Any parent, or someone who knows a child with autism, understands that they are gifted, but sometimes there are challenges. Enfield Board of Education member, Sarah Hernandez, is sharing her own story to inspire special needs students.
Hernandez said she’s many things. She’s a mother, an occupational therapist and she’s on the autism spectrum.
“I think a lot of people assume that people who are autistic don’t want to have connections and want to have friendships,” Hernandez said. “Those things are difficult for us sometimes because we can misread social cues, but we want to make connections and we want to have friends, and we’re awesome friends to have.”
Hernandez spoke to students at High Road Academy in Wallingford as part of Autism Awareness Month.
“I think there a lot of negative stigma that comes with the diagnosis,” she said. “I want to expand the definition of what autism is, and show that our strengths really play into a lot of our successes.”
The students told NBC Connecticut they can relate when Hernandez tells them how she copes with stress.
“It made me very proud and want to achieve something higher,” said student Tyler Wahl.
School leaders said she’s an inspiration.
“When you see a positive role model, those doors can open to anything,” said Sue Gilleaudeau, High Road’s Education Director.
“It gives me hope, and my daughter hope that there is something out there for her,” said Wallingford parent, Kimberly Vincent. “She has always felt isolated. Now she’s realizing that they are people like her, that accept her.”