I returned to California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) this April and spoke on, “Autism, Advocacy, and Neurodiversity: Successful Strategies to Navigate Higher Education.” I hold a Bachelor’s in Human Services from CSUF, class of 2012. I never thought I would return as a guest speaker to discuss my journey along the autism spectrum and in turn, help others. I shared my narrative; for it is through story that each of us can connect. I looked out upon the audience, breathing in, one deep breath and I was ready. I shared my experiences of dropping out of community college due to my struggles in Algebra. Returning to school 12 years later, I learned I had a Learning Disability (LD) in Perceptual Organization. Even with this newfound knowledge, I felt like something was missing. There were empty blanks in the self-called I. During my talk, I spoke of experiencing shame, difference, and marginalization, all centered on my LD. I also discussed how I transitioned and healed through my poetry, and shared this poem with the students and faculty.
For once there is no documented evidence
No test scores
No scatter plots or bar graphs
To measure me against another
No standard deviation away from the mean to compute
My choice to define
My choice to explain
Just what it means to be me
I claim my own self now
I shared about my “question moment” when my master’s chair asked me a question that changed my life. She said, “Lisa, do you believe you are a woman with Asperger’s?” I quietly answered, “maybe.”
My narrative continued as I spoke of filling in the missing pieces and empty blanks. I discussed the power of labeling and accepting my place along the wide spectrum called autism. In addition, I shared my thoughts on neurodiversity and why it is important for individuals along the spectrum to define what it means to be neurodiverse and the importance of self-advocacy in higher education.
I concluded my talk by addressing the pre-service teachers in the room, as well as others in education to share this important thought.
To Be Seen
For the individual not seen,
For the individual not heard,
Sits an empty chair.
To feel marginalized and misunderstood,
Blocks the process of learning acquisition.
We sit in your classrooms old and young
Waiting for our voices and
Specific gifts to be noticed and accepted.
Learning is so much more
Than the presentation of knowledge and ideas.
Learning requires and demands a sought -after understanding
That to be different is not less than.
I firmly believe that by speaking we educate others and continue to bring awareness to the complex and wide spectrum called autism; “for in silence nothing can change.”
Special thanks to CSUF faculty Dr. Aja McKee for the invitation to speak, and to Dr. Erica Howell, the Co-Director and Leader of the Center for Autism, Education Core, for this opportunity to share my experiences.
Lisa Boskovich, M.S. Special Education from Chapman University. Lisa obtained her B.S. in Human Services from California State University, Fullerton. While at CSUF, Lisa spent a year and a half as a research assistant. She has spent the past 10 years speaking about her journey as a student working and dealing with a disability, and the past three years speaking about her journey with Autism. Lisa’s focus of research encompasses two areas, (1) the voices of father’s who have a child on the Autism Spectrum, (2) the phenomenological experience of Learning Disability and the impact of Disability on identity. Lisa has presented her research at several conferences over the past few years. Her most recent presentation includes presenting at the American Education Research Association (AERA) on disability disclosure in higher education. Her work centers on the social model of disability and its’ impact in today’s education system, as well as the intersectionality of disability in identity. Presently, Lisa is a 3rd year Ph.D. student in Disability Studies at Chapman University.