Autism Awareness Month is a chance to highlight the one in 59 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. Students like John B., who suffered a severe illness as a toddler that left him silent and diagnosed with non-verbal autism.

John’s kindergarten teacher introduced him to facilitated communication, so he could express himself using a talking iPad. But as a teen, John found that traditional public high schools were not able or willing to accommodate his needs for success. He and his mom discovered our school, and this is where John found his voice. For the first time, he was able to tell his mom how much he loves her.

John found that we were willing to do anything for him to be successful and earn a high school diploma.

“Much to my surprise, my new school became my new home. Instead of shoving me into a box, it built one that fit me. I think this is how school should be. Fitting themselves to students instead of the other way around,” he said.

Through facilitated communication, John could share how he felt about himself, school and the world. His goal became not only to graduate, but to tell his story and inspire others. During the pandemic he wrote a poem that correlated the frustrations that people were feeling by not being able to go anywhere, to how he feels all the time.

“To think that you’re all getting a little taste of my world…Staying at home to be safe…But wanting to go out…Not able to do a lot of things you want to do. It’s a lot like my world.” Read John’s full poem below.

“Being different doesn’t mean being incapable. It just means that society needs to find the best way to allow skills like mine to flourish. Thankfully, here I found a place where my true personality is not just recognized but also celebrated.”

John enjoys horseback riding and Pilates, which help him with motor skills to improve his ability to be independent in typing. He’s now enrolled at the College of the Sequoias, taking online classes in psychology and art history. In his free time, you will find him painting with local artists. Watch John B.’s video.

To think that you’re all getting a little taste of my world

Staying at home to be safe,

But wanting to go out

Not able to do a lot of things you want to do

It’s a lot like my world

I want to be a part,

Do what everyone wants to do

I just always feel safe when I am inside 

The noises 

The smells 

They are ten times stronger for me

Every time I choose to get out 

All my senses get bombed with information 

That I can’t screen 

I have to take it all in

I don’t get to choose 

You don’t know how exhausting it is

I can’t shut down.

I always want to go to a place 

Where I can be like everyone else 

But I just can’t 

So now when you all

Have to stay home

Think about all the choices 

You still have

And be thankful for what you get.

I wish all of us 

To come out of this

More care more aware 

Love, John Bukshtine.

Written By:
Ann Abajian