We All Work Together: How School Communities Impact Autistic Students

I am Emma, a proud mother. My son Joshua is a 13-year-old with autism.

My son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3 and a half years old. His teacher at the time referred him for an evaluation. I still remember the words of the psychologist who said, “your son is very intelligent, but he is autistic.” Hearing that felt like someone had poured a bucket of ice water on my head. I didn’t know how to respond, I had so many questions. But with all the thoughts racing through my mind, I felt unsure what those questions even were.

From there, a journey with many obstacles began. The first major hurdle was dealing with the (surprising) resistance from the school district my son attended. It was a nightmare for my son and family. We found ourselves clueless on how to maneuver pushback from a system that I thought had our best interests at heart. Not having a remote idea ​how to access resources and ​services that would help my son was beyond frustrating. But I did not give up. I knew my son had rights and I searched and searched until I got the appropriate guidance. There were so many times I was angry at the lack of professionalism and competence some of the teachers and their aids had. To put it in layman’s terms, the entire educational system made our journey extremely difficult. 

To make matters worse, my son often received physical, mental, and verbal abuse while at school. All this led to my son demonstrating increased aggressive behavior. The problem was, he didn’t know how to communicate everything that was happening at school. Instead of the school staff working with me to serve his best interest, I, unfortunately, dealt with educators who lacked love and passion for their profession. In addition, I became aware of the lack of empathy, cruelty, and misconceptions our society can demonstrate publicly. Reality sank in fast. Like quicksand. 

Things began to change, as did my perspective, when I began to educate myself about autism, resources, and the human rights my son deserved as I sought appropriate services for him. When my son started middle school, there was finally a favorable shift. There I found caring professionals who wanted my son to heal and have a quality education. There’s been ongoing teamwork and excellent communication from the school staff. We all work together, and will not give up on Joshua.

Joshua’s communication has improved significantly; he is much more verbal than he was as a young child. Like any other kid growing up, he’s also more mature now. He enjoys bowling, baseball, drawing, and playing video games. I am a proud mother of the young man Joshua is becoming. He is truly my hero!

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Emma Tecpa

Emma Tecpa

Emma Tecpa, is from San José California. She has a son named Joshua who is autistic, however, that doesn’t stop him from being a happy teenager. He brings Emma the biggest smiles, even through the many hurdles they’ve encountered together. Their journey has taught Emma so much about herself and about Joshua. They are both warriors, and she is incredibly proud of her son's ability to keep moving forward. Emma adores her son’s personality; he has a pleasant sense of humor and brings joy to her life. Emma intends to continue advocating for Joshua’s human rights.

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