"My name is Mitchell Theodore McKelvey and I am a 29-year-old young adult who was formally diagnosed with Autism (formerly a diagnosis of Asperger’s) at the age of 8. I live with my father in Cromwell and have been part of my community for the last 22 years. I find it important to be able to have the ability to express myself physically and emotionally. I always say this all the time, in the last several years especially, but I feel Awareness is not enough and that Acceptance is. I have learned to not care what others think of me with my diagnosis of Autism and the challenges that I face such as with processing emotions of anger and anxiety. The gift that comes with my Autism, perhaps, is being able to do it naturally. I honestly don’t know where I would be without my “disability” of Autism. Autism is a thing that I am never afraid to mask, when asked. I am currently employed with Lowe’s as a Loader in my hometown and have been there for over a year since February 2022. I also occasionally volunteer over at Creative Living Community of CT Inc. and have been with them since November 2016. Lowe’s and CLCC have taught me in the last year that I belong in the community and that I am just as valued as the average person with my skills. Lowe's is one of the best jobs that I've honestly had in a long time. After 14 years of being employed and volunteering at many places, these positions have honestly been a complete joy to be apart. I actually look forward to going into Lowe’s every single day. This is a stark opposite of when I used to dread my time at one of my previous positions of Apple Rehab (especially toward the end of my time there before the Pandemic forced me to quit and after my late Grandpa Theodore McKelvey, my beloved namesake, had passed in the building from an ongoing illness). It’s also the complete opposite of where I was 7 years ago, when I was told by the BRS, who was supposed to help me, that I was unemployable. I have overcome my adversity quite well but like everyone else, I have my down moments and they can be very difficult. Routine changes/deviations can be quite challenging as I am a very rigid person. With gaining several friends through the Autism Resource Center of Connecticut (which I have been part of since May 2016), however, I have found that I can be flexible when it necessary. Especially whenever my friend Lucas from that program changes the time, he wants to see me. Anxiety also is a big problem for me coupled with my worry about storms can make many handfuls of days throughout the year a hurdle to overcome. I’ve lately been learning that life is but a series of moments and that I have to be thankful for what I have and not be so hard on myself and berating of myself. All in all, I feel like I am a work in progress and I am very proud of myself and thankful for the success that I have generated with the incredible environment that I'm in at Lowe’s, CLCC, and ASRC! Special shoutout to Deb Richards, Linda Rammler, Lucas Northern, and all my other immediate friends and family for helping me along the way! Much love to everyone and I hope that my story is able to touch the life of someone else who is struggling!"