Kids & Family

A community of advocates linked by autism and bound by strength.

April 15, 2019

Living with Autism: Ability Beyond Disabilities

EPISODE 13:

One of the most important missions of My Autism Tribe is to celebrate and empower the amazing individuals that are on the autism spectrum. There are so many! One of these amazingly gifted individuals is Rachel Barcellona. She is Miss Florida 2018 National American Miss (NAM) and was Miss Florida International 2016. Her platform “Ability Beyond Disabilities” inspires those that have challenges to strive for their dreams as well as to educate those who might not understand the challenges she, and others on the spectrum, face.

 

FROM RACHEL:

I am an advocate for those with disabilities. I created my platform, The Ability beyond Disabilities, to inspire those that have challenges to strive for their dreams as well as to educate those who might not understand the challenges we face.

As an individual with autism, I often felt like I could not do anything. People with disabilities or anyone who is different are often targets for bullies as I was, but because of my life and social experience, I have overcome many challenges.

Today I am the International Spokesperson for the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University of Florida (CARD-USF), and was recently elected to their executive board of directors.

I was also named the Ambassador for the Unicorn Children’s Foundation and work closely with this international organization to help people with neurodiversity.

I am a member of the International Thespian Honor Society, an honor student and vocalist and love to sing opera. I have been able to single at Madison Square Gardens twice.

I have a passion for art and writing and am currently finishing my first book and will work to get it published when its finished.

I also work with several organizations that provide services to individuals with disabilities including therapy such as occupational and physical along with music and art therapy and have made over 300 appearances with my international title.

My plan for the future is to graduate from the University of South Florida and one day open my own school for children with disabilities.

I also wanted to share some of the things that happened while I was growing up. I just turned 22 years old but starting in preschool and elementary school things were much different. I was diagnosed with Autism along with dyspraxia and later diagnosed with dyscalculia, and epilepsy.

I can remember not being able to put enough pressure on a crayon to make a mark on a paper! Buttons zippers and snaps were a nightmare! It was very difficult to hold objects and jump and skip. I went through several years of physical therapy, speech and language therapy and occupational therapy, which helped a lot. I still however cannot ride a bike, although, I haven’t tried a 3 wheeler, and I am not able to drive. I passed my learners permit for driving but because of epilepsy and seizures I cannot get my license… yet! Hopefully one day but if not there are several ways to learn to get around. I joke with my parents that I am waiting for the Google car that drives itself!

Dyscalculia became an issue as math became harder. I am not going to lie it was exhausting getting through higher level math and took all the help I could get from teachers tutors etc. I am so happy to tell you I have finished my college math courses and will definitely not become an engineer. I am pursuing a career in writing English and vocal studies and love to sing opera. 

 

CONCLUSION:

Education is so important, and what better way to be educated than through the voices of individuals like Rachel. It’s so powerful to hear their strength and their passion. Thanks to everyone in My Autism Tribe, today and always.

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