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Heath speaks out for autism awareness

WED. |4-17-24| FEATURES

     Most months have different causes for which they spread awareness. For freshman Ciera      Heath, the month of April holds a special place in her heart since it is autism awareness month.

     “I, myself, have autism,” Heath said. “I want to help those who are more like me.”

     Her story began at a very young age when her parents noticed a few abnormalities.

     “I was speaking really well… and it’s unusual for someone to make full words at three years old,” Heath said. “So, my parents brought me to the doctors.”

     Heath has made it her mission to impact people and raise awareness for those on the spectrum, using her personal experiences throughout the process of her diagnosis. Growing up, she faced many unique challenges and difficulties.

     You have to start small…they [will not] listen to you if you start huge,” Heath said. “I want to bring awareness [on the downsides] of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy.”


Contributed Photo

“     ABA is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. Heath has been through the therapy and experienced some of its negative effects. 

     “[It’s] been found to bring PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome) to children [with] autism,” Heath said. “It’s like therapy, but they try to fix you, not help you.”

     Through her experience with ABA, she was taught to hide who she was. 

     “Most of [the doctors] would teach you how to mask it…that’s basically masking your emotions,” Heath said. 

     This led her to feel different about herself and disguise who she was. Until she chose to embrace it. 

     “I used to not like my autism, but I think I’ve grown to like it and be proud of it because it makes me who I am,” Heath said. “Autism affects my personality in a way where if it was gone, I wouldn’t be me.”

     Even though she has grown to embrace her autism, it did not change the social hardships she faced with society. 

     “Oftentimes with [autism], it’s been a mixed bag because you get these people that stereotype you and put stigmas around autism that aren’t true,” Heath said. “We are not all geniuses, and we are not all dumb.” 

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