Audrey’s Story

Where to start? I feel like this is one of those times when someone asks you to talk about yourself a little, and you wonder, “Do I tell them that I like cats and be done with it? Do they want me to tell my life story?”

Again, where to start? Well, my name is Audrey Mumper and I am an intern with Sunflower Hill. I love to color, sketch, read, write, sing, laugh, help others, and go grocery shopping. (Yes, you read that correctly.) I also love Disney, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes (the book version), and Pokémon.

I also have high-functioning autism (surprise!) and attention deficit disorder (ADD). My eye contact is poor, although it can be pretty good with some of my friends and relatives. I have the compassion and patience and empathy of a crocodile. (I got a kitten to help with that.) My facial expressions are okay, though sometimes what I’m feeling in my head doesn’t correlate with what I’m expressing on the outside. The best way I can describe it is, there’s a cord connecting the inner and outer emotions and it’s been broken and it never got fixed. I could spell 8th grade words in 3rd grade. I can memorize pretty much every line in a Disney movie (if I’ve seen it recently). Disney songs are my jam; I could tell you which movie, or Broadway show, the song is from, as long as it’s not an obscure one like Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

Some other stuff about me is that I have been a Special Olympics athlete for 10+ years. I have received an AA degree in Social Science from Las Positas College, although it was not planned and it took 4 years. It was at Las Positas where I discovered my passion for forensic anthropology. I transferred to Humboldt State University in the Fall of 2013 to pursue a degree in biological anthropology. Unfortunately, I was overwhelmed by both the heavy academic load and my family’s high expectations and left HSU after 2 years. I think I would eventually like to go back to college and try again.

When I was younger, I didn’t think I was too different from everyone else…but once I got older and started to understand the world a little more, I found out that, while I really wasn’t too different from everyone else, I was different. For a while, I started to resent my condition. “Why can’t I be “normal” like almost everybody else? Why couldn’t my brain understand things at a “normal” rate? Were my friends really being my friends, or were they just pretending for my sake? Why did I have to be different? Why? Why? WHY?!?!?” If I may be honest, there are times when I still resent it. There are times when I feel like it’s holding me back. I hated getting the extra help that an RSP class and Disabled Students Center are supposed to provide. The only two things I really liked was the extra period I got to start and/or finish homework and Priority Registration. I didn’t want extra time to take tests, I wanted to be like everyone else. I didn’t want someone else taking notes for me, I wanted to be like everyone else. I just wanted to be like everyone else.

Then came Sunflower Hill. Sunflower Hill Board Member and my Special Olympics basketball coach, Jon Elfin, was at our house discussing plans for the Sunflower Hill community in Livermore (I actually live a block away from the site). I was taking time off from school, looking

for a job (with no success), and at that point, was just needing something to do. Jon brought up the Sunflower Hill Gardens out at Hagemann Ranch and said they were always looking for more volunteers. I thought, “Hey, I’ve always wanted to help people. This could be my chance!” I’ve been volunteering since October 3rd, 2015, and have been having the time of my life. I have learned so many new things since volunteering and interning with Sunflower Hill, but most of all, I’ve seen changes in myself. The best example I have is my leadership skills. Before, I would have been terrified to lead a group of kids and one or two of their staff in a task. Now, as long as I know what I’m doing, I can lead a (reasonably sized) group of kids and their staff without getting too nervous. My mom says she now sees me as a more confident and outgoing person.

Sunflower Hill has helped me realize that I am just like everyone else. I have my strengths and weaknesses, I also have my quirks and irks. Just like everyone else…Just like everyone else.