Photographers are storytellers, so I was thrilled when Sydney reached out to me asking me to help tell her autism story, but I was also nervous. Autism is a disability that nearly everyone is familiar with, but most people do not really understand. Even those with loved ones living with autism can struggle to understand it. I am one of those people, so I will do my best to help Sydney tell her story, using her words and what I have learned from her.
Sydney is a Juneau woman living with Autism and Social Anxiety Disorder. She works for SAIL (Southeast Alaska Independent Living), an organization that works with seniors and people living with physical and mental disabilities, empowering and assisting them to live independently.
In addition to maintaining her job at SAIL, Sydney also serves on the Governor's Council on Disabilities and Special Education.
Getting to where she is professionally was no easy feat. Things that may appear simple to a person without autism may be difficult to someone with autism. For example, a job interview requires understanding of unspoken cultural norms, prolonged concentration, and direct eye contact, things that many people with autism struggle with. Despite these challenges, Sydney has continued to persevere.
From here I will let Sydney tell her story in her own words:
"My name is Sydney Krebsbach. I’m a young adult with autism and social anxiety disorder. I’m currently working at SAIL and serving on the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education. For the past 10 years there were goals I was trying to achieve. There were a few bumps along the way but I reached them.
My theme has always been if you don’t try it the first time keep doing it and you will succeed. Both my perservance and the support of my family and service provider has helped me overcome many challenges. In the 10 th grade I took the high school qualifying exam. It took me two years, but with the help of a tutor I was able to pass and eventually graduate with honors. When I was 18 years old I got my drivers licenses. It took me five attempts to get my learners and two attempts to pass the driving test.
In the fall of 2016 I applied for 28 different jobs and nobody was willing to give me the opportunity to prove that I am capable of doing the workrequired then I got successfully hired to be a Senate Page for the Alaska State Legislature and because of that job it had open many opportunities. I have within the last 2 years successfully completed the LEND program through University of Alaska and was appointed to be on the Governor’s Council on Disabilities on Special Education. Finally it took me 7 years and 6 jobs before I was able to find the right job. In April 2019 I got hired to work at SAIL.
Sure I may walk, talk and look the same just like everyone else on the outside but on the inside I’m different. Because of my autism I see the work differently. For me it’s not about being a shame or judged by other people because you have a disability, it’s about being proud of who you are."
When I asked Sydney how it feels to navigate life with Autism, she said "lonely". People often misunderstand her and her intentions and she wished more people understood that people with autism are people too.
I am really grateful that I had the opportunity to meet Sydney. She is funny, goofy, sassy, smart and has a kind heart. Thank you Sydney for allowing me to help you tell your story.