Aspergers Syndrome

It’s Always Going To Be There

I have seen the video on America’s Got Talent that everyone is talking about. Let me start by saying that it is fantastic to see someone with Autism to be allowed an opportunity that so many people with the neurological disorder continue to miss out on. Why do so many people with Autism miss out you may ask? It’s because of our society’s ignorance that is spawned by fear of the unknown. Elyse Wanshel wrote a Huffington Post article which criticized the reactions to such an audition. Comments on her article People Are Celebrating Kodi Lee on ‘America’s Got Talent’ For The Wrong Reasons have further proved the point she was trying to make.

The video of Kodi Lee’s audition was initially titled “Kodi Lee Defeats Autism and Blindness With Music.” Backlash finally convinced staff to revise the title to “Kodi Lee Wow’s You With a Historical Moment.” People can call me “PC” all they want to. However, that doesn’t change my belief that such a title is worthy of criticism. We live in a world that says you must look the part if you want to be successful. This means that exhibiting any of the characteristics associated with Autism is a strict no-no. It will offend people, particularly those who say that people like me are “easily offended” by the title of a video that falsely implies that a person’s Autism Diagnosis can be defeated. Those who use such language in reference to me are not worthy of my friendship.

I wonder one thing about some of those people who say Kodi Lee is an inspiration. Are they the same ones who would act shocked and offended if he were to exhibit behaviors like stimming? I try not to make assumptions about people based on a social media post. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the answer to such a question were yes. I reject the world’s mindset that any amount of success I can achieve forbids me from exhibiting something that helps me “self regulate” and “self-calm.” I also reject the many who use their experiences with Autism as a means for deciding that they know what is best for me.

I have never met Kodi Lee before. Therefore, I don’t know how Autism effects him. No person with a neurological disorder is under any obligation to answer such a question for the very reason I described above. I am the only person who truly knows the answer to that question in reference to me. Those who see things like stimming as a character flaw are not worthy of my friendship. They don’t know my diagnosis. I do!


Aspergers Syndrome

Keep It In The Bedroom (But I Will Ask Even Though It’s None of My Business)

“Are you gay?” I’ve heard this question from many people throughout the twenty-six years I have been alive. My high school years were especially a time when people felt the need to ask me such a personal question about something that isn’t any of their business. Bullies would ask me this question when they had no other intention than to provoke me. I would also hear it from people who genuinely had the best of intentions. It didn’t matter who asked me that question or what their intentions were. I didn’t appreciate it because I felt people were pressuring me into thinking about something I just wasn’t ready to explore.

Rumors have been spreading about singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes. His self-titled album has reached number one on US Billboard 200 charts. It also became Apple Music’s second most streamed pop album of 2018, behind Justin Timberlake’s Man Of The Woods. Therefore, I am not entirely surprised people have felt the need to gossip about his personal life. I realize that rumors are not statements of fact. I would be lying if I said I didn’t wonder about his sexuality. However, there are plenty of straight men who exhibit stereotypes that people tend to associate with gay men. 

A few years ago, I wrote a post which addressed a refrain many of us gays have heard time and time again from our heterosexual friends. It was appropriately titled “you should be more discreet.” I don’t just hear that from bigots who have nothing better to do than express hatred about something they will never have the brains or the heart to understand. I also hear it from people who claim to be on board with “the gay thing,” as they call it. It used to really irritate me when I was newly out of the closet. However, I now understand that even those who claim to be accepting need to be educated from time to time. 

If Shawn Mendes were to come out as gay, would the same people who keep gossiping about his personal life turn around and tell him that he should “keep in the bedroom?” I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the answer to this question were yes. It’s one thing for a celebrity to have to experience such a thing. It is another thing for someone like me to experience it. I don’t perform concerts in sold out venues across the world. I have very little money. I don’t know what it is like to be forbidden from going out in public alone in attempts to avoid the crazy paparazzi. 

