Raising her voice


Pataskala teen shares research on diversity in the classroom.

Even though the school year has ended, Summer, a soon-to-be freshman from Pataskala, has education on her mind.

For the past few months, she’s been reading books about autism and at the end of the school year, presented a project to her class focused on neurodiversity in education.

“No one learns the same, and that’s not a bad thing,” she said.

That philosophy has inspired her to not only do research, but raise her voice and share her experiences.

Diagnosed with autism when she was 10, Summer has found that she learns best when she’s given one task at a time. And she needs to take time alone when she is feeling overwhelmed.

Her goal is for the people around her to take the time to get to know her — and her skills and struggles — to see them as a difference, not a disorder.

When she was asked to complete a class project on a topic she was interested in, her experiences inspired her to focus on education.  She relied on a significant number of resources and sources to express her point.

She said she’s hoping that any student, teacher, administrator or school board member who hears it will remember that each person with autism is unique. Other students with autism might present very differently and experience different struggles than the ones she’s experienced  But no one should be left out because of the way they learn, she said.

“People should be more compassionate toward others and not so judgemental, based on differences,” she said.

Here’s Summer, sharing her research from her home in Pataskala:

The presentation completed the end of a successful school year for Summer. She received seven different awards, including one for classroom leadership.

She also performed in her school’s musical, “Fiddler on the Roof Junior” as Golde. Her hope is to get involved with other local theater productions.

Summer and her family are working with her service coordinator and employment support specialist from the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities to plan for the future. She’s looking into participating in volunteer opportunities or some day camps.

Next summer, she’s hoping to participate in some summer work experiences through Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, which will help prepare her to get a job. She would like to get a job in retail, or at a book store, to start saving money.

A lover of reading, writing and drawing, she is ultimately hoping to attend college and pursue a career in graphic design, photography or creative writing.

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