My life with Autism
By Sean Cloarec
My name is Sean Cloarec and I live in Cranbrook, BC where I do many activities with my family and friends and have a busy, independent and sociable life. I’d like to share my story with you about my life with mild autism.
If you have a challenge like mild to moderate to severe autism, it is confusing when there are so many words to get used to understanding. It’s okay to have challenges or problems in our lives. We are all human, so be happy about what you can learn about today.
My Mom and Dad did not know that much about mild autism and there was not a lot of information about it during the 1980s. There was more information about severe Autism but it was difficult to get a diagnosis of moderate or mild Autism.
Everyone was learning from me about what mild autism was like for me. It took me more time to make sense of every little thing. Language can be sometimes difficult for every person to learn. I had two good parents, two good sisters, child care workers, speech pathologists, teachers and friends from the community of Cranbrook, BC to help me understand more about using language. I had a very good childhood and learned to understand more words and educate myself each day. As time went on, I learned about becoming a calm, soft spoken and joking person. I would try to listen, even though I did not understand some of the words. I would learn to ask questions.
My Mom and Dad and my sisters got me interested in activities with my family and friends from school like wrestling, board games, toys and books and as time went on I was understanding more about words and activities to talk about with them.
I attended grades 3 to 7 at Steeples Elementary School. My earlier grades were attended at other schools in Cranbrook. My child care workers could help me during school hours, but after school I was sometimes on my own. I had animals to spend time with, such as my pet dogs Penny or Mandy. I learned to become more sociable with animals, families and friends while growing up.
I did karate for a few years to receive a red belt and I played sports with students at Steeples. I enjoyed these activities. My grades were very good during my years in elementary school. During Grade 7, my parents and I travelled to Vancouver to go to Sunny Hills so I could receive a diagnosis of Autism.
I attended Junior High School at Laurie School. I enjoyed trying out sports in my gym classes, but did not make it on to any teams. I did some wrestling in grades 8 and 9 and enjoyed learning this sport. By the time I turned 16, my grandpa took me out to learn about driving, it was tricky to understand the words and learn how to drive with a language deficit.
I was going through grade 10 and doing work experience at a video store. I did like to hang out with my family and friends but I did not know about how to become independent on my own. There were a few sports club in Cranbrook but I was not sure that I would be ready to join any of them during that time. My grades were very good going into grade 11.
By this time, my life was becoming boring and I wanted to learn more about becoming independent. My support worker suggested I could see about the Special Olympics. I tried it out in Kimberly, BC at the bowling alley and I really enjoyed it. I decided to be part of the Special Olympics as a team player while doing my summer activities and then attending high school at Mount Baker Secondary School. My parents were volunteer coaches for a couple of years. Learning more about sports and social interaction with people became easier for me as the years went by. I earned some medals for sports like skiing or bowling. It was another way for me to learn more about becoming independent. While going to high school I earned a medal in the local Wasa Run near Wasa Lake and also ran in the East Kootenay 10 K.
I did grade 11 courses in a learning disabilities program and there was a support worker to answer any questions. Hanging out with my friends was going well, but whenever there were insults, I felt upset with myself. In grade 12, I decided to have a meeting with my mom and with the teachers about taking some grade 11 and 12 classes on my own to earn my high school diploma. I also did some activities with other students such as CounterAttack, Student government and school newspaper articles. My family and friends from school and Special Olympics helped educate me about learning to drive and how to socialize with people.
When I graduated from Mount Baker Secondary School, I received good grades but did not have enough classes to complete my diploma. So I decided to take Adult Basic Education classes at the college in Cranbrook. I was getting more busy with life too, so I decided to stop with the Special Olympics at that time so that I could have more time to work my classes and also relax. I also volunteered with the Student Union at the college. In 2001, I graduated and earned my high school diploma.
After this, I started to look for a job and started working with a forestry team during the summer and also did some work for the BC Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). I also earned my driver’s licence to drive to and from work or drive with friends. During this time I was upset about having mild autism. I did not want to have a challenge so I was learning how to overcome my depressive thoughts. I took some classes at the College of the Rockies and sometimes had tutors. I decided to feel happy about the new things I was learning each day. This helped me to become a more sociable person and feel okay to have autism. I was still working hard on my grades and was learning that autism can cause depression for people.
I did find some other jobs in Cranbrook after I was done with my college classes. While doing my jobs, I also had my own lawn mowing business for a few years. I did sports with my family and friends such as skiing or golf in the community and I played with a badminton club at the College of the Rockies. I felt that I was ready to be part of any sports club during this time of my life. I also played on a hockey club in Marysville, BC and a rugby club at the college, but I learned that those sports were not for me. I prefer to watch them on TV or live with family and friends.
I did some other classes at the College of the Rockies and attended the Changeways program at the hospital. By this time I felt fine to talk about anything with other people, whether it was about autism, Special Olympics or anything else I’d learned. I was learning to accept having mild autism and move forward with my life and be happy about it. My social life was becoming much better as well with more friends and family to talk with. I also enjoyed talking to international students from many countries around the world. I did an online program at Thompson Rivers University while living on my own called the Animal Welfare Certificate Program.
I live in a basement suite apartment of my parent’s house. I now do volunteer work at a Food Bank and with the SPCA. I also have a paying job doing custodial work at the newspaper building. I go to the gym and use the exercise machines. I do some activities with the Realm program where I learn to be more sociable. I go and watch hockey games with family and friends such as the local Kootenay Ice hockey team. There are now more options for sports clubs and that’s great. It’s nice to see people on a club and learn new things.
Autism can still affect me and I go back into my own little world for a short amount of time, then I bring myself back to the real world by trying to be as sociable as I can with people.
I have a few tips to understand more about being sociable with people. Ask a friend or family member about how their day is going. One of the ways is to say, “Hi, how is it going?” Wait for the response, then try to talk about something you have in common.
I am happy to lead an independent life and learn more things each day now and in the future. I like to educate more people about anything they would like to learn about. It makes me feel good helping other people. I would like to dedicate this article to my Mom and Dad who have taught me a lot about autism and helped me learn and become a friendly, sociable person.