By Jasmine Sutton
My name is Jasmine, and I am 15 almost 16 years old. I live in Virginia with my mom, dad, and my older brother. We are a military family. My mom was in the Army and my dad retired from the Marines. I have 3 siblings in all, and I am the youngest. My brother is 17 years old and autistic. He did not learn how to speak until he was 5 years old. His first language is American Sign Language. He was born in Japan. He likes gaming, music, skateboarding, and cooking. He wants to join the Marines too. My sister is 30 years old. She is a pastry chef and holds a state beauty pageant title. She is very smart, and I am going to Florida in December to visit and watch her graduate with a dual-master’s degree. I am so excited. The oldest is my brother Stanley. He is 31 and an officer in the Army and he also works for the Dallas Cowboys. We get to see him in December too. Me and all my siblings get along well.
When my brother and I were younger, we used to participate in Special Olympics. I have been cheering since I was about 3 years old since my older sister was a cheerleader. I liked to practice cheerleading with my team, but it was very loud when we would perform in the basketball gym and my ears would hurt.
“Now, I am a competitive cheerleader and we compete in front of hundreds of people. I get nervous and sometimes overstimulated. Once we do our performance, I need to be by myself to calm myself down, so I do not have a meltdown.”
My sister and I also did our first pageant together when we were about 2 years old. Over quarantine I decided to try an online pageant. I ended up signing up for about 7 of them. I won all 7 and received my crowns and sashes in the mail.
When I was young, I was diagnosed with autism and a bunch of other stuff. As I grew older some doctors said I was not autistic anymore but, some say I still am. Just depends on who you ask. I am just me and my mom says it does not matter as long as I am the best me. I was about 5 when I had trouble in-taking food. They said I had “failure to thrive” and were going to put a gastrostomy tube in me to give me food. Luckily, I was admitted into Kennedy Krieger inpatient hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. I stayed 6 months there learning how to eat. I hated eating there but they had a lot of fun stuff to do and we got to trick-or-treat in the hospital. That was fun. We went on field trips too to the park in a huge stroller that holds a lot of kids. After I got out of the hospital I was followed up by local providers for a lot of stuff. My brother and I used to go to therapy 6 days in 1 week. And sometimes they would come to our house.
I was doing better until I was around 13 years old. I remember coming home from cheer practice one day around noon to make some lunch and all a sudden my tummy hurt badly. I thought it was just menstrual cramps, but it was getting worse and worse. I could not intake liquid, pills, or crushed ice. I threw everything up. I was taken to the emergency room and they did some tests on me and told my parents I was diagnosed with intussusception, where part of your intestine folds over and slides up into another part. I was going to be flown to Children’s National Hospital for emergency surgery, but I eventually got healthy enough to leave the emergency room.
I was medicated for a couple of weeks and I eventually got better. My life did not feel the same after that though. Every month my cramps would be so bad that I would end up in the emergency room until my doctor decided to put me on birth control. Months after that I was starting to have all over body pains, and no one knew where it was coming from. It was not really an issue until I was having trouble sitting for long periods of time during school. I am with a great team of doctors to figure out why I have so much all over body pains now. I am back at Kennedy Krieger Institute and have four medical teams. They found out I have a rare genetic disorder; only the 2nd person to ever have this. I also have costochondritis, chronic pain syndrome, fibromyalgia and so much more.
I continue to do cheer with USA Allstars and at my high school. I have my first competition in January. Online school is much easier and efficient to me. I am practicing learning to sit. My mom and I will go to Florida again next summer to compete in the national beauty pageant. She is Ms. Corporate Virginia, or something like that. My mom used to hold titles when she was my age and we did this together for fun during COVID. I learned how to cook over the summer. Me and my friends usually try to do something over the weekends.
“When I grow up, I think I am going into the medical field. My mom has been showing me all kinds of stuff and how to read my vitals and learn how to do PT, OT and other therapy techniques”.
I volunteer at her job at the Autism Society. I like helping people. My mom is not a nurse, but she knows a lot because all of us have disabilities. I also want to be an aunt, but my siblings are not having any babies yet. I taught myself how to put on my own fake eyelashes and weaves in my hair watching YouTube. I also do my own acrylic nails. I’m getting really good at it and am a total fashionista. My mom hates to shop so she lets me shop for her.
I sometimes want to be like everyone else and not have so many things. My best friend also has disabilities too and we talk to each other when we get sad. We have also had sleepovers and we practice cheerleading. I can do a lot of flips now. And, I am just going to be me. I am learning how to advocate for myself because my mom makes me. I do not like to do it but she helps me when I get stuck.
An Update from Daniel Derrico
Hello everyone! Since my Zoom article in Issue 17, I’ve had quite a bit happen in my life. I now live and work on an amazing Animal Sanctuary and Farm in Nokesville, VA, with others who have differing abilities, as well as plenty of rescue animals. It’s a wonderful environment for me, and a safe space for me to keep growing and developing the life and independent living skills I need for my future!
Go Back to Issue 18 Home
Read more articles on the Black autistic experience beyond the hashtags in Issue 18 of Zoom Autism Magazine.
- Why are Black Disabled Activists Being Ignored or Forgotten? by Anita Cameron
- Autistic While Black and the Case of Matthew Rushin – #FreeMatthewRushin
- We Believe…In the Right to Exist by Elizabeth Roy
- Why the Social Model Will Not Save Us and “Disability Rights” Aren’t Intersectional by Tiffany Hammond
- What Does it Mean to Feel Safe? Intro by Rose Sutton
In Every Issue
- Editor Letter – Black Autistic Lives Matter: Beyond the Hashtags by Elizabeth Roy
- Cummings and Goings: Working Together to Fix the System by Conner Cummings
- 5 Must-Read Books by Black Autistic Authors by Adriana White
- THE VIEW FROM HERE: “I am Just Going to Be Me” by Jasmine Sutton with an update from Daniel Derrico
Discover More Zoom Issues
- Archived issues on the Zoom Home Page