Episode 20: April Streeter and Ocean Streeter

Ocean Streeter lives in Hyde Park, Vermont, with cerebral palsy (CP) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). And in this episode, she talks with her sibling, April Streeter, about academic accommodations, independent living, self-advocacy, and the road she’s currently on to becoming a published author.

A full transcript is available below.

April Streeter: Hi, I am April Streeter, my pronouns are she/her. And I’m here with my sibling.

Ocean Streeter: Hello, I am Ocean Streeter, my pronouns are she/they. And it is a pleasure to be here today.

April: Cool. All right, so yeah, Ocean and I are siblings. But I’m really happy to be here today to talk with Ocean and share some information. So, I guess we’ll start, Ocean, if you don’t mind taking us through your diagnoses.

Ocean: Well, my diagnoses are cerebral palsy and autism.

April: Thank you. Can you maybe take us through the timeline of your diagnoses?

Ocean: I was diagnosed during my college years by Dr. Mary Cotton. And I wanted to be diagnosed because I needed assistance, and in order to get assistance from Northeast Kingdom Human Services, I needed to qualify by being diagnosed.

April: And this is your ASD diagnosis?

Ocean: With autism, yes.

April: Mm. Thank you. Can you share a little bit about how things changed for you after you got your ASD diagnosis? Could you elaborate?

Ocean: Of course. After I got my ASD diagnosis…

April: So, how do you feel, if at all, things changed for you, maybe in what you were able to access for services, or, yeah, maybe just that, were you able to access different services or different supports after your diagnosis?

Ocean: Well, after my diagnosis, maybe even before, I can’t be sure of the time, but I accessed TRIO, and like academic support services, [which were] actually very helpful, instrumental to my success and my graduation from Vermont State University Johnson. Some of, yeah, some of my accommodations were extra, with things such as like extra time on tests.

April: Cool. Awesome.

Ocean: Yeah.

April: So you just mentioned something big, that I am super proud of you as a sibling and happy for you about, which is that you graduated with your bachelor’s degree a couple of years ago. So can you — well, what did you major in? What was your major?

Ocean: Well, originally I had wanted to become an herbalist. And so I enrolled in the Wellness and Alternative Medicine program. But after some thought, I figured that a better course of action would be to pursue other things and I’m passionate about. And so my degree is interdisciplinary studies with a concentration in written communication, psychology and wellness and alternative medicine.

And written communication. Because I always wanted to write.

Originally I wanted to write for a newspaper, but now as time has gone on, I really enjoy writing fiction. So I want to pursue that interest.

April: Super cool. Well, I like —  I am glad that you mentioned the piece about writing because that’s something that I thought would be super cool to talk about. You love writing.

Can you share maybe why you love writing?

(Or, I shouldn’t put words in your mouth, but I think you love writing.)

Ocean: Well, I love writing because it allows me to be able to think about what I have to say, and communicate in a clear and concise and coherent way. In a way that through conventional, just face-to-face communication, is a bit of a difficulty for me because I have a slower processing speed when it comes to receiving information.

April: Sure.

Ocean: And so it takes me longer to come up with responses.

April: Yes. Mm.

Ocean: And so it allows me to take the time I need to fully think through my ideas and flush them out. And I just enjoy writing on the computer. And I’m getting really much better this year I think, at communicating both in person and through electronic means. So yeah.

April: Cool. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me that like being able to sit down and take the time to process things and write them out? That makes a lot of sense that that would be something that you might find kind of enjoyable and comforting.

So what do you like to write about?

Ocean: Well, I like to write — well, my love of writing began with poetry. And then just recently I started writing short stories. And the short story that I submitted for publication is about, it’s like this love story between two people who have — are neurodivergent and have autism and like, how they like, they fall in love with each other because they both have like social difficulties and understanding.

Like one key example that it’s based around is like, my character doesn’t know how to like ask somebody for like to go out to lunch and is so afraid that they’re gonna say like that they don’t want to or respond in a negative way that they have trouble even reaching out at all.

And then, but then they meet, the character is unnamed, but they meet Daisy, there’s another person and they learn more about each other and like how they think and they’re able to support each other because they have similar ways of thinking about the world in terms of social interactions. So yeah.

April: Mm. Is that something you’d like to see published somewhere?

