Kaiden Mashak – Georgia Nomination by Michelle Mashak Photography by Amy Honea Photography Issue 72 of Inspiring Teens Magazine
Nomination: Kaiden Mashak is an amazing and inspiring teen. He was born a premature fighter. At age 4 he was diagnosed with Asperger's and despite many struggles, he never let his diagnosis be his excuse. Kaiden worked hard to overcome his challenges. He then started volunteering with students on the Autism spectrum, serving with children at church and dedicating his time to help at our churches food pantry serving the less fortunate in our community. Kaiden is always smiling and looks for the best in everyone. His kind heart and giving soul make him a giant teddy bear!
Photography by Amy Honea Photography
What challenges have you had with Asperger's and how have you overcome them? For as long as I can remember I have struggled with crowds and loud noises. I also struggle with learning as I can get easily distracted by things no one else seems to notice. Once I got an actual diagnosis my mom, doctors and teachers went to work getting me plugged into therapies for coping, creating an IEP that allowed me to have a quiet place for testing and excusing me from attending things like pep rallies. I did a TON of therapy from ages 4-14 helping me understand things like sarcasm and idioms. These improved my speech, taught me focus strategies and more!
What do you wish others knew about Asperger? We really want to be included. We are different but not less. And most people with Asperger's/Autism are extremely intelligent we just have a harder time processing things.
What are your roles and responsibilities volunteering for students on the Autism spectrum? My main role is comfort. I see what they see, I hear what they hear so when I notice they are starting to get uncomfortable or may have a melt down, I start implementing the tricks I learned during years of therapy to comfort and/or distract them. If all else fails, I am large enough to hold them and protect them while they flail about to protect them from getting hurt.
How would you describe your leadership style? I try to lead with understanding and patience but also being firm in expectations.
What do you love doing most with the children at your church? I love comforting the children that may be dealing with separation anxiety. Children are entitled to bad days, same as adults and sometimes they just need to be comforted and reminded that their parents will be back soon to pick them up. I also love helping the main teachers in our class. They appreciate the help!
Photography by Amy Honea Photography
What do you love most about serving in your church food pantry? The thing I love most is meeting the people. They are so grateful and appreciative of the help. A lot of our volunteers tend to be a little older too, so I enjoy being able to lift and move the heavier items for our volunteers so they don't hurt their backs.
What is your family like and how do you fit in? How do you stand out? My family is very outgoing and very amazing. I love and cherish my family. I fit in as the strong and caring child of the family and I stand out from my slim and smart brother, while I am muscular and big. Then I have my beautiful and great mom!
What is a favorite family memory you will never forget? I will never forget the time we went to Savannah for a ComicCon. It was such a great and fun experience. I enjoyed sharing something I love with my family and best friend, Joshua.
What is a family tradition you hope never ends? Every year on St. Patrick's Day our extended family gets together for food and fellowship. We eat, play games, take funny pictures. I love just having fun talking to my family and being with them.
What are you most looking forward to in your senior year? I am looking forward to seeing the smiling faces of my family and friends as I graduate and take on the world, ready for a whole new set of challenges.
What advice do you have for underclassmen? To make sure to ask for help from teachers and fellow classmates so they won't feel overwhelmed with the amount of work given. Most teachers will work with you and try their hardest to help you succeed but you have to communicate with them.
What inspiring things about you does your nomination not cover? I think the way that I perceive other people's problems makes me a unique candidate. I am more understanding and calm when dealing with others who may not be able to verbalize what’s wrong with them.
What else would you like to talk about? I would also enjoy talking about my love for animals and the unique bond I seemingly form with most animals I come into contact with.
Photography by Michelle Mashak
Tell us most about your love for animals. I love how animals look and seem to be in a world of their own; they can be quite mysterious. I wish I knew what they were thinking about so I can understand why they do what they do.
What do you feel passionate about or could talk about forever? I am very passionate about helping people. I grew up wanting to be a superhero and that hasn’t really changed. I no longer want to fly around but I still want to listen and help people where needed.
How did you find your photographer, Amy Honea Photography? What was your experience like? What did you love most about it? That she listened to my ideas, like the picture of me with the rubber ducks! My mom found our photographer on Facebook. She had done photos for one of her friends from church so my mom started following Amy just waiting for me to become a senior. Our experience with Mrs. Amy has been phenomenal. Amy is very open minded about my suggestions for photo shoots. While shooting she is very friendly and easy to talk to and communicate with!
If you had nothing to do and all day to do it, where would we find you? You would definitely find me at home, enjoying a relaxing, lazy day with my dog
What is up next for you that you are super excited about? I have been selected by the Georgia High School High Tech Program that provides youths with disabilities a link to academic and career-development experiences that enable us to successfully meet the workforce demands we will be facing after graduation. I have completed intake and am scheduled to start my first job in a few weeks!
Look for Kaiden in issue 72 of Inspiring Teens Magazine!