child is going to be diagnosed with Autism. First thing is, don’t panic. Yes, it’s going to be tough to raise that child but it’s not going to be impossible. I would highly recommend getting the proper health insurance for the child so they get the proper services they require while starting with early intervention. If you need to apply for Medicaid in your state, do so. If a worker of any kind isn’t a fit, change to someone else. They’ll be no hard feelings because I’ve had that happen.
Parent your child with autism like you would a child without autism. They’ll develop better that way. You’re going to wonder if they’ll work, drive, find love, and live on their own. I’ve done all that so it is possible. However, there are some individuals with autism who may be able to only do one or two of those things and not the others. Not everyone with autism is the same. Autism is a beautiful thing! Don’t look at it as a negative!
- Louis Scarantino
Read more from Louis here: 10 Tips for Dating on the Spectrum
You can find products for awareness and more blogs featuring professionals, parents, Autistic adults, and many others in the Autism community at Autism Optimism Boutique & Blog.