To continue celebrating Women’s History Month, we want to introduce ACEing Autism Program Director Emily Werman. Emily and her family moved to California from Chicago to help her do well in school and provide her with the support she needed.
Why? Because Emily was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when she was around 6 years old, but her diagnosis hasn’t stopped her from achieving her goals. “I started tennis when I was 7 years old and found an outlet that made me feel like I wasn’t different,” Emily explained.
In 2007, Emily started going to The Help Group, a school for kids who are on the autism spectrum and with other special needs. In 2008, she started attending the ACEing Autism program with The Help Group as well as volunteer with them. “I felt accomplished by helping out kids who needed more assistance than I did by using my skills, and it became who I was,” she said as she smiled ear to ear.
Thanks to tennis, Emily found her purpose. “I had a hard time making friends, grasping facial expressions; I loved being on court and feeling like I excelled at something. Tennis brought a community where I could find myself and help others find themselves.”
Emily played tennis on her high school team and was a 4-year scholar athlete at Cal Lutheran University. “When I was a senior in High School, I knew I wanted to be a special ed teacher and I went to college with that plan in mind,” Emily stated. Throughout her entire life, Emily always had her family by her side to help her accomplish her goals. As she explains it very clearly, “dealing with a child on the spectrum is a family effort, and I can’t thank my family enough. My mom has done so much for me and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her.”
To achieve these goals, Emily graduated from CAL, then started as a teaching assistant at The Help Group for a few months, before she got a position as a special education teacher. She now teaches third through fifth grade students who are highly impacted by the pandemic.
It was important for Emily to be a special education teacher so she could use her experiences to help kids. “It’s so important for these kids to find a sense of community in their lives that makes them feel accepted, and it ends up helping giving hope to the families as well,” Emily said.
On top of being a full-time teacher, the ever energetic and positive Emily is also working toward a graduate degree, teaching private tennis lessons, and coaching a local high school tennis team. Let’s not forget, she is also the Program Director of the ACEing Autism chapter at The Help Group where she spent many years growing up. “Being on the autism spectrum is part of who we are but labels don’t define us.” As she herself says, she does not let anything stand in her way!
We are beyond proud of everything Emily has overcome and achieved, and we can’t wait to see what she accomplishes next.