“Music helps me connect with the world.”
My name is Amy Herr and I am 20 years old. I was recently diagnosed with high functioning autism and lets just say I am so thankful that I have made it this far!
My entrance into the world wasn’t easy. I was born 10 weeks premature weighing only 2 pounds and 12 ounces! By a month old, I had a bowel obstruction and got so sick, that the doctors told my parents I was not going to live. I still believe to this day that the only way I survived was strictly due to the power of prayer by so many amazing people for both me and my twin sister, and by the grace of God. Little did I know after hearing my birth story at a young age from my family where the Lord would take me in the future.
Today, after twenty years of existence, I still do not have a lot of answers , but one to me is very certain…music is my main source of communication and reaching out to the world.
Through a church mentor my remarkable singing ability was brought to my attention at age 11. I was shy and did not sing openly much before then, but I still was aware of my voice pretty much as preschooler. I guess I hid my ability from most of my family except my twin sister Emily. She even spoke for me early on. I struggled to get a word in with three older sisters and her, along with social struggles. The following include, not being very eloquent with words, difficulties reading sarcasm, and interpreting social cues of how to enter a conversation.
Furthermore, I have sensory integration issues, such as, not wanting to be touched in certain ways, I have an extreme fear of being in large groups or crowds of people , and loud noises, such as, a dog barking or fireworks. Those are a few that I still struggle with today. I also was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder by the age of 12. This therefore makes my autism seem very internal and hidden beneath the surface. I would say other big challenges are verbalizing my needs or emotions, following directions of two steps or more, and being independent, which is also a goal. Despite these obstacles, I am very thankful for the mentors in my life that encourage me to be myself. They help me realize that I am truly capable of more, as long as I trust myself and set my mindset towards positivity while achieving my goals.
Anyway back to my strength. My musical talent is what helps me stand out from others, and gives me the confidence to share my story of resilience and faith in Christ. Whenever I sing the point I am trying to share in song comes out melodically smooth , no stutters , frustrations or pondering what to say. My lyrics are my words. I just rely on technique and my sharp memory to carry me through. Worship, whether as a soloist or on a team at my church brings a whole new intimacy and sense of community, love, hope, peace, and euphoria, the list of positive words could go on but I will stop there.
On the other hand, I have a visual disorder called Strabismus and Amblyopia. My eye doctor thinks this health issue resulted from minor brain damage, caused by either too much or too little oxygen after my Volvulus. I cannot drive but, I work limited hours at a local grocery store as a cashier! I love my job but sometimes having although usually 4-5 hour shifts, the specific times and days can vary which makes creating a desired routine for myself difficult. Not being able to go places and being alone for 7 hours a day can make me feel bored, sad, and lonely. So to keep myself occupied amidst the struggle I fill out my gratitude journal and read my Bible. I resort to practicing music for voice lessons, reading books, snuggling with my cat Sadie, or drinking tea. My Keurig machine is my best friend. I’m in the waiting stage because I cannot have access to most of my autism resources until I am 21. Only one more year to go I can do this!
Speaking of friends, I really did not have the desire to make any growing up and have maybe one, other than my twin sister. I am extremely introverted. Socializing can drain me easily. Also, Emily and I had each other so we really didn’t feel the need to reach out to others. Finding my identity apart from her is also a challenge. However , music is a huge asset that sets me apart from Emily and the rest of my family.
As far as goals for the future go, I hope to go to college, study hard, teach myself a new instrument, like piano, guitar, or ukulele and someday possibly be a music therapist. My desire is to bring hope, advocacy, resources, healing and reassurance to patients in need. I also would like to either write a book or contribute to a book on autism success stories. Maybe I could even create a YouTube channel, produce a music album, travel and perform on street corners around the world, meet new people and make awesome connections and memories to help me live out my dreams while still living on the spectrum.
One of my mentors told me you are not the journey that you are on. Although I am discovering who I am as a young adult, one thing is for certain: music is the voice of my heart and I cannot imagine my existence in life without singing.
You can follow Amy on social media via Facebook and Instagram @amesherr4