“My name is Sandy Uppal and I am a teacher on the spectrum. I was born with Asperger's syndrome. As a child I always enjoyed my own company especially if it involved a notepad, pencils and paints. When I was 8 I was told I had a gift, a gift of art. I could create landscape and portrait paintings without much thought. My art portfolio grew over the years. I enjoyed imaginary role play and writing stories, stories about the imaginary world I had created in my head. I would get fixated on these activities growing up. Seconds, minutes and hours would pass and I would forget to eat during the process. I had a sensory diet which involved everything smothered in sauce. No sauce would result into me starving myself.
As I entered my twenties, I often wondered why I was so different growing up. I grew up not understanding why I would stroke every piece of clothing which had fur, why shopping malls made me feel so anxious, how noises could send me off into complete meltdown… In everyone's eyes I was an ordinary girl, gifted with a talent of art, obsessed with heels, sparkles and organized her clothes in color and style. Working with children is when I started to understand a little bit more about my ‘quirky’ side. My obsessions, meltdowns, sensitivity to sound and textures…everything started to make sense. I was diagnosed as an adult.
My career path led me to becoming a teacher. Every time I meet a child with autism it fills my heart with joy. “There are more of us,” I tell myself and in that moment I am no longer alone. “You don't look autistic” that’s what they say but remember autism does not have a specific look, it is not a one size fits all. Parents who have children with autism just remember one step at a time and one day your child will grow their own wings and they will learn to fly."
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