Hello, my name is Ethan and I am a senior in high school. I think that a lot of people my age take normalcy for granted, making it hard for them to comprehend the differences that I exhibit in my day-to-day life. To me, being on the autism spectrum means that I have different perspectives than others. I often see this manifest in how I present myself to others.
Many of my peers are overly obsessed with how others view them and change their personalities to fit the societal norms imposed upon them. For me, this was the case when I started high school. The realization that I was different from others around me was indeed quite a startling reality. The ensuing identity crisis led me down a dark path that I would not wish for anyone to stumble down. After much help from my parents and my therapist, I began to embrace my differences and lost the self-consciousness that had weighed me down for almost two years. As cliché as it sounds, I believe that being who one’s true self is the most liberating feeling that one can feel in their entire lifetime. I hope that through this campaign, others might be aware of people like me and come to embrace their identities, whether or not people around them choose to accept them.
Ethan's mom writes:
We knew from a very young age that Ethan was an extraordinary child. He was able to recognize and write the alphabet before the age of 2 and was reading at the age of 3. His vocabulary was quite extensive. He was very particular about certain things, such as needing to put together his puzzles from top to bottom and left to right only. He had a lot of issues with smells and textures, especially relating to foods. He would become extremely preoccupied when learning a new topic, whether it be dinosaurs, anatomy, art, music, engineering or zoology, and would immerse himself in learning about only that topic for long periods of time before completely dropping it and moving on to the next area of interest. Ethan was first evaluated by neuropsychology at age 6, as we had noticed a pattern of inattentiveness and disruptiveness in the classroom as well as at home throughout preschool and kindergarten. We were not sure if this was because he was bored with the curriculum or if we were dealing with something more. He was diagnosed with very superior intelligence, ADHD and anxiety. We chose to treat his ADHD with medication which helped him over the years with attention and behavior in the classroom setting. We were also advised to challenge him as much as possible with additional educational resources and extracurricular activities. This worked well for quite a few years. However, when Ethan started high school, he noticed that he wasn’t like the other students in his school. He became hyper focused on his behavior and mannerisms and trying to act like a “normal teenager”. During this time, he experienced a period of significant depression and anxiety. We chose to see a therapist to work through these issues. She was the first to mention the possibility of autism and Ethan was in favor of evaluating this possibility further. We decided to repeat neuropsychological testing and, in the fall of 2021 and at the age of 17, Ethan was diagnosed with autism. Ethan’s therapist helped him to work through some of the social issues he was experiencing, while also assuring him that although he saw or felt things differently than his peers, that this did not mean that what he was feeling or how he was acting were wrong. I think the official diagnosis was helpful to Ethan to put a name to how he felt. We are so proud of Ethan for recognizing that he was feeling uncomfortable and for asking for help. His intelligence and love of learning continues to impress us on a daily basis. Ethan is a very active young man. He participated in marching band for four years and he was named drum major for the 2021 season. He is also a member of the show choir backup band, jazz band and National Honor Society. His Knowledge Bowl team had a very successful year and they were able to qualify for the regional meet. He has worked at a local haunted house as a scare actor and at a local aquatic center as a lifeguard. In his free time, he enjoys playing video games with friends, hiking, mountain biking and exploring. Ethan has been named a National Merit Scholar Finalist, which is an honor given to the top 1% of graduating high school seniors. Ethan will be graduating from Hastings High School in June and he will be attending University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been accepted into their honors program and will be double majoring in zoology and conservation biology with the goal of working in the conservation and preservation of endangered species.