I do, however, know how it feels to know that people are wondering about something I simply wasn’t ready to explore and reveal about myself. Being on the Autism Spectrum didn’t help in that regard. People will notice when you are different. Often times, they will feel the need to point it out in ways that are clearly intended to make someone feel miserable. That is why I say to anyone who has experienced speculation with regards to things like sexual orientation and gender identity. You are the only person who knows the truth. Therefore, you are the only person who should have permission to reveal it! 






Aspergers Syndrome

Steve Grand “Not The End Of Me”

I just listened to the entirety of Steve Grand’s second full-length album Not The End Of Me. Many things have changed in his life and in my life since the first time I saw him perform on Pittsburgh’s Liberty Avenue stage in mid-June of 2014. Steve’s fan base continues to be small. Despite that, it still remains one of the most diverse and loyal groups of people I’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with on social media.

I was out visiting my sister in New York City when the out singer’s album was initially released. I didn’t listen to it until I returned that Sunday. I was initially nervous about it. I say that because his debut album All American Boy was unique in its own light. It was the number one most funded music project in Kickstarter history. I expected Not The End of Me to live up to the honesty and authenticity of its predecessor. 

I am happy to say that my expectations were met when I finished my first listen. However, I continue to struggle with the ability to come up with the words to describe how I feel about each track on this gem by an unbelievably talented and underrated performer. I felt that when I listened to the catchy and upbeat opener “Walking.” I struggled throughout each track because each one has its own musical style, lyricism and subject matter. 

Pink Champagne makes it clear that Steve previously struggled with alcoholism. Many people in the LGBT community struggle with addiction. I think part of it is used to cover up the pain of dealing with the general hatred and discrimination many of us are subjected to. They can only cope with that stigma by resorting to whatever their addictive behavior may be. This causes the individual to become completely unaware of how dangerous their behavior can indeed be. 

“Disciple” is my favorite song on the record. The religious imagery of mother Mary and Jesus may confuse the listener and wonder what Steve is exactly trying to say. It is no secret that Christianity has a long history of anti-LGBT teachings. (I was raised Lutheran, and my hometown church previously lost membership out of opposition to the ELCA’s stance on ordaining clergy who are in a committed relationship with a person of the same sex.) 

The message of the song changes from verse one to verse two. Verse one portrays a childlike peace with the teachings of Jesus and Christianity. It changes, however, in verse two. Pain associated with the anti-LGBT teachings of the church are angering him and driving him away. The anger associated with these teachings seems to push him farther to the point to where he feels that he says he will “die happy never to hear your (Jesus’s) words again.”

“Don’t Let The Light In” makes it clear that Steve has found the love of his life. (At least throughout the four-minute and eleven-second duration of the song.) Its emotionality reminds me of his debut single “All American Boy.” I have yet to find that person whom I am more than willing to fight for. (We’ll see if and when that actually happens.) However, this song gives me four minutes and eleven seconds of hope that I will someday find that person. who truly makes me feel “Safe and Sound

“Aint It Something” also reminds me of “All American Boy” in the sense that Steve doesn’t truly get the guy in the end. We’ve all met that one person in our life who wins us over by their charm and good looks. We get the opportunity to connect, only, thinking we truly have a shot. Then, the person leaves and is never to be seen again. Fantasy is always better than reality, right? 

“Not The End Of Me” is a song that lives up to its name. It doesn’t matter how bad a break up gets. There becomes a time when we have to stand up and remind ourselves that we are still here. 

“Anti Hero” is a song about Steve’s aunt and godmother Diane Niehaus, who the entire album was dedicated to. She died from cancer in 2015. The lyrics are deep and full of emotion, which is why I also consider this track to be one of my favorites. I have never experienced the loss of someone close to me. However, I do live with Depression. I know it is a lifelong struggle, no matter how much people try to say I can magically snap out of. I never met Diane. But, I could instantly tell that she and Steve were incredibly close. “I was just a child, her love was like the ocean.” Her death pushed him into a Depression so deep that he resorted to alcohol as a way to cope with the pain he was experiencing. 

“Good To See You” reminds me of who I was during my teenage years. In particular, the second verse is particularly relevant to me. Steve talks about how he built a wall against the people who really cared about him. I was bullied a lot as a teenager, especially during freshman and sophomore year of high school. I also struggled with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome.) Difficulty relating to others put up a wall between me and those who truly wanted the best for me. Some may find it strange that he would say something so sincere towards a man whom he previously engaged in a one night stand with. I guess that is part of his personality! 

