Meet Sarah from Manitoba
I think being autistic has helped me be very artistic. I have all these ideas in my mind, and I love making them come alive when I do my art.
Sarah is a talented young artist, author, and passionate about helping others. Diagnosed with autism at the age of 9, her earlier childhood years involved some frustration as she felt a little bit different from her peers. After her diagnosis, Sarah discovered her strengths in art and problem-solving, and found comfort in understanding that we are all different, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Today, Sarah is a published author of her own book which details her life as an autistic, which she wrote with the help of her Mom. She created a successful new website which provides a platform for other autistic artists to showcase their work and an opportunity to earn income through product sales.
We are grateful for Sarah’s brave voice for autism, her kind heart, and her beautiful desire to help others. Learn more about Sarah’s autism journey through this Q&A below.
At what age were you diagnosed with autism?
I was formally diagnosed with Autism when I was 9 years old, but my mother told me she knew by the time I was 3.
When did you realize what it meant to be on the spectrum?
When my mom finally talked to me about ASD. Before that, I thought autism was a severe disability because there was a student in my school who was autistic and could not walk or talk without assistance. I thought that was what it meant to be autistic.
How has your autism affected your life?
Being autistic has been challenging but it was worse before I knew I was autistic. I always felt/feel different from my peers and many times I feel like people do not understand me. I also struggle to understand certain things when I am in social settings. I do not let it get me down anymore because I try to focus on the good things in my life. I am blessed to have the unconditional love and support of friends and family who are patient with me and accept me as I am.
How does it make you unique?
My mom tells me that I have a really kind heart. I always try to make everyone feel cared for and welcomed and I am friendly to everyone I meet. I try my best not to judge anyone and if I see someone who doesn’t have a friend, I try my best to be their friend.
In what areas has autism helped you excel?
I think being autistic has helped me be very artistic. I have all these ideas in my mind, and I love making them come alive when I do my art. I also think it helps me with problem solving because I think of ways to do things and figure things out in ways that are different. My mom says that I think very out of the box and I am very good with puzzles.
What struggles have you faced because of your autism?
The biggest struggle is communicating. It is very hard to find the words to express myself especially when I am upset. I often find it frustrating especially because I do not know how to explain myself properly. Another big struggle I have faced is being misjudged by people who do not understand autism. It is hard when people expect me to behave a certain way when it is just not who I am.
How has your family supported you through your autism journey?
My family works very hard to be patient with me and allow me to be myself. My mom worked (and still works) with me a lot and does a lot of advocacy on my behalf. My mom works on teaching me the life skills I will need as an adult and the rest of my family are very loving and supportive, especially where my art is concerned.
What are some of your biggest personal accomplishments?
I recently wrote a book with the help of my mom that speaks of my lived experience as an autistic person. I also created a website called Sarah Bella Visions Inc. It will showcase the art of young autistic artists like myself and give them an opportunity to earn income as their art will be featured on products that are for sale.
Has your life been impacted by Coronavirus? What are your some of your goals and hope for the future?
Yes. Besides going to school, we do not go anywhere really, my brother has a pre-existing condition that makes the covid-19 virus very dangerous for him, and we are very strict with following protocols. I am lucky though because I have a community worker named Jayme, who still meets with me on Saturdays. She is very nice so I still get to go places where I can do outdoor activities. Another good thing that came out of it was I got to work a lot more on my art which has helped me quite a lot as art makes me happy.
What advice would you give to a young person, recently diagnosed with autism, wondering what the future holds for them?
Well, I will tell them what I have learnt: You are not a mistake. Autism does not mean there is something “wrong” with you. It just means you have a different way of interacting with the world around you. You may not do things the way everyone does but that’s okay because the world would be a boring place if we all looked, acted and communicated the same.
If you could go back in time and give the younger version of yourself a piece of advice, what would you say?
Well, I am still quite young but if I could go back to my younger self, I would tell myself there is nothing wrong with me and I would explain to myself why I felt so different. I would let my younger self know that being different is very okay.
What five words best describe you to the world?
Kind, Brave, Curious, Trustworthy, Carefree
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Disclaimer: These are subjective opinions and real experiences of autistic people across Canada. Autism Speaks Canada does not provide medical or legal advice or services. Rather, Autism Speaks Canada provides general information about autism as a service to the community. The information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals. Autism Speaks Canada has not validated and is not responsible for any information, events, or services provided by third parties.