Last month was Autism Awareness Month. To help mark the event, JJ’s List sat down to talk with No Boundaries participant, Alana K. We are grateful for her willingness to share her story, insight, and advice with our readers.
Tell me about yourself:
My name is Alana Keleher. I am a 24-year-old young woman who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder a couple of years ago. I live with my family in Glencoe.
Before the pandemic, I was attending Madison College, a community college in Madison, Wisconsin, where I worked on an associate’s degree in liberal arts. I lived at Mansfield Hall while I was there. It’s a college support program for people with learning disabilities.
For a couple of years, I have been attending No Boundaries, where I work on skills that will help me be more independent and employable, and Center for Independent Futures, where I do social events. This past year they both were on Zoom. I miss the social contact with family and friends and am looking forward to getting back to “normal” once the pandemic is over.
Tell me about your independence:
- Before the pandemic, I used to ride public transportation a lot. I was very good at it. I was usually able to find a proper route and I would know the correct timing for my ride.
- I am alright with cooking. I can follow a recipe.
- I have my own bank account, and, for the most part, I am pretty good at saving and using money.
- I am pretty good at shopping. I am usually able to tell what it is that I need and make my own decisions about what I want to buy.
- I keep my own schedule by making a list of all the things I need to do each day and follow it.
How does your disability impact you?
In the past, I have dealt with repeating words or phrases over and over again and had problems with my emotions, but working with a therapist has helped me. I can talk to the therapist about a wide range of topics.
What are your dreams/goals for the future?
I have some goals and dreams for my future. I would like to finish my degree, maybe get my driver’s license and possibly get a dog or two. I would also like to move out of the house and get an apartment with roommates, find a career that I am passionate about, and eventually have kids.
Do you have any work experience?
I have some work experience doing conservation-restoration, gardening, working with animals, and in retail. I am disciplined about health and fitness, am reliable and dependable, a hard worker, and am good with time management.
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy running, walking, riding my bike, swimming, listening to music, singing, playing board games, and reading.
What do you want people to know about you and/or people with disabilities?
Even though we might have disabilities, we still have a lot of strengths. Our disability or disabilities do not define us as a person. We are able to do a lot of different things.
What advice would you give to others with disabilities?
Focus on what you love. If you focus on the types of things which you enjoy and are good at, and even some things at which you are not as good, then your strengths and qualities will come out and this will hopefully lead you to success in your life.