“All I Want” reminds us all of that one person whom, as the title suggests, supposedly is “the one.” There could be many reasons which may suggest that is the case. However, this person Steve is singing about just so happens to be a cheater. Deep down, he knows he truly is not worth it. His good looks seem to convince Steve into believing this guy is all he wants. (When will he learn?) I suppose the truth will catch up to him before too long! 

“You Or The Music” also lives up to its title. It is the most up-tempo song on the whole album. (I suppose it has an unintended meaning that Steve will be staying single for a while.) Steve’s busy touring schedule is bound to make it impossibly difficult to maintain a relationship with someone. He makes it abundantly clear that the music will ultimately win. 

It makes sense that “Can’t Go Back” is the closing track of the album. He says he is “running from his mind” and trying to cope with the painful experiences he has gone through. He is accepting the fact that he can’t go back and do it over again. 

These 12 tracks, along with the three demos, make Not The End Of Me hard to believe that it is only Steve Grand’s second full-length record. Steve is a talented, handsome and underrated artist who deserves more recognition than he gets. It gave me more insight into his mind and his songwriting. He was able to turn painful experiences like struggling with alcoholism and the death of his loving aunt/godmother into music. That, combined with his sheer dedication, is a talent few people have. 












Aspergers Syndrome

I Bought A Journal

You may tell by the title that I haven’t been writing as much as I would like to be. I have found that sitting in front of the computer, trying to come up with something that people will want to read is only going to cause my cursor to blink and blink in front of a blank document. Thus, I ordered a journal and have begun writing inside of it each day. I have found that I am much too formal when I am sitting here in front of the computer. Things like content and formatting prevent me from making progress by actually writing something. Add that with worrying about whether people will actually want to read what I have to say.

Yes, we need to know the importance of sharing our writing with other people for the sake of getting honest feedback. I realize that is what professional writers do. However, I think we all need at least one place where nobody else but I will read the things I place inside of it. That is precisely why I bought a journal. I need at least one place where I don’t have to think about any of the formalities associated with submitting my writing to someone who is going to evaluate it.  Sitting in front of my computer certainly is not going to help me achieve that.

I simply take five to ten minutes each day and write whatever comes to my mind. I do it simply to achieve the task of getting my thoughts on paper. I often do think of good ideas for content when I am laying down in bed, or, on the ground playing with my dog. There is one problem with that. I tend to forget about it a few minutes later. I fall back into that rut when I sit at my computer and try to come up with something that people will actually want to read. This is why I think this journal will help me in the long run. I can refer back to it and use my entries as ideas for content.






Aspergers Syndrome

I Think I Can Be That Train

I’ve grown accustomed to hearing the sound of those mighty machines when I walk through many of the towns here in Western Pennsylvania. For that reason, I don’t typically pay attention to them when I hear their rumble. I am still, however, reminded of the prominent symbolism that many cultures throughout the world share with those of us here in the United States of America. One of my favorite songs on country music singer Chely Wright’s 2013 album Lifted off the Ground is a song called “That Train.” The lyrics are simply musings about the fact that she wants to be a mighty machine “made of rivets, made of steel, and built for speed.”

I wonder what inspired Wright to pen a song where she personifies herself as a piece of machinery that has become an everyday sight for people in towns across the world. Was it the numerous movies and works of literature which symbolize trains as symbols of determination to fulfill a mission? Did she feel inspired by characters reuniting after a summer apart in the Harry Potter movies and the sense of adventure in the Polar Express are just a few examples. Or, did she see one in her dreams? It suggests the person will stop at nothing to get to that destination. No matter if it is as specific as Chicago’s Union Station or abstract as achieving success in one’s terms.