Ocean: Yes, in fact, because I went to Vermont University Johnson — yeah, Vermont State University Johnson.

April: Right, it had a different name I think when you went there, so it’s evolved.

Ocean: Formerly known as NVU Johnson. But it is now evolved to Vermont State University Johnson. And while I was in school, I took an editing and publishing class. And the literary magazine at Johnson is known as Pamplemousse.

And so, I submitted it there, because I thought it would be great exposure. And especially since I
went to school at Johnson, like it’d just be nice. It’s nice to contribute back to a place that really helped shape me as a person. So yeah.

April: So Ocean, do you wanna talk a little bit about your advocacy?

Ocean: Sure. I am a part of my local self-advocacy group in Morrisville, which is ultimately a part of Green Mountain Self-Advocates, which is a group of self-advocacy groups like, throughout the state. They’re based in Montpelier and they, what they do, the work that they do is they just help people stand up for themselves and understand their rights, and how to access services, and yeah.

April: Cool. I know you mentioned you, or you mentioned to me before that you went to a, was it a workshop?

Ocean: I went to a conference called “Voices and Choices”, and there’s different
workshops. It’s just — it’s people choose and then what they talk about are topics that are relevant to people with disabilities.

April: Mm. Cool.

Ocean: There’s like an LGBTQ talk, and yeah.

April: Cool. Was that, what was that experience like, sort of being around people who maybe, you know, were like-minded and cared about this new stuff?

Ocean: I think it was a good experience. I didn’t know what to expect because, well, it’s like a two-day event, it’s like a night and a day.

April: Mm.

Ocean: It may even be three days, but I think it’s three days, I’m not entirely sure. But yeah, there’s a sleepover in the hotel and stuff. But I just went for the day.

April: Okay, cool. So Ocean, so you’ve talked about your writing and about how that’s really something that brings you a lot of joy and kind of one of your passions, really. Where do you see that writing taking you in the future?

Maybe that’s: what’s your goal with your writing?

Ocean: Well, my goal with my writing is to, well, hopefully get published by Pamplemousse first, but then also to just continue writing short stories and submitting them to different literary magazines.

But then eventually my eventual goal is to write a novel. I would like to say a good page length would be about 200 pages, so yes.

April: So you are really kind of looking to publish your work?

Ocean: Absolutely, yes.

April: And really kind of build it up in volume?

Ocean: Yes. I’ve never approached writing material with chapters before, but I feel as though I’m capable of it. And best thing is if you write up as much as many pages as you want to be a chapter. So there really is no limit. Yeah.

April: Cool. Awesome, thank you. So I wanted to loop back to kind of where we started. So you spoke about being diagnosed with autism and how, you know, that came in your 20s, right After high school.

Ocean: Yes.

April: I’m wondering if you could talk about when you were diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Ocean: Well, I was born premature, at 26 weeks gestation. And I had a brain bleed and a collapsed lung. And the brain bleed contributes to the fact that I have a slower processing speed. But I have a verbal IQ of 135.

April: Mm, that’s pretty impressive. And I believe that. I feel like your writing really showcases your vocabulary among, you know, other things like your creativity. You’re a very creative and
artistic person, definitely.

Ocean: Yes, I love reading books, I love reading and learning new words. For a while I started teaching myself Korean.

April: Mm-hmm. That’s so cool.

Ocean: Through Duolingo, but — and that’s going pretty well. I need to get back to it, but sometimes you don’t wanna practice much. It’s fun though.

April: Yeah, that is cool. Super cool. So, well, something that I think, another something else I’m really happy for you that’s happened in the last year or so is that you have found an independent living situation. Can you talk about what that experience has been like?

Ocean:  It’s been really good for me. I live in Hyde Park and I have my own apartment, and then another person has their apartment next to me, and then my landlord lives above me.

And it’s really nice, we do a lot of stuff. We go to the movies often, sometimes in Burlington. Probably my favorite cinema is probably The Roxy I’d say, because of the greater variety of movies they have often because they have more like, ones from film festivals and stuff. I’m a big film buff.

April: Mm-hmm. Yeah, yeah. I feel like I always look to you for like movie recommendations, show recommendations, music recommendations.

Ocean: Yeah, I love music, pretty much any genre.

