Welcome to Erin Sweeney's Page
Dear Friends and Family,
I have been working at the Virginia Institute of Autism in Charlottesville for over two years now. VIA provides life-changing services to families challenged by autism through innovative, evidence-based programs in education, outreach, and adult services. I'm sure many of you have heard me blab on and on about how much I love my students and how grateful I am to be in the position I'm in. Well, here is another testament for you:
My students include high school aged kids who are preparing to transition to VIA's post high and adult programs. There is one student in particular that I've been lucky enough to be able to watch grow into an absolutely beautiful young woman. She has shown me what pure happiness and joy look like. She has also shown me what real frustration, anger, and sadness look like. This student is "non-verbal". Along with her voice, she uses an iPad as an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) tool to express her wants and needs. At VIA, we spend day in and day out teaching students how to use these AAC devices. You may think wow that's really cool, students can press icons and tell you exactly what they want! Unfortunately, this is not true for everyone. As I work with my students, I see firsthand the troubles caused by knowing what you want but not being able to communicate it to others. We work with students like mine to break down walls so that they can live their best life.
I probably say "I love that girl so much" about ten times a week. I love all of my students, but this one in particular fills my heart with SO much joy. She is one of the most athletic people I know. If there was a competition for skipping, she'd win it by a mile. She is way better at yoga than me and could probably beat me in an arm wrestling match. She is a professional jello and pudding maker and a master puzzler. Sometimes we will be sitting next to each other, not doing any work, and she is just flat out giggling. I can't help but laugh along with her. She is slowly but surely teaching me how to enjoy life as much as she does.
Without the kids at VIA, I wouldn't be who I am today. On April 14th, I'm participating in the Run for Autism 5K. As you finish reading this letter, please consider teaming up with me. By joining in the Run for Autism, YOU are also a part of VIA's mission. You help us make this event successful year after year.
Join me by becoming a runner or making a donation to VIA today.
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