Northwest Center welcomes Trevor Pacelli as a contributing writer and photographer. Trevor has drawn on his experiences as a person with autism and his creative talents since he was a child. At 15, he illustrated a children's book about autism awareness written by his sister Briana, “The Kindergarten Adventures of Amazing Grace.” At 19, he wrote a book in the "Six-Word Lessons" series to help families understand how a person with autism thinks and feels. He has also written for news outlets such as CNN and, drwing on his degree in film and media studies from Arizona State University, regularly writes about the cinema.
By Trevor Pacelli, contributing writer
What was it like for me growing up with autism? When I was in grade school, I knew I got angry relatively easily compared to other kids, but I never noticed my obvious differences or what autism meant until I was in high school.
Throughout elementary school, I had a “special” teacher who brought me into a room alongside other autistic students to learn social interaction skills. It was difficult for me at times to express my feelings in an appropriate way to others. In junior high, I didn’t need any accommodations, but while in high school, I took a yearly course that assisted students struggling in school. It wasn’t a class specifically for people with disabilities, but for those having a difficult time learning. Before my sophomore year in high school, I neither knew how to make friends nor had a desire for friends. I wanted to play with my Game Boy instead of socializing.
My first efforts to make friends ended up harmful. I told inappropriate jokes because I heard them from popular students, but I didn’t realize the bad timing of the jokes. A few of my peers tried to make it clear that they did not want me around, purposefully leaving me out of social outings, yet I never noticed. I didn’t realize until after high school how little contact I was keeping with certain “friends.” I did eventually manage to find several friends in high school who I’m still close with today.
During my first quarter at Bellevue College, my dad gave me the idea of writing a book about my autistic experiences, so I wrote one for the “Six-Word Lessons” book series published by my parents’ company (Consetta Group). It gave me the opportunity to “be myself” and explain my autistic experiences. I shared 100 lessons to provide insights that I hope help other autistic children, their parents, educators, and others understand how people with autism see life.
I briefly joined the “Bellevue College Autism Spectrum Navigators program,” a program that helps students with autism to improve their grades, but learned quickly that I didn’t need assistance. After completing community college, I was accepted to Arizona State University. The university allowed me to take tests in a separate quiet room, but I soon learned I didn’t need that accommodation, either.
When my book was published, I had the opportunity to give a presentation about autism to more than 100 ASU students and staff. I became somewhat of a university celebrity, personally signing my books. My book has provided me many opportunities including giving presentations at elementary school assemblies to tell my story growing up with autism. I’m a movie buff and my movie reviews are featured in an online magazine in the UK, Read My Mind.
Now, here I am today writing to you about autism and how life has blessed me. I’m excited to share my stories with you on a quarterly basis.
Northwest Center is passionate about equal rights, anti-ableism, and full inclusion for people with disabilities. Thank you for reading.