‘My father always pushed me to be productive and independent. He is just that type of person.’
“I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 4. My mom was working as a nurse at Brunswick Hospital, and my dad was about 20 years into the moving business, when my mom found out there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t acting the way normal babies do when they’re born.
“During that time, she had me go to early intervention at the Developmental Disabilities Institute in Greenlawn. I started speaking at age 4. There was a teacher there who was pretty much a godsend. Back then, I was doing echolalia and things like that.
“I ended up going to public school for almost 10 years. It was like a nightmare. Fifth grade was the worst. I was a ticking time bomb when it came to anger issues, and it just got so out of whack that the doctors told my parents there would be no way I would progress forward. Then, one day, it was like something just clicked. I wanted to be more mature, and I slowly started to come out of my cocoon.
I don’t like being labeled by my disability.
“In a year and a half, I finally matured to a point where I was able to function and learn, but there were still a lot of things I needed to catch up on.
“I was a big fan of ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ growing up. When I was about 15, my dad and I would travel to the railroad museum out east to watch the trains. We became volunteers in 2007, and as years went by, I joined a few organizations keeping up with the hobby of trains and railroad preservation.
“My father always pushed me to be productive and independent. He is just that type of person. So, I decided to just do it. I got my high school diploma in September 2017. I don’t like being labeled by my disability. You can’t actually see that I am autistic. Even though I am, it doesn’t mean that I am going to slow people down.
“The pandemic screwed up a lot of my plans. I just moved out of my mom’s house when the COVID outbreak started. Because of it, I didn’t know what I was going to do for work or how I was going to support myself.
“I started working for Amazon in April. It was tough at first. I went through the training and started to follow a couple of guys who really gave me inspiration. They said, ‘It’s easy once you get used to it,’ and that I should keep going. So I did, and I got better at it.”