I wanna be that train
I wanna be that free
Hang onto that track is all they’ll ever ask of me
Smooth heavy wheels to roll me away
I wanna be that train

Some people might suggest that a railroad resembles restrictions of ones freedom in life. Wright makes that clear in the first line where she expresses that she could never physically do what a train is intended to do. I agree with that to a certain extent. The only way a train can travel to its destination is if it stays on the track which humans previously constructed for it to do so. Making a note of the preceding statement is one reason why I have difficulty personifying myself as a mighty locomotive. We are all bound to go through experiences where the only way we can get through it is to “hang onto the track.” I can picture how I would handle being the engineer of a train in a dark tunnel. I would move as slowly and as cautiously as possible out of fear that the “light at the end of the tunnel” would be a fiery trap disguised to look like the world outside.

I feel I must clarify the points I made in the previous paragraph. I can remember one time in my life where “hanging onto the track” was the only way I could get through it. High school was an example of such an experience. Being different and in high school can be unbearable at times. I have written about my experiences with bullying at great length in the past. I no longer desire to do so now. I merely say that because I am here now. I can do more than learn from my own experiences; I can listen to people who have experienced dark tunnels of their own. 

I’d get to see the mountains and the planes from coast to coast
Many might adore me but they wouldn’t get too close
I’d never be that lonely ’cause my engine and caboose,
Wouldn’t leave me, we’d be bound
Yeah, we’d be breakin’ loose

It may be difficult for me to picture myself as a mighty piece of machinery, made of rivets, steel and built for speed. But, there becomes a time when we all must embrace our inner train. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (Arnold Munk) immediately came to my mind when I wrote that sentence. It doesn’t matter if the ultimate reward is getting to see mountains and the planes from coast to coast, or, bringing toys and good food for children to eat. We all need to know how fulfilling it can be to hang onto that track. I say that even when dark tunnels compel us to stop dead in our tracks out of fear that our mission will not be successful.

Some may question why I felt the need to write about a simple song by underrated country music singer Chely Wright. Nevertheless, it is a song I can learn from as one year ends and another begins. I hope you can learn from it too.

Aspergers Syndrome

ABC’s “The Good Doctor”

Those who have read my previous writings will know that I have been critical of Autism portrayals in Hollywood. Grey’s Anatomy’s Dr. Virginia Dixon was (in my view) the worst of any Hollywood portrayal I have ever seen. I am convinced the writers based her representation on a list of symptoms from WebMD and an article about Dr. Temple Grandin. I suppose you could say that I was “triggered” by Dr. Dixon’s evident inability to recognize when the parents of a brain-dead patient might not want to be overwhelmed with all of the details as to why their beloved daughter’s life has been cut short.

Multiple publications have praised a new ABC drama titled “The Good Doctor” as a program which sheds light on Autism. The show’s protagonist is Dr. Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore.) He is a surgeon who lives with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Some articles have indicated that he also has Savant syndrome. The first five episodes of the series have made it abundantly clear that Shaun lived a troubled childhood. His father was an abusive alcoholic. His brother was tragically killed in a fall from the roof of a train car, which he and his friends were playing on. 

It is encouraging to see a positive depiction of someone who lives with a neurological condition which affects no two people in exactly the same way. I am not at all denying that people are becoming more educated and aware that Autism is real. I am genuinely grateful for the many folks who continue to fight the good fight. I am also thankful for the writer’s attempt to convey a message that it is possible for someone who is on the Autism Spectrum to pursue a successful career in a field they are passionate about. 

That being said, I can see why some people take issue with Hollywood portrayals of Autism. It all goes back to the clear difference between fantasy and reality. Hollywood loves to misrepresent neurological disorders. A high paying job like one held by Freddie Highmore’s character is merely a fantasy for many people who have an ASD. I’ve read horror stories about employers who were far from willing to make accommodations based on the person’s needs. 

Hollywood’s continued support Autism Speaks is another primary reason why some take issue with the film and television industry’s representations of the disorder. The fact is, this organization does little to nothing with regards to providing real support for individuals and their families. Their primary focus is on the highly controversial search for a cure. They primarily cater towards families with children and provide little to no support for adults. ASD does not end after high school. It is a lifelong struggle with its own set of challenges in every phase of the individual’s life. 

