by Zachariah Atteberry – (Hannibal, Missouri)
When I was young, I noticed that something didn’t seem correct. I couldn’t speak to other people as easy as other individuals. I had a wild imagination too, and it worked against me in designing the worse outcome scenarios possible. From second grade all the way to the end of middle school, I had severe problems in communicating with other people. I could not even walk with my arms to my side, I usually walked down the hall with hands fidgeting.
The symptoms didn’t really flare up until, say, 6th grade. The beginning of middle school was really complicated due to the fact that my foster dad had just passed away and that we had to move. During the duration of middle school I did badly in my classes. I also played sick a lot of the time because I had panic attacks, and I found it hard to breathe and to talk at times.
High school seemed to just pop up fast. The summer just went on by, because I was on the computer all the time. 9th grade started out horrible. Since I was very aspergic, I had problems in gym. Not being able to talk like other people discounted my confidence. So I did not dress out and accepted the F on my grade card.
10th grade was the year that I dropped out. The trouble was too much to bear. Mean students, rude teachers and complicated situations everywhere I went. You can only imagine how annoying it was in the lunch room, not being able to talk. That was the year I got Tiger, a Bengal cat who had graced my life. Tiger was a very friendly cat that often gave me company during troubling times and helped me though a few very difficult situations.
11th grade was a bit better. I actually tried in some respects. I almost dropped out twice, but the absolute thing that kept me going on in school was the humane society volunteer program. I did not want to let the animals down. I always make sure that I give each cat a certain amount of time of play and love every day. My high school allowed me to volunteer at the humane society two hours a day. I got to pet cats, socialize them and train them. They really enjoyed it, so did I.
12th grade was the year that I got Felix and the year that I got to volunteer four hours a day at the humane society. Felix was more of a lap cat than Tiger, most likely because he is very shy and prefers an individual owner. The next few months were very stressful and tedious. Felix often slept with me and kept me company. Tiger also did on occasion. Felix would even sleep on my computer desk while I worked. Felix and I often would play hide and go seek, and tag. Our favorite time was when we would play with the cat dancer. He can run fast!
It is not after high school and I have a job at my local humane society and I love spending the time with the cats. One very important thought comes to mine. I have been making a major recovery from asperger’s because I have not been trying to recover just for me. I am trying to improve so that I can grow up to do a lot for animals. That goal requires that I communicate better. I find that when humans try to do things for themselves alone and not for the benefit for others, they are ten times as likely not to succeed. What’s more, it does not give us the confidence to try harder. Felix and Tiger have taught me that.
I almost dropped out once in 12th grade also, but I made it. Did I mention that I had a 4.0 that semester? I am even starting to speak out more when people offend me. If it wasn’t
for Felix and Tiger, my two kitties, I am almost certain it would have not happened. My mom defiantly helped and my job coaches helped in pushing me, but I would have to say that my cats offered a lot of support. I say that because their company made the difference. Sometimes we just need another understanding companion to spend time with us. Perhaps that is why cats are so good with autistic children; they are just there to understand. Not to judge, criticize or talk. Just to listen. Animals have succeeded where people have not.
I would have to say that cats are very good with autistic children and make good therapy animals
for them. There are notable increases in the amount of children that are recovering because of their presence in their lives. While there is not fully supported research that shows that autistic children do better with cats, I am one here to confirm that they definitely do help. Even if you aren’t autistic, cats always seem to bring us up from the deepest depths of depression and trouble. Cats are certainly a gift.
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Zach, i have read your poetry and found it excellent never knowing that you were autistic. Your autism must have been secretly responsible
for your development in poetry .Nice to read a bit of your life story.