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A Letter of Recommendation from an Autistic friend

on May 13, 2011

I thought you might be interested in reading a letter of recommendation I wrote for Alex’s babysitter to help her earn a scholarship to her college of choice…it’s sort of a counterpart of the essay she wrote for him. The instructions were to have one letter written from a close friend, and one from an adult or teacher. We chose to write it from a friend’s point of view. That friend was my son, 4-year-old Alex 😉


April 4, 2011

Letter of recommendation from a friend of Ileanna


To Whom it may Concern:

My name is Alex. I am 4 years old, and I have Autism. Because of my special needs, I have a hard time making friends. Ileanna (“Illy”) is my best friend, and my Mommy is helping me write this letter to you so you can understand how she has made a huge difference in my life.

First, I want to tell you a story about how we met. My parents and I go to a wonderful church that, unfortunately, does not have any programs in place for special needs children. Because I do not do very well in groups of other kids when I get overwhelmed or antsy, I had a lot of trouble adjusting to my classes as both a toddler and a preschooler. This made it very hard for my parents to attend their beloved church without having to take me out of class, which crushed their spirits for a while, and even made my Daddy have to stay home on Sundays for a long time.

Illy is the niece of a very special family at our church, and they asked her to come and be Alex’s special “helper” while I was at church, so I could try going to class, but have assistance playing elsewhere if I needed to get out of the classroom for a while.

The first time I met Illy, I was on the playground at church, playing on the swings by myself. My Mommy spent a lot of time telling Illy things about me that I don’t really understand, but soon she was pushing me on the swings, and chasing me around the church while I giggled and ran as fast as I could. (Mommy says Illy is a great soccer player, so that’s why she can keep up with me.) At the time, I put a lot of energy into physical activity and repetitive behaviors that I know must have been little challenging for Illy to grasp. Mommy was afraid that, like other people who had tried to help, Illy wouldn’t come back.

But she came back. She came back every Sunday, and she even plays with me some days that Mommy and Daddy need help during the week. For a long time, I think my behavior was hard on her; but she came back and played with me, talked to me, and grew with me as I gradually learned her name and how to ask for what I wanted. She committed herself to learning how to communicate with me using my “PECS” (Picture Exchange Communication System – teaching through pictures), and plans on helping Mommy teach others at preschool church to do the same. She even taught me how to kick a soccer ball, and she was the first girl I gave kisses!

Now I get so excited when she comes to play with me; I ask for her sometimes, and I give her hugs when she has to go home (which used to be hard for me). Because of Illy, I can go to the preschool at church and play alongside other children, and even sit in a circle sometimes, as long as she is with me. Because of Illy, I have a friend who understands me, loves me, and teaches me things my parents sometimes can’t.

Because of Illy, my Mommy and Daddy can go spend some time together sometimes, which they need a lot. And most of all, because of Illy, I feel loved and supported by another person in my life, which is hard for kids like me. Illy may be a lot older than me, but the difference she has made in my life is undeniable. She makes me smile, laugh, and calms me down when I need help.

My Mommy would tell you that Autism is a widely misunderstood condition that is becoming increasingly more prevalent, and Ileanna took the time to meet the challenge, learn about it, and make a difference in the life of a young child who may have otherwise gone overlooked. Mommy says Illy has gone above and beyond to love me, work with me, and advocate for me & my needs. That is why I think she deserves this scholarship.

Thank you for listening,

Alexander Zelinka, 4 years old (through the hands & eyes of his Mother)

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