As stated in an earlier paragraph, there are some high points to the character that is Dr. Shaun Murphy. However, my biggest complaint thus far would be the scenes where they portray Shaun as someone with apparent social ineptitude. I can partially forgive it because he had a troubled childhood and lacked an adult figure who could teach him proper social boundaries. I am currently willing to trust the writers will not go the route of portraying him as a man who somehow thinks his diagnosis automatically entitles him to a get out of jail free card when people call him out on social behavior which violates necessary boundaries. 

(The episode “Pipes” proves my point. Shaun wakes up his landlord after midnight to give him a list of repairs to be done around his apartment.) 

There are a few things I would like to see in future episodes of “The Good Doctor.” I know several people who work in hospitals. One must have a thick skin and be able to cope with any situation that can cause stress. My question is, how would a character like Shaun respond to a crisis situation in the hospital? An answer to that question would most likely depend on what type of crisis I am referring to. Any kind of situation which disrupts the typical day to day operations of the fictional St. Bonaventure hospital would give us a glimpse into how Shaun reacts to stressful situations which disrupt his routine. 

All in all, I do look forward to seeing more episodes of The Good Doctor. I think Shaun is a likable character with tremendous potential as a surgeon. I hope the writers, and fans of this show, will take my above concerns into account. 


Aspergers Syndrome

The Adventures of Apartment Life (Quick Update Blog)

I admire the view of the street and the empty grass parking lot. I hear vehicles driving by on the street and the neighborhood children playing outside. I notice the smell of barbecue coming from the neighboring apartment complex. The noise of a siren, coming from the nearby volunteer fire station, disrupts my attention for about thirty seconds. The sound of several passing fire truck sirens soon follows after the station’s winds down from its half minute blast. I attempt to divert my attention to whatever I was doing before that blaring sound interrupted my concentration.

I am surprised that I managed to grow accustomed to those sounds in the almost seven months I have been living in my apartment. As a matter of fact, there are times when they occur in that exact order! I’ve experienced all of those sights and sounds before. I usually thought nothing of them back when I lived with mom and dad. Why do they capture my attention now? I suppose it’s because I am residing in a place that was previously unfamiliar to me. It is a place I will manage to call home until I take up residence elsewhere.

The ability to live independently is essential for someone like me. Let’s face it, we all need our space for varying reasons. Probably the most important reason for my independence is because I know I am a gay man. I could not be more grateful for my parent’s who continue to be loving and supportive of me. Many gay people consider that a luxury simply because their biological families have been everything but that. However, there becomes a time in every gay man’s life when he must go out and explore this essential aspect of who he is as a person.

I would be false to say that apartment living has turned me into a brand new man. However, I can say that it has given me the courage to stop hiding the things that make me who I am. It’s hard for anyone to talk about sexuality when they are in their parent’s house, let alone express it openly. I currently display autographed pictures of Steve Grand flaunting his chiseled physique on my bulletin board. I hope to run off some pictures of my mom, dad, sister and my adorable curly tailed dog named Cinnamon to add to my display.

With that in mind, I know that living on my own comes with its fair share of responsibilities. I now have to keep track of adult things like rent, utility bills and making sure I take out the garbage before it stinks up the whole unit. I also know that I must focus on things like finishing my English degree at community college, finding employment and exploring career opportunities. These are what make independence more rewarding.




Aspergers Syndrome

Brief Reflections On The Shooting At Pulse Nightclub

It happens every time there is a mass shooting. We sit and watch the television in hopes that the death toll will not continue to rise. Details about the perpetrator and possible motives start to fill social media. Everyone is desperate to know the real answer. Why would someone commit an act so violent, evil and hateful? It was hard to keep my emotions in check when other gay people have said they no longer feel safe at bars, nightclubs, and events that are supposed to be safe places.

I cannot form words regarding today’s events. So, I am going to leave you with a song by somebody who I truly admire. Steve Grand’s “We Are The Night” reminds us that “it’s our time” and “we will rise.” There are plenty of things regarding today’s events that are bound to make us burst out in anger and sadness. Despite that, we must do everything in our power to push for the chance we want to see. Because we just want to be free!

