High school can go one way or another for people living with disabilities: they end up doing really well that they achieve success in their regular high school, or switch to somewhere different or private. As for me, my high school years did not start out great at first, but than it completely turned around for me in amazing ways!
Before I mention about my high school years, let me tell you though about what made me end up in the high school that I attended. I was in my last year of middle school when I had to make my first, big decision. I had a choice for choosing what high school to attend, since I was able to get into one of them through a sibling-cause waiver. This meant that if you have an sibling in a high school that are are attending, you could attend the same school as them. I had to choose between my home-zoned high school, Marlboro High School, and the high school my older sister was attending, Colts Neck High School. I decided I wanted to be with my sister. I knew how much she helped me through everything, so I knew her help would make it easier for me into high school. On the other hand, my freshman year in Colts Neck High School was not as easy as I thought, even with my sister’s help.
I attended my high school’s freshman day orientation, which was the day before the rest of the grade levels came in. This was technically my first day of high school. My bus never showed up to my bus stop, so my grandpa on my mom’s side had to drive me to school, so I would make it on time. I knew to meet in the auditorium first, which I was able to find my best friends, Justina and Shelby. I was glad to know they were attending Colts Neck with me, despite I gave up being with most of my group of best friends. After the meeting in the auditorium, I followed my schedule that I would follow for the school year. My first class period was Math. This was my first class of the day and was my homeroom classroom too. By the way, I was mainstream at this point, which meant I was in general education classrooms, receiving in-class support from the special education teacher (teacher assistant of the class). I did not do so terrible with finding my classrooms. Although, I faced the same challenge as I did in my middle school years: combination-lock locker!
I was struggling once again with using a locker with a combination lock. Teachers noticed as passing through the hallway I struggled and was crying my eyes out because I couldn’t get the combination lock to open my locker. Unlike in my middle school years, I did not give up though using a combination-lock with my locker. My older sister helped me sometimes after school to practice opening my locker with the combination lock. Within a couple of months, I was becoming a pro with the combination lock! Not once in high school that I use a key for my locker anymore.
Not only that, the first month of high school was brutal for me overall. I remember this one specific class because I would come home with meltdowns. In my first period/homeroom class, my Math class, I was taking quizzes and a test within my first month of high school. Everytime I approached the teacher and the special education teacher (in-class support teacher assistant) to question about having more time to work on my assessments, they denied me that I receive extra time to take any assessments. So because I couldn’t finish up any of my assessments, I was doing really bad in the class. My grade in that class was really bad that I wasn’t passing the class. My parents noticed how sad and frustrated I was coming back home as. What my parents and I decided to do was contact my high school. Within the second month of high school, I had a appointment with my guidance counselor, who referred than to the school’s Child Study Team psychologist/case manager. After my parents and I met with the school’s Child Study Team psychologist/case manager, it turned out that nothing of my Individualized Education Plan (IEP) were transferred from my middle school, at all. In my mind, I was like, “That is why no teacher was able to understand I needed more time on any assignments and assessments.” I really am thankful to had an amazing Child Study Team’s psychologist/case manager throughout all of my high school years.
After this case was solved, I had other bumps in the road my freshman year. For instance, I had classmates/friends who spread rumors about me that were not even true. I had times that a former classmate who I attended middle school with say threats to me. Unfortunately, they were in a few classes with me, so I was stuck with them hurting my feelings and everything. I use to come home upset about this. I told my parents about all of my situations that were happening to me my freshman year, in which made me question about staying in my high school. I didn’t give up though. Once again, I went to speak with my school’s psychologist/case manager, and they helped me out a lot! Freshman year had a lot of challenges, but the rest of my years turned around completely.
After my freshman year, the rest of my years in high school completely turned around for me. I grew with making my own friends and acquaintances. Gym and lunch were my favorite periods because of all my friends were in them with me and from various grade levels. I made friends in clubs I were involved in within the school community. You can see that through my pictures below. No matter what though, I made time to spend time with my group of best friends since middle school, despite us attending Colts Neck High School or Marlboro High School.
In my last couple years of high school, I peer mentored for students with disabilities in a after school program called “Cougar Connections”, which I was inspired by my older sister’s reason for doing so when she was in high school; My older sister was inspired to help students like me because of how much I make an impact on her. This motivated me to become not only as a peer mentor back then, but today now as an motivational/keynote speaker & paraprofessional. It was amazing being a peer mentor in the program back then because I was a mentor and a friend to students like me!
In my senior year of high school, these successful events occurred: I became an peer leader living with Autism in my high school’s peer leadership program, I was given an opportunity by a couple of my special education teachers to attend a student-disability leadership conference called “Dare to Dream”, in which I got to be a keynote speaker for and share my life living with Autism. This was the first time I ever shared my life through a speech, in-front of hundreds of people. I was featured on my high school’s website a couple of weeks later for this conference. Plus, I received a couple of awards from awards night. I was involved in various clubs/organizations: American Sign Language Club, Book Club, and National Honor Society. I even attended prom, which I had a blast! Through hardwork and perseverance, I graduated from Colts Neck High School in 2016 with principal honor rolls, and I was Student of the Month for the high school that June!
High school turned out to be my best time out of any of my education, well before college. Getting involved in the community in my ways is what helped me develop my leadership and self-advocacy skills even more than before. I highly recommend parents, educators, friends, and etc to help people with disabilities get involved in the community, and develop various skills and their self-awareness.