She read to a sixth-grade class from her 123-page memoir, Colors Beyond Clouds: A Journey Through the Social Life of a Girl on the Autism Spectrum.
"I wanted to let them know that if they feel like they're alone or if they feel like no one understands them, they are not alone," she said after the reading. "I want to inspire acceptance."
Belfast's book was published this year and was chosen by Your Teenmagazine, an online resource for parents of teenagers, for a list of "books for teens featuring neurodiverse perspectives."
Belfast wrote, for instance, about joining a group of friends who turned out to have different interests and mindsets from her own.
"Even though I was a part of a group, it was not right for me," she read to the class.
The teacher, Sara Yeterian, who also taught Belfast when she was a sixth-grader, said she hoped her former student served as a role model for her current class.
"I really wanted my students to experience what her struggles were, and to really understand that whatever struggles they have don't need to get in the way of going out and doing what they want to do," she said.
Students asked Belfast questions about her experiences, and came away with helpful advice - and fondness for the ALMS alumnus.
"She's a cool person," said student Arleth Perez.
Principal John Barnes was grateful that the students had the chance to hear from someone who was in their seat just a few years ago.
"It is a joy to welcome home Shana to share how she has overcome her obstacles," Barnes said. "The wisdom she is able to impart is inspiring and is a gift for the sixth-graders to receive."