In honor of April’s National Autism Awareness Month, Children’s Village hosted a panel presentation called, “‘Views from Our Shoes”, an intimate look into the minds and hearts of three local teens who experience autism.
Speaking to a packed room of families, medical providers, school counselors and community members, Jake Lynch, a freshman at Eisenhower High School, Luis Herrera, a sophomore at Eisenhower High School and Sierra Hansen, a junior at Naches High School, took turns talking about their life including personal interests, memories from their childhood and some of the therapies or interventions they received.
“I don’t know the difference of not having autism,” Jake Lynch said during his presentation. “I’ve done lots of different types of therapy, which have been very helpful and I’ve learned a lot from.”
Lynch, who lettered in cross country during his freshman year, credits sports, his chocolate Labrador retriever and his family with helping him learn how to work with some of the challenges he faces with autism. “It felt like my mind was on its own path,” Lynch said.
Luis Herrera, a member of the varsity wrestling team, was named the team’s most-dedicated player last year. Not diagnosed with autism until he was 14 years old, Herrera was thankful for the diagnosis because he said it helped him to better understand himself. “I was a mystery to most people,” Herrera said. “But I’ve learned how to express and control myself and use my talent and gifts in positive ways.”
Sierra Hansen remembers her parents posting pictures of items and things she liked all around the house to help her communicate as a young child. Non-verbal until she was 5 years old, Sierra is now a staff writer for the Yakima Herald-Republic’s student section Unleashed. An avid singer and writer, words now play a vital role in Sierra’s life.
Hansen, an honor roll student, spoke vividly of some of the challenges she faced in childhood, speaking eloquently about the communication struggles and feelings of being constantly over-stimulated. She credits her parents, her staunch advocates, as the main reason she has overcome so many challenges. “Looking back, I realized I threw fits because I didn’t know what was going on around me,” Hansen said. “But I’ve learned that emotions are controllable.”
The “Views From Our Shoes” event was a unique way to help others understand the journey of living with autism spectrum disorder from a teen’s perspective, Child and Family Services supervisor Tracie Hoppis said. “Many participants have asked that we offer a similar presentation each year as it was so enjoyed!”