Meet Chase T., 20
Being on a spectrum means I do and see things differently from others."
Chase, 20, is a person of many interests and unique talents. He’s the author and illustrator of “The Letter Critters” book series, in which he shares his passion for letters to help children learn to read, is a member of the National Honor Society, a Special Olympics Global Messenger and gold medalist and the 2019 recipient of the Connecticut Arts Hero Award. He also has autism.
Chase was diagnosed when he was 3 ½ years old, but his mom, Helen, recalls having a suspicion that her son was different even before his diagnosis. Even though it was obvious that Chase was very intelligent, his lack of social skills and tendency to repeat certain behaviors was enough to have her and her husband, Alan, seek professional guidance.
“We knew nothing about autism at that time,” says Helen. “From many conversations with Chase's special education pre-school teacher about his lack of progression and tendency to demonstrate different behaviors from the other kids, we began thinking more about it. She said she didn’t believe Chase had an intellectual disability, but she mentioned the word autism and suggested we get him evaluated. This wonderful teacher’s advice truly saved us because it gave us the tools to help our son because we finally had a diagnosis. She is one of Chase’s angels.”
At the time, finding resources and information about autism was difficult, but Helen and Alan made it their job to advocate for their son and to get him the support he needed. They quickly enrolled Chase in his pre-school’s autism-centric special education program, where he would receive applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy and other critical services. Thanks to his parents’ relentless advocacy, Chase received every available resource, including Extended School Year (ESY) services every summer until he graduated high school. They also made it a point to ensure their son would have the opportunity to participate in enjoyable activities like therapeutic horseback riding, gymnastics and art class.
With a team of supporters like his family, teachers and behavioral therapists, Chase has come a long way since being diagnosed as a toddler. Even though his personality is one of few words, Chase has many unique ways of expressing himself. Whether it’s through the creative characters in his books, one of his ear-to-ear smiles or a concise verbal response, you always know where you stand with Chase according to his mom.
“Chase makes us so proud every day! He has a pure spirit of innocence, honesty and sweetness. He is such a unique person and lovable young man. He is also willing to take on challenges and allows us to bring him out of his comfort zone and into the world.”
Read to learn more about Chase through his own words.
What does being on the autism spectrum mean to you?
Being on a spectrum means I do and see things differently from others.
What struggles have you faced because of your autism? In what areas has your autism helped you excel?
I have faced struggles like talking to other people in conversations, being part of a group and focusing on work. My autism helped me excel by making me very imaginative and creative.
Why is it important to people on the spectrum to advocate for themselves?
It's important for people on a spectrum to advocate for themselves because it will help them be social and tell people who they are and help others to understand us.
If you had one sentence to describe the the world, who Chase is, what would that sentence read?
I am unique, kindhearted, creative, smart and special.
What was it like being on set and starring in a national TV ad for Autism Speaks?
I really liked the people there and liked having the chance to work with them. It really felt like I was at a real job interview. It was a great honor to have this opportunity. I’m excited to see the final product when it airs on television.