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Home About Us Blog My Milestones - Nera Birch

My Milestones - Nera Birch

Posted on 05/24/17 in Supporting the Mission by Milestones

My Milestones - Nera Birch

Nera Birch says the world would benefit from a changed perspective and acceptance of autism.

“We should look at it as a positive, not a negative,” says the 24-year-old Beachwood native, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at age 11. “There are so many positive things individuals with autism have contributed. Take all the technology we have, for example. We wouldn’t have innovation without people with autism.”

An autism activist who is passionate about helping others find their voice, Molly, who earned the nickname the Autism Whisperer, has recently started to meet with legislators in the state’s capital to speak about important issues and advocate for people with disabilities. She is grateful for the support of her family, friends and the Milestones community.

“Milestones helped me get through high school and eventually with transitioning to adulthood,” she says. In addition to her advocacy work, Nera works part-time at the Strongsville Library and is attending Tri-C. Her full-time job goal is to be a paraprofessional in a special needs classroom.

“I’m in such a good place,” she says. “I have career goals. I’m getting married. I have my own apartment. I’m paying my bills. This is what success looks like.”

How has Milestones helped you?

I was a senior at Beachwood High School when I first learned about Milestones. I always wanted to work with special needs kids and I volunteered with Milestones to create a program that pairs a person with autism or disabilities with a neuro-typical person. The program included activities like helping them with social events like prom.

You went from volunteering in high school to becoming an advocate. Tell us about that.

I recently visited with legislators in Columbus with the goal of sharing my ideas of having a mandatory program for police officers to learn how to deal with individuals with autism. It comes from personal experience. I have been stopped by police officers once or twice while driving. I was breathalyzed but I wasn’t under the influence. I just got so overwhelmed with my sensory issues. I was fortunate enough that the officer understood once he realized the situation, but there have been many people with autism who have had much scarier experiences than mine.

How was the transition to adulthood? What were some specific challenges during this time?

I attempted to go to University of Akron, but I lasted about 6 weeks. Milestones helped my mom and I figure out a plan. We had a list of goals, one of which was to get me an apartment. I went to Milestones every week to touch base, to tell them what I accomplished that week.

I moved into my first apartment in Woodmere. At first, I didn’t like living on my own. I didn’t have any friends and it was very lonely. But I started making friends, I grew to really appreciate living on my own, and now I love it.

You’re getting married soon. Congrats! Tell us about your fiancé and what you are most looking forward to.

My fiancé, Sammy, and I are getting married in October of 2018. He was my high school crush and we started dating on and off since the 9th grade. Our romance is nine years in the making. He is neuro-typical, he is a cook at Buffalo Wild Wings in Strongsville and he wants to go to Tri-C and study business management.

Tell us about your nickname, the Autism Whisperer.

Beth Thompson at Milestones came up with it. I can translate for people with autism. I’m fortunate to be high functioning. I live in both worlds, so I have the experience to know what might be bothering a person with autism and can convey that to neuro-typical people.

You and your fiancé will be participating in the Couples Panel at the 15th Annual Autism Conference. What are you hoping to share with attendees?

I want to share that it can happen with your child. My parents and I, we never thought it would happen. But you just keep pushing and believing, like going to college and getting married, or any milestone. You just have to believe.

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