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MarkAnthony

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     I’d like everybody to meet my friend MarkAnthony. He is a new student at Pacifica this year. I met him six years ago because I am good friends with his older sister, Karisa, and I am fortunate to have gotten to know him a little over the years.

    MarkAnthony was diagnosed with nonverbal autism when he was three years old. Nonverbal autism is a diagnosis given to approximately 1 in 1,000 children. Children with autism typically have a harder time than their peers with social situations and communication. This is amplified for those that are nonverbal. Because of this, MarkAnthony communicates his thoughts and feelings through actions and facial expressions as well as some American Sign Language and an app called Proloquo that allows him to use icons to form sentences. MarkAnthony is very clever and can figure out most things by watching others, however, he is not always aware of possible danger and needs constant safety supervision. MarkAnthony also suffers from a lot of food and environmental allergies (which are more common amongst children with autism) so he needs to take many different oral and topical medications daily to help with itching and hives.

    MarkAnthony was very excited to be going to school on the first day this year. He had missed school after looking at pictures of his junior high just days before. Once he realized, however, that he was at a new school, his mom could see it in his face and through his actions that he was a bit upset. Luckily, MarkAnthony has not shown signs of dislike at Pacifica since, except for some of the changes from his old school, but change can be especially difficult for those with autism. He is not yet used to the large population at Pacifica that is very different than the small population of his old school, and he misses some of the physical activities such as using the swings and riding bikes. These were very important to him because, “he needs a lot of sensory input to keep him focused,” according to his mom. At Pacifica, MarkAnthony does puzzles, in-class activities, and takes walks with his one-on-one Paraeducator, Mike. He also loves to help Mr. Shettler pull weeds in the garden. MarkAnthony increases his communication skills by working with the speech pathologist, and he practices writing his name, relaxation exercises, and sensory input activities with the occupational therapist. His mom expresses that, “It is crucial to expose kids on the autism spectrum [to activities] with their own peers, because a lot of the other things can be taught, but socializing is so hard.” This is why she believes socializing will be the most important thing he experiences in high school. Overall, MarkAnthony seems to be enjoying his time at Pacifica.

    There is far more to MarkAnthony than his autism diagnosis. He is very affectionate and loves to laugh. He likes to spin on his swing and his stool, and he doesn’t get dizzy. He prefers to wear Crocs, because he likes to be comfortable, and he loves making noises, especially high pitched ones in places that echo. He likes to push people’s buttons, and he loves Disneyland, from riding the rides to eating the turkey legs. He loves to ride his bike and watch videos on YouTube. He enjoys listening to Michael Jackson and The Bee Gees, and he asks people to turn up the volume. His favorite movies are Star Wars and The Avengers, and he loves ice cream, cookies, and pan dulce. His mom tells me that, “fun facts about MarkAnthony are endless because he’s always teaching us something new.” I think we’d all be lucky to have the chance to learn something from MarkAnthony.

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MarkAnthony