Jeremy’s Graduation Speech

Some people have written to me to say that Jeremy’s graduation speech is difficult for them to understand on the U-Tube video, so here is a transcript:

I have spent seven years at Torrey Pines High School.

Three years ago, I walked the graduation ceremony. Today I walk the same path, in the same cap and gown, but I have now earned my academic diploma.

My education at Torrey Pines has been my greatest achievement. I was once diagnosed autistic and severely retarded. When I arrived at Torrey Pines, I could not communicate and I spent my days in a class for the severely handicapped. Now I am going to college. I am writing a book about my life. I have become an inspiration nationally to many parents and educators of children with autism.

My story is like Helen Keller’s, the deaf, mute, and blind girl. Helen Keller had a teacher, Anne Sullivan, who taught her and took her out of isolation. My first great teacher was my mom, then the high school teachers.

My favorite story about Torrey Pines is when my teacher, Allan Gustafson, realized for the very first time that I understood everything. He was really trying to learn how to communicate with me. He said “Jeremy, I know you are in there somewhere. I can’t know what you are capable of unless you tell me.” I looked at him and saw tears in his eyes. I really wanted to make him happy. My nice teacher continued to try and reach me. He said, “Give me a sign.” I looked at him and spelled with him for the first time. Great teacher Allan was so happy.

The teachers here gave me good advice on more than just the subjects they taught. They understood that I might be different on the outside, but that on the inside I was just like any other student. Other important people include the ladies in the administration building who always said “hi” to me, and told me they were happy to see me. My speech teacher, Dr. Palmer, was nice, even if she tried to convince me to become a Republican. An exciting memory from this campus is when an MTV camera crew followed me around campus for the show, True Life: “I Have Autism”.

I would like to thank Bruce Cochrane, Director of Pupil Services, for the chance he took and the faith he had in me. I would like to thank the administrators, the school staff, the educators, (including Maureen and Janine), for allowing my voice to be heard. Without you, my life would still be imprisoned in darkness.

Nicely I wish I had made more friends from my years here. Being autistic, that is the hardest part. It is important to include all students in general education classes so they can be with their peers.

When Helen Keller grew up, she graduated from college, became an author, and an advocate for people with disabilities. I hope to do the same.

My real message to you today is:

Teachers, never underestimate your students no matter how disabled they may appear or what difficulties they face.

Parents, believe in your children and encourage them to fulfill their dreams.

Students, give yourself the power to hear the voice inside telling you that you can create the life you dream of. Believe in yourself, and never allow anyone to discourage you.


Carmel Valley woman devoted to autism education

10 Questions

Published in Carmel Valley News, Del Mar Times  December 16, 2010

Carmel Valley woman devoted to autism education

Carmel Valley resident Chantal Sicile-Kira is dedicated to educating others about autism, a passion that has driven her to author several books on the topic. She began working with autistic adolescents more than 20 years ago, helping them prepare for their de-institutionalization. Little did she know that several years later that experience would prove invaluable when her son was born and eventually diagnosed with autism in Paris, France, where the only treatment offered was psychoanalysis. Her search for appropriate care led her family to England, and then the U.S.

Her son Jeremy, severely impacted by autism, graduated from Torrey Pines High School in June 2010 with a full academic diploma and currently attends Mira Costa College. Her daughter Rebecca graduated from Canyon Crest Academy in June 2010, as well, and attends UC Davis. Sicile-Kira is currently writing her fifth book to be published in April 2012 by Macmillan, and is preparing to launch an online resource:

1. What brought you to this neighborhood?

My husband was brought over by Lego from the UK to help project manage the construction of Legoland. We chose Carmel Valley for its excellent schools, nearness to the beach, closeness to the airport and to downtown San Diego.

2. What makes this community special to you?

The people, and closeness to the ocean.

3. If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add or subtract to improve the area?

I would add more variety in terms of the architecture in Carmel Valley.

4. Who or what inspires you?

My son, Jeremy, and all those like him. It is really difficult for them to do many of the ordinary, everyday things we take for granted. As well, my daughter Rebecca, and all the autism siblings out there. It’s not easy for them growing up 24/7 in a home impacted by autism.

5. If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

I would invite the President and Michelle Obama, Stephen Spielberg, Tim Ferriss, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Jamie Oliver, and I’d like to squeeze in Arianna Huffington as well.

6. Tell us what you are currently reading.

The Neighbors are Watching, which takes place in Carmel Valley; The 4-Hour Work Week, and Age of Autism.

7. What is your most prized possession?

I’d say my family, but you can’t possess people, so I’ll have to say my iPhone. It can help me out, entertain me and inform me wherever I am. It can also take messages so I can disconnect from real life whenever I like.

8. What do you do for fun?

Read, travel, walk Torrey Pines or the beach, cook and dine with friends, watch movies, and exercise.

9. Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

Raising my two children to be the best that they can be, and writing four practical books on autism. I often get emails from parents telling me how much my books have helped them when their children were first diagnosed, or when they are going through a rough patch. There is no better feeling than knowing you have helped someone with information they need in order to feel empowered to move forward in a positive direction.

10. What is your motto or philosophy of life?

“What is important is not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us.” — Jean-Paul Sartre