Finding My Voice: you can recover from autism

June 07, 2013


By Leya Aronoff

My name is Leya. I am 16 years old and will be a senior in high school next year. Today, I would like to share with you something special about myself.


When I was two and a half, I was diagnosed with autism. At the time, fourteen years ago, there weren’t many programs specifically for autistic children readily available. I attended a special education preschool, where I learned my first words. In 1st grade, when my classmates learned to read and write, I couldn’t. During that time, we found out that I also had dyslexia. Reading was so hard for me that after attempting to read two or three sentences, I would burst in tears. My parents tried to resolve the problem by taking me to an intensive reading course, which didn’t help very much. This problem lingered until the end of 2nd grade. My parents came across a therapy program, which is a series of exercises that stimulate the senses, and were tailored specifically for autism. This helped me more than anyone could imagine. After six months of the program, I started to catch up to my classmates, and learning how to read wasn’t physically painful anymore. I continued on the program for almost a year and a half. Slowly, other aspects of my life started changing as well. I started eating more diverse foods and being in loud places or new situations stopped being scary. My earliest memories are from when I started this program. In fact, I don’t remember anything before 2nd grade.
By age 13, I had overcome most of the symptoms of autism and dyslexia, but I hadn’t found my “voice.” Sure, I answered questions and talked to people. But I couldn’t talk to people about my feelings and opinions and realizations. I hadn’t figured out how to show or express these things in a way that would make people understand.

In 8th grade, my family went on a ski trip. At that time, I had been homeschooled. So, one of my assignments was to write a descriptive essay. Naturally, I looked out the window, saw the snow-covered mountains and skiers, and thought about writing about skiing on a mountain. After I finished writing, my mom (my teacher), took it and corrected little mistakes here and there. Then, she took another look through it and said, “You know, your essay has a rhythm. If you cut the lines shorter, it can be read as a poem.” And that is exactly what I did. Out came my first, wonderfully-written poem. Knowing how I struggled with reading and writing earlier in my life, I was stunned by the fact that I just wrote a poem in the first place. This is how it went:

Up the chair lift

Cold creeping up on you,

Numbing every part of your body.

Takes hours for it to wear off

So it seems

While hanging in the cold,

You seek the better skiers

Skiing beneath you

With grace and aggression blending

Feeling happiness and joy as they go

Finally, off we go

Feet on the ground again

Brings your power back

Looking for the place to go,

Not too easy, not too difficult

With powder, but not moguls

Groomed, yet not icy

With fresh snow, not slush

We choose, we go

Down, down through the snow

Trails show the way

Trees keep the boundaries

Smelling the fresh snow

While fresh cold air hits your face

Skis carving snow

Joy and happiness on the skis

Make you feel powerful

Make you feel unstoppable

Make you feel professional

All of a sudden,

One little hesitation,

One little ditch,

One little mistake,

And you take to the ground

Tumble after tumble

Seeing only whiteness of snow

The sound of your breath

The pounding of your heart

Then, it stops.

All the aching

The pain

Snow in your cloths

The cold

No skis on your feet

The panic

Power starts to fade

The weakness

Moments later

You find your skis,

Snap them back on,

Ski the rest of the way,

Down to the chair,

And you go through it

All over again.

Once I got home from that trip, I dashed straight for the computer and wrote poems all day. I had found my voice. Every time I finished a poem, I felt amazing, like I just got let out of my cage. My poetry unlocked a door that no one, not even myself, knew was there.

Now, writing poems does so much for me. It helps calm me down. It helps me figure out what is actually going on in my life. It helps me find myself in times when I feel lost.

Here is an example:

The World

Whenever the world feels like

There is no room for you,

You don’t belong,

Or nothing seems to work out,

That’s when you need

To stand out the most.

And show yourself to everyone

Let them know you are unique,

Special, one of a kind

Make them want to be with you,

Learn from you,

And even look up to you

Because you are special

You are your own person, and no one else

And you just have to know the person you are

And believe in the person you want to be.

Because you are the only person who can

Show the world who you are.

I have spent half my life without communication. Only three years ago did I find my “voice.” I believe everyone has a voice. If you haven’t found yours yet, it isn’t too late to start looking. Even if the barriers between you and your voice seem impossible to overcome, you have the power to find it in yourself.

Your “voice” can come out through anything, not just through spoken or written language. It can be expressed through dance, sports, visual arts, photography, film, music, or even through fashion. It can be shown in more wacky, non-conventional ways, like bouncing on a pogo-stick or making strange concoctions of food. It doesn’t matter how far-fetched or seemingly crazy your idea may seem, as long as you can express yourself while being safe and respectful, then that is all that matters.

Since I found my voice I made a resolution to share my story with the people who need it. To help others who are still searching. I started an inspirational blog on If you too need some happy thoughts and encouragement from time to time it’s a great place to get some inspiration. I also took my story to the stage at TEDxYouth in Hollywood. Please watch: You Only Live Once

Being autistic is not your final destination. It is just another milestone in the journey of being alive. It only means that your “voice” is hidden somewhere in the fog of your brain. But through hard work and believe in yourself your “voice” can break free.

Now, it’s your turn to believe in your inner “voice,” let the world hear it, and see where it takes you.

Leya 1997 10 01 x  Leya 2013 05 26

Editors Note:  I am so proud of Leya. She is such a strong positive force for families and individuals living with autism. She truly has shared her personal story and feelings  to help educate and empower families. I admire her success story and triumph over coming obstacles. She has such a promising future and I cannot wait to see what she does next!! ~ Lisa