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Mia is such an amazing, altruistic girl. I first learned about her story when she offered to write about her personal happiness for my upcoming book. I’ve interviewed about 100 teens and Mia’s story was especially poignant to me. She cares about other people in a profound way, as does her family. Not only does she volunteer her time with autistic children, her family has adopted a child so that they can help just one more human being in this world. I invite you to read Mia’s story; it is such a joy to introduce her as this week’s Sunny Star.
1. Can you tell us about your work with autistic children and teens?
MA: I am an autistic aid which means that I help children who are affected by autism with both social and educational problems that they may have. For example with the 11 year old that I work with now, we have goals that include maintaining eye contact, engaging with me in conversations and activities not of his choosing, and playing with other children that he doesn’t know. It has really been a great opportunity for me because I hope to be a pediatrician when I am older.
2. What has been the best part of this work and how has it affected your happiness?
MA: The best part for me is when he knows that he has done a good job. My small amount of praise that I give him puts a huge smile on his face and he is in a great mood for the duration of the session. Also, when I work with him we have to read a story each time which isn’t one of his strong skills, but when he sounds out a word all by himself, it makes him so happy which makes me realize that what I am doing is making a real difference. My happiness has been affected in so many ways by this one little boy. I love going to work, which many people wouldn’t say!
3. What has been the most challenging aspect of this work and how has it affected your happiness?
MA: The biggest challenge I have faced is getting him to open up to me as his aid. In the begging he was hesitant to tell me when he needed help so we weren’t really making progress for the first few weeks. But once he warmed up to me, he would let me know what he needed help with, such as with his reading, math homework, or introducing himself to another child. Now we are extremely close and I honestly consider him one of my best friends. I am so happy when I am with him because he can make me laugh super easily which makes our sessions go by very quickly.
4. Can you tell us what it was like adopting a sibling and how this affected your family and your happiness?
MA: Adopting my brother, Conner, was one of the hardest things my family has ever been through. The adoption process is very long and involves multiple steps that take a very long time to complete. Not knowing if we were going to adopt him was very stressful and pushed my family to our limits. And the added stress of Conner having to stay in the NICU for 3 1/2 weeks almost made it unbearable. But as soon as we got the word that we were eligible to adopt, all of our stresses disappeared and we could focus on our newest addition. All in all, the adoption process took a little under a year. On April 1st 2010 Conner was officially a member of the Abboud family which is one of the best days of my life. I am so happy to have him in my family and to have him healthy and happy!
5. You have a passion for children. Why do you want to become a pediatrician and how does working toward this goal affect your happiness?
MA: I want to be a pediatrician because I love working with children! And I think it’s because I am still a child at heart. I know that working towards my goal is going to take a LONG time, but I know that in the end it will all be worth it. I have always wanted to work with children and knowing that I am working towards my goal makes me so excited that I cannot even put in words!