October is both National Disability Employment Awareness Month and Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) Awareness Month! Hear from Rachel, an ASCV Staff Member and Self-Advocate Council Co-Chair, on what this month means to her:
“The most important lesson that I have learned in recent years is that I get to live my life on my own terms. I used to try to force myself into situations that did not work for me, including with employment and speaking. For most of my life, I have only known how to ignore my needs as a means of survival. After realizing that this strategy was resulting in my feeling constantly unwell and burnt out, I decided to try doing what felt right to me for a change. I need movement to feel regulated. I need a diversity in tasks to feel engaged. I need to limit how much I talk. I also feel more balanced when I have ample down time to recharge and when I live with my support network. So I swapped my full-time, youth leadership development job out-of-state for several part-time jobs here at home that incorporate my interests and provide for my needs.
Now, I get paid to do what allows me to express my joy; this includes gardening, sharing my Native culture at festivals, providing transportation for other people with disabilities, and educating community members about autism acceptance and inclusion. When my body lets me know I need a break in speaking, I am much better now at respecting that. With increased AAC awareness, I have also realized that when speaking is not an option, I do not always need to self-isolate; I can express my needs to the folks around me and type to communicate if that benefits me.”