April: Mm-hmm. You’re very open-minded when it comes to that.

Ocean: Even so much as classical, I used to not particularly prefer it, but I like it now. I wanna explore it more, more closely. But yeah.

April: Cool. Right, so you mentioned that you have your own apartment and it’s situated right next to someone else. Could you talk about kind of the technical term for your living setup?

Ocean: The technical term for my living situation is a shared living provider, which allows me to be independent but also if I need assistance with anything. And he helps me cook, takes me to go to the movies, drives me to the store. Just it’s in ways to facilitate my independence. While providing me
opportunities to, yeah — opportunities to facilitate my independence. Yeah.

April: So you kind of have your own space and, you know, you can make your daily schedule, you kind of take care of business, and then you have your shared living provider who’s there to really kind of just support you.

Ocean: And I eat dinner with him.

April: Mm, that’s nice.

Ocean: Tuesdays and Thursdays we eat dinner and we like to play Yahtzee or Sorry! or Trouble. Yeah, we play games.

April: Do you feel like your outlook has changed since moving into this situation? Like your outlook on… well, we could leave it open. How has your outlook changed since moving in?

Ocean: My outlook has changed in that I definitely feel more capable of doing things on my own than I ever have. Because before moving to Hyde Park I attempted to live in South Burlington, and it was unsuccessful for many reasons. And so, it was a bit of a rough couple of years.

But now that I am in Hyde Park, I feel like it’s where I’m supposed to be. And it’s close by to Johnson and yeah. It’s familiar territory, so.

April: And you are working with Green Mountain Support Services, is that right? In Hyde Park.

Ocean: In Morrisville.

April: In Morrisville, yes. Cool. Awesome. So something else I wanted to circle back to you was your college experience. So you told me about your triple major, or your major in interdisciplinary studies. What do you think enables you to kind of be successful in your college career? What were the supports that were available to you?

Ocean: Well, being part of the TRIO program was definitely instrumental to my success. As I mentioned before, they provided things like accommodations, such as extra time on tests, or just a quiet study space. And there were snacks, and it’s just a nice place to decompress after a long day. The staff were always people you felt comfortable with, talking with, and if you had any issue, had any problems, you could feel free to talk with them.

Yeah, it was a family. Yeah. I consider it a family kind of situation.

April: That’s really great. Do you feel like things would’ve been more difficult had you not have that kind of family of support?

Ocean: Yes, because college, for any prospective college student, college is difficult. But while it is difficult, it’s also extremely rewarding. Because you get to the end of the road, you graduate and you’re like: I did it.

But there were many times where I was like, I don’t know if I can do this, it’s too hard.

And there’s like times where I wanted to quit but then I knew that I needed to do this. Because I wanted to be successful in my life.

And I know had problems in the past with school and so, but I finally found a home at Johnson and yeah, it definitely helped to shape me to the person that I am today, so.

April: That’s great.

Ocean: Yeah.

April: So what do you feel like, or what does it mean to you to have your degree?

Ocean: It means very much to me, it means quite a lot to me. It means like all the sleepless nights, all the stress of assignments and asking for extensions because I didn’t have — I didn’t make enough time or whatever the case may be. It was all worth it because I got a degree, and it means something.

It means that I can pursue my hopes, my goals and dreams.

And it was just like it was a crash course in life and social interaction, and had ups and downs with that too. But it all culminated in… it was all worth it, so.

April: Sounds like it was a learning experience in like every sense of the word.

Ocean: Absolutely.

April: Yeah, cool. Is there anything you wanted to add about your college experience, or something you like wish you had known going into it?

Ocean: With my college experience, something that I wish I would’ve known would probably be… well yeah, the fact of TRIO and accommodations and the ability to reach out for help with academics. Yeah, that’s something that somebody that people listening and watching should definitely know and look into.

And I’m hoping that I was helpful in the explanation.

April: So you’re saying, you know, for people looking into college or higher education who might be nervous about, you know, how it’s all gonna go down, you’re saying there are, you know, potentially
some supports for them if they look into that, and it was helpful for you?

Ocean: Yes, it was. And yes, yes, there are.

April: Cool. Okay. Is there anything else you wanted to add?

Ocean: Well, just that it was a pleasure speaking with you today.

April: Yeah, it was a pleasure speaking with you today.


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