Taking A Trip Outside Your Comfort Zone: A Teen Girl with Autism on Learning Independence
By Eryn Segal
This summer was probably when I learned to be more independent. At first I was hesitant to be away for 3 weeks because I didn’t want to go somewhere new and experience new things. It was nerve-wracking to step out of my comfort zone especially being so far from home, and in a completely different state. I arrived in Colorado not knowing what to expect and not wanting to leave my parents. They sent me to Colorado to go on a college summer program to get me ready for college as well as teach me how to be on my own. I wasn’t used to anything, and soon realized that I wasn’t alone and that most of the kids had the same fears as me. As the days went by we all became more and more independent, but it took a while for us to get there.
When moving into my dorm and during orientation, I was shy at first but soon became friends with my roommate. We spent at least an hour talking to each other. We are both the same age and going into the same grade. I was excited to learn living skills and see how hard or easy living on my own was. The second day we took a tour of the campus just to get used to our surroundings. Getting lost easily was probably normal, but it made me nervous.
Being on my own meant taking care of my own money. The second night we went to a place called adventure golf which had mini golfing, go karts, a maze, and a ropes course amongst other activities. We only had enough money for three things. My roommate and I didn’t budget properly but our friends payed for us. Luckily for us we had classes that taught us how to budget and manage money.
The third day we started classes. The 4 classes we had to take were; College 101, College Writing, Health and Fitness, and our Introduction to Acting class. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday were the College based classes while Tuesday and Thursday were the more fun classes. The first day of all classes was introductions.
During most nights, they taught us how to use public transportation such as the bus and Light Rail. They got us used to the city area so that we could go off on our own. I was able to learn about paying attention to details and become aware of my surroundings. Which helped to complete all the tasks necessary to go out with my group of friends. At first it was scary walking around without an adult, but we got used to it.
In my life, I’ve lived, I’ve loved, I’ve lost, I’ve missed, I’ve hurt, I’ve trusted, I’ve made mistakes, but most of all, I’ve learned. – Author Unknown
Over the weekends we would go on fun trips. The first weekend we went to Breckenridge and got to stay in a log cabin. We also went on hikes, kayaked, and rock climbed. It was so beautiful and the weather was amazing. I also bonded with so many amazing people on that trip.
That trip made me a lot more comfortable making friends and going off into the city with them. It started to feel like I was finally on the right track to becoming independent.
During the rest of the time we got into our classes. In our introduction to acting class we really had to step out of our comfort zone. Like I have said in other posts, you have to get uncomfortable to get comfortable. We learned that we need focus and connection to make the improv games run smoothly. In the end of the program we stood up in front of everyone and we sang and played improv games.
For our College Writing class, we had to write essays in the format of college essays. That helped us understand how to get more comfortable with computers and how to write essays for college. College 101 was more about the transition from high school to college and teaching us skills on how to make going off to college a little easier. We also learned about the many differences between high school and college.
The rest of the time was spent doing scheduling, planning, organizing, and cleaning. They taught us how to make a schedule and how to plan events daily. They also taught us how to clean our rooms, and how to use leftover food and turn them into meals for dinner.
I honestly thought I was going to hate this whole experience but ended up having an amazing time. I learned most of the skills needed to live on my own, and when returning home and getting back into life with my parents around, they were surprised to see some of the new skills I learned. I still have a lot left to learn and a lot ahead of me, not only for college but for my whole life.
Eryn Segal is a high school junior, almost senior, with a different brain. She was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome a year ago. She is very interested in football and the Miami Dolphins.