Deerfield teen excels despite autism
Deerfield High School student Leah Rappaport plays piano at her home in Riverwoods November 20. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 5, 2012 10:44AM
DEERFIELD — Leah Rappaport isn’t your average Deerfield High School junior. Sure, she’s busy with friends, music, studying and driving, but 17-year-old Leah has had to battle with autism her entire life. Determined to not let it get the best of her, Leah, discovered that with hard work and a loving family, anything is possible. Now, Leah said she wants to pass on all the help and love she has received.
Q: What inspired you to achieve despite having autism?
A: My parents motivated me to work hard in school and I knew I was able to do the same activities as other people would. I even have managed to fit in socially with my friends.
Q: How have others offered support to you?
A: My parents, teachers, and friends have inspired me to try new experiences and to discover new interests. They have helped me throughout my childhood and taught me life lessons.
Q: What achievements are you most proud of?
A: I would say I am most proud of getting all A’s at school. I have been working hard throughout the school year. I am also proud of getting my driver’s license.
Q: What obstacles have you faced in school?
A: I have had a hard time with writing essays and reading passages with a lot of figurative language.
Q: What do you think others need to know about autism?
A: Autism is different for each person and it can be difficult for people to understand. It does not have stop you from doing any sports, activities, or achieving your goals. With autism, you can still do the same things as everyone else, but you may have to work a bit harder than usual. Autism does not disable you from fitting in with a group of friends, but you do need to be careful of how you treat them and how they treat you. When I was little, it was much more difficult to live with autism. I had to go to speech therapy, occupational therapy, and other therapies everyday.
Q: Who is your role model?
A: My parents are my role models, because they have taught me so many things as I am growing up and most importantly, they have faith in me. They tell me how hard I have worked to overcome my disability and are so proud of all my successes.
Q: What advice would you give to other Autistic teens?
A: Don’t feel down about yourself, just because you have a disability. Remember that everybody is different and unique in their own way. My greatest strengths are a result of my autism, like my amazing memory and mathematical ability.
Q: What is your family like?
A: My family is really nice to me and treats me fairly. They teach me life-skills, which will eventually lead to my independence.
Q: What are your plans after high school?
A: After high school, I am planning to go to a college, where I could get the support I need to succeed. I am going to major in mathematics, because I want to be a math teacher. Since math is my strength, I want to be able to share my knowledge with my students.
Q: What about Deerfield High School makes you proud?
A: I am in mainstream classes, like all of my friends at school and I have been working very hard in all of my classes. My teachers have given me just the right amount of support and encouraged me to work hard. They set high expectations for me, which makes me realize my capabilities.
Q: What is your favorite community event?
A: I like marching band the most, because I enjoy playing at the football games. I enjoy both playing and listening to beautiful music.