When I came to Colorado to live near the mountains and finish my education, I had one of the happiest unexpected turns in my life.
It's Autism Awareness Day, and you should be aware that Colorado has one of the premier organizations dedicated to serving people with autism and their families.
To pay the bills while I attended evening classes, I signed up as a substitute with the St. Vrain Valley School District. As luck would have it, my first gig put me in an Elementary autism classroom. The unexpected part was how much fun I had.
There hadn't been a lot of exposure to people with autism in my life yet, but I was immediately drawn to the students in that classroom. The original assignment was just to fill in for a week, but when the lead teacher saw how much I enjoyed being there, she asked me to fill the para position for the rest of the year, and I accepted.
In a way it's hard to talk about autism because, despite how many people you've met and gotten to know, you can never really encapsulate what it's like to have a relationship with one (or more) of these incredible people. But my life would never be the same.
Over the next year the district bounced me around a bit, then a good friend told me about The Joshua School, a special institution entirely focused on autism, and using evidence-based approaches to help kids, teens, and young adults achieve their highest quality of life.
I could fill a novel or two with stories from the experiences I had at TJS, the lessons I learned, the growth it inspired in me, and the joyful relationships I had the privilege to form with these amazing kiddos. But today TJS is in need of support in managing the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
You'll never find a team more dedicated to providing the absolute best in education and care to people with autism and developmental disabilities, and their families. If you are looking for a way to support and contribute to your Colorado community in a meaningful way during these tough times, I encourage you to support The Joshua School and help them continue in the amazing and crucial work they do.
Mike Ensley, LPCC, is a professional counselor serving Northern Colorado.