My name is Rashida Pryce and I am an 18-year-old Caymanian.
I was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in May of 2017 at the age of 16. That revelation should have lifted a weight off my shoulders but in truth it placed a weight on my shoulders, an added heaviness to my already overloaded reality.
It fractured and realigned the future I thought would be mine, replacing it with a blank canvas that at the time was terrifying and seemed empty. Now I am pleased to tell you I am grateful for the diagnosis and to be filling that blank canvas with exciting new experiences.
Hearing the word ‘Autism’ came very late for me but, looking back now, I believe it came at exactly the right time for change and a renewed outlook.
I graduated from high school with excellent grades. I was a ‘quiet’ student who never spoke. Trapped in silence with so much to say. I transitioned to A-levels but my new school did not understand me and I did not understand me. Together we could not help one another.
I took me one year to get to know myself, my diagnosis and my path forward. Now I am beginning to pick up the pieces to build a new picture for the life I am to live, a life more dazzling than I could have ever imagined before. My reality is now thriving, my future looks bright and the blank canvas that appeared with my diagnosis is now full of colourful possibility.
I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Colorado. I am a freshman in my first semester. I am also participating in a residential programme that provides independent support for college students with a range of difficulties. It’s called College Living Experience (CLE) and here I am learning independent living skills, receiving guidance through academia and learning to become my own advocate. I am finding my voice, and enjoying the snow!
Getting to this point has not been easy and moving forward will bear its own weight.
I believe in the importance of proper education, advocacy and guidance for those on the autism spectrum. It is of utmost importance that everyone has access to the opportunity to take their place in our community and reach for their own success.
Regardless of how we all define success, we all deserve the right to dream for and reach for the life we deserve. No matter how grand or minuscule our goals are … in our eyes they are worth it. We are worth it.
Everyone deserves to see their own boundless future and to get the chance to do the work of building and learning what makes their life bloom.
There are so many people in Cayman making big strides to support our visions of greatness and inclusion and I’m eternally grateful for those who have stood by me through the ups and down. I am so thankful to those who have kept me grounded and growing.
Finding your path is always somewhat of a tumultuous journey of will and love, but when you get to the result of each chapter filled with hope and jubilation it is always worth it. No matter what was needed to get there.
We are worth it, individually and as a collective community.
Happy World Autism Day!