My name is Niko Boskovic, and I am so very pleased to be able to share my thoughts and experiences living as an autistic teen.
First, about me: I live in North Portland with my parents and sister, and am about to start my senior year in high school. I work part time at the Hollywood Trader Joe’s where I stock and face products. I’ve wanted to work there since I was fourteen. It’s incredible to earn money on my own!
I’ve been autistic all my life. My earliest memory of being different was when I started kindergarten. The teacher was not welcoming or at all accommodating of my needs. She acted like I was the biggest pain in the history of her teaching experience. I didn’t know how to handle her hostility, so I would stim to comfort myself.That seemed to make matters worse – she would get so frustrated that she would ignore me and tell my aide to deal with me. She was awful to my mom too. She would talk about her to others in front of me as if I couldn’t understand. I really hated her and how she made me feel.
That feeling of being different followed me to a different school where I was still the weird kid who couldn’t talk and jumped in place a lot. I didn’t last long, and my mom pulled me out in the hopes of making a program for me at home. I got to play with a ton of people who were really fun and wanted to help me learn new skills. I didn’t mind it at first, but eventually I wanted to be around other kids and make choices for myself. Long story short, my mom heard about a letterboard training, and signed me up. The rest, as they say, is history – I got really good at letterboarding, and got into a local high school freshman year. It was small, and there was no separate special ed classroom, so I was included right from the beginning. I made some friends and learned more than I could have ever imagined. I’ve been so lucky!
Having a disability has given me a unique perspective on life. It’s made me more patient, aiding me in seeing how the world supports and prevents people like me from taking part in it fully. It has given me a viewpoint on social justice issues, and helped me see how oppressed groups fare in comparison to those who hold decision-making power. Being disabled feels natural to me, as natural as breathing or sleeping does to us all. Life would be so boring if I didn’t have autism!You might not believe me, but it’s true. If there’s one message you should always promote to your autistic child, it is that they should celebrate the strengths their autistic brain brings and find ways to support where they have challenges.
I’m still different, but now I’m proud of being autistic and sharing my story with others. I hope to be able to help parents understand their autistic children and support other autistics in preserving our rights. More to come, and I look forward to your comments!