Learner Spotlight: Ayden

Learner Spotlight Ayden S

My name is Ayden. I am a high school senior, and this is my second year at iLEAD. I was diagnosed with autism when I was 20 months old and have attended various schools ever since. I really didn’t learn in traditional schools because I usually became distracted from other things while I was in class. Attending independent study with autism was very difficult at the start of my first school year because I thought I was going to be stuck in my house doing boring classwork. Gradually, I started enjoying what I was able to accomplish in various subjects, and I have experienced new methods of learning and attending classes I never knew were an option. My favorite classes that I have taken are acting as well as cooking classes. Both classes have taught me life skills that I would not have learned at my former public school. Some of the life skills I obtained are the ability to embrace and understand my feelings, focusing on listening to my peers when they are speaking to me, and also identifying the emotions they are feeling too. Having autism has made things like this difficult for me to learn in the past. Attending cooking classes has given me the confidence to know that I am achieving a skill that will give me the ability to live independently as an adult.

Attending iLEAD has allowed me to have the flexibility to acquire both work and volunteer experience, and now I have a job at Special Needz Coffee. Interacting with new customers every day I work, making sure I make their coffee orders correctly, and figuring out how to work as a team with my co-workers has been a fun learning experience for me. Additionally, I get to volunteer at places for people in need of food or shelter. The people that I volunteer with are very kind to me, and I enjoy meeting new guests who come to the food bank. Some of the guests I have talked to have shared with me interesting stories about their lives, and I am thankful that the food bank has given me the opportunity to meet these wonderful people. It also changed the way I talk to others. Instead of saying “okay” and walking away, as I usually did in the past, I now try to communicate with others and really try to understand what they are conveying to me. Autism makes it easy to get stuck in my own world, and having all of these social experiences through iLEAD has opened my eyes to all of the possibilities to socialize with others.

There are endless possibilities for what my future holds now. When I was told I was going to do an independent study program, I did not think these experiences were possible. I also just began my first semester taking a college course, and I’m thankful I get to experience college online, at home, with my mom guiding me with the strategies she used while she attended college. I was extremely nervous about taking a college class before high school graduation, but after the first week, I think I can actually be an iLEAD and college student concurrently. I just completed two tests, and my current grade is an A, 100%. I was struggling to learn in traditional school, and I didn’t have much confidence as a student. iLEAD gave me a chance to see what I am capable of, and now I am excited for my future!



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