Having autism can be hard. Sometimes it’s too much pressure. Other times it can inspire others. I have autism and it is no walk in the park at times. I am currently in a special needs young adult program in Long Beach, California called CIP. CIP stands for College Internship Program. Here at CIP students can either be academic or career focused. I am on the academic track meaning I attend college classes part time as well as attending CIP on a daily basis.
I have been in CIP for four years and CIP has really helped me grow as a person. I came to CIP fresh out of high school in 2015 scared and nervous for this big step in my life. Four years later, I can successfully say it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. CIP has helped me in many ways but my proudest accomplishment is when I lived alone across the street from CIP for about four months. I have an anxiety disorder and simple tasks such as sleeping in an apartment alone was a big challenge for me. After my roommate and I had lived across the street for three months we were given the option to move back to the new apartment. I did not want to pack up and move again and I wanted to challenge myself and try living alone.
My roommate disliked our living situation and moved back across the street. There was another pair of students living in my building that also decided to stay. I was glad I wasn’t all alone. Then the day my roommate moved out came and it finally hit me that I was alone. The first night I freaked out and thought I would need someone to sleep on my couch. I kept telling myself this is what I wanted and I made the decision to stay. I kept telling myself that everytime I would get anxious to motivate myself. Some other tricks that helped me through the four months was imagining this was an apartment I rented and it was my responsibility to keep it neat and clean. I disliked not having help to take out the trash but I found a way to use my granny cart to carry the trash bags downstairs to the dumpster. Another trick that helped me was to sleep with the light to the other bedroom on to trick my brain into thinking someone else was there at night.
I got over the first night. Then the second, third, fourth, and soon a week had passed. Then a month passed. I was doing what I thought was impossible. Then came the task of getting all my stuff out of the old apartment to move across the street. One day I was carrying a box downstairs and I fell. My left ankle was twisted and I was very upset. I couldn’t walk on it for the first three days and I had no roommate to help me so I rolled around my apartment in a desk chair if I had to go get something from another room. Soon I got a cane and it made things easier.
I had a neighbor at the apartment complex who had a fluffy, small white dog and he was very cute. I made friends with the lady who lived downstairs. She was very nice and it helped me feel safe at night to know I knew someone. Making friends with someone outside of CIP helped me to use the social skills and apply it to the real world.
CIP staff would also come by at night to check on me. My friends also came by nightly to hang out with me and keep me company. I had overcome one of the biggest obstacles in my life. It felt great to know that now I could sleep by myself in my apartment. When I switched apartments and was assigned a new roommate, I am able to spend the night alone when my roommate leaves
Living alone for four months helped me to gain confidence in my abilities and CIP helped me reach those goals. They helped me come up with strategies to use when I felt anxious. I also had the support of my family and friends. I still struggle with sleeping alone at my parents house but I know one day I will be able to overcome that fear. Without the support I do not think I could have accomplished living alone. When I moved in with my new roommate, she would go home a lot and I stayed by myself for a night or two. Then that next summer she left the program and for a month I was alone but I had my new skills to help me. I now have another roommate and I like that much better than living alone.
My name is Emily. I am 22 years old and I am formally diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, as well as a learning disability and anxiety. I attend Long Beach City College where I am majoring in Human Development with the goal of transferring to Cal State Long Beach and earning my bachelors degree. At LBCC I am involved in two clubs on campus, The Future Teachers Club where I am currently the Co-Vice President and Phi Theta Kappa, an elite honor society. I am also a student at CIP, College Internship Program located in Long Beach. My hobbies include reading, cooking, doing community service and working at a sleep-away camp in Ojai over the summer. I continue my personal mission to educate the world about autism and other disabilities.