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Madie Swift AC'20 :: A Puzzle Piece

Hey guys !!

My name is Madie Swift, and I am an honors biology student with a minor in Spanish. I am currently a member of a few things here on campus, including Club Softball and UF’s Undergraduate Research Program while serving as the External Philanthropy Chair in ADPi. My first-year experience was anything but typical, but being a member of this chapter gave me a sense of being and a place to call home.

Spending my summer back home in Jupiter, I got a last-minute call from the Els Center for Autism, somewhere I volunteered and loved in the past, to work their summer camp. Autism spectrum disorder is a condition that impacts the nervous system and hinders the ability to communicate and engage with others, and it is different for every individual who is diagnosed. In my personal life, I have two family members living with autism, both significantly different and unique to each other, and it has left me with a passion to serve others in this sector as best as I can. So without hesitation, I said yes.

Throughout my days at the camp, I became part of a team dedicated to the education, support, and engagement of students living with autism on varying places of the spectrum. I was given a new sense of responsibility in this setting, being a leader of a group of a small group of students with staff working by my side and focusing exclusively on one student. Nonetheless, it was summer camp, and it was focused on fun! We spent our days golfing, attending music class, or making sensory art projects. Each day presented a new challenge, yet with each challenge came plentiful lessons and new solutions. Of these lessons is the importance of patience and listening to children, as the means of communication are distinct and unique. Some of our students use sign language, personal tablets to communicate basic wants and needs, while others have sound verbal communication skills and looooove to chat. Patience however is often greater tested in moments of distress and anger, in which communication isn’t always going to be effective. There were many instances in which I felt I would not be able to steer my students away from something they wanted and couldn’t receive, or work with them to find a sense of calmness. I often found myself thinking of how I would be reacting if I were in their shoes and how my actions and words would influence their choices. Thus this led me to the greatest lesson: presence.

The ability of one's presence to speak volumes is indescribable, especially in a setting like this. By the conclusion of the camp, I was blessed to have made strong connections among my students and seen significant improvements in such a small amount of time with their engagement, behaviors, and overall self-confidence to interact with others. My passion for working with these students gave me the strength to create a sense of home and support that I found here with my sisters at ADPi.

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