Aspergers Syndrome

Challenges of Addressing Bullying In Schools

I recently read an article from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The subject was a lawsuit between parents Julie and Timothy Krebs. The trial’s ultimate intent is to remind the New Kensington-Arnold School District of their lack of response to the bullying that Destiny Krebs endured every day. Tragically, the emotional pain proved too much for Destiny Krebs. She took her life in February of 2015. I have felt obliged to write about this story since I found it only a week ago. However, I was unsure where to begin.

I graduated from high school five years ago. I was a target throughout my years in the public education system. However, I do not know the specifics with regards to the nature of bullying incidents that are known to take place in New Kensington-Arnold Schools. We have often heard the cliché where people refer to bullying as an epidemic. No doubt that we should be concerned about it. However, I think it is important to remember that bullying is still a very complex issue.

Lee Hirsch’s documentary “Bully” made that incredibly clear. The five families featured in this critically acclaimed work featured the lives of five families who have been affected by bullying in ways that have many significant differences and similarities. (Below are links to stories about each family.) 

I am truly grateful for all of these families. They have all reminded us about the importance of determination. They all had one thing in common. That is their anger with their school’s lack of response. It is never easy to turn the reality of a child’s death to movement.  I am in no way trying to claim that I am on the side of administrators or teachers who are apparently uninterested in doing anything to prevent the issue. I, however, think it is important to keep things in mind if it should come up in a conversation between you and the people you interact with every day. 

Parents make a significant difference with regards to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of not just their children. Again, that difference can be positive when they become involved in movements like The Bully Project. It can also be profoundly negative. The question is, what is the appropriate way for a teacher or principal to speak to parents of students who are indeed involved in bullying? Our world is full of parents who have absolutely no clue about what their children doing when they are not under their direct supervision. Good luck to the teacher who tries to tell the parents about their behavior. In a worst case scenario, the parent will most likely get defensive and deny that their child did anything wrong.  

“How dare you tell me that my child is not a perfect little angel?” 

Sadly, our world is full of parents who just don’t care about how damaging bullying is. Some of them go even farther than dismissing the issue and using cliches like “boys will be boys.” They believe that it is funny to mistreat other people and will remorselessly defend a child who does it. I suppose a plausible theory could be that schools often refuse to address the issue due to fear of backlash from the parents of the bully. However, this ends up backfiring for schools because a lawsuit from the parents of the victim is often the only way to remind faculty and administration of how the issue continues to affect everyone negatively. 

 (The scene from Bully at the town hall meeting with Tina and David Long was an eye-opening example. A local pastor stepped up to the microphone. He said that students showed up in school with ropes around their neck right after the suicide death of their son Tyler.) 

 I certainly agree that we should all be angry with school teachers and administrators who are completely lax with regards to punishing children who bully. I agree that movements like “The Bully Project” are very beneficial in getting the word out. However, our anger can make us oblivious to how complicated the world is. I will forever be grateful for the people in my life who taught me the importance of rising above negativity and hatred. We need more individuals and groups who are willing to step up to the plate and take that risk.

Aspergers Syndrome, LGBT

“You Should Be More Discreet!”

“Stop shoving your lifestyle down my throat! Keep it in the bedroom!”

I often wish that I could get paid one million dollars every time I hear people say that about the gay community. The funny thing is, it does not just come from people who think that “homosexual practices” are the spawn of the devil. It comes from individuals who claim to be genuinely accepting of the fact that I like men. Life has taught me one valuable lesson with regards to the angry and loudmouth homophobes who know their “activism” is truly hurtful. They don’t deserve my attention. I don’t see any point in angrily responding to people who clearly want such a reaction from me. I am quite annoyed, however, with well-meaning individuals who continue to utter many variations of “you need to be more discreet about your sexuality.”

I find it ironic that some of these folks claim to be okay with the fact that I am gay. I am physically and emotionally attracted to men. Someday, I desire to meet that special man and tie the knot with him. It has been hard to eliminate those folks who cannot accept that marrying a woman in some big church wedding will never be the ideal life for me. I come from a very religious extended family. Despite that, I strive to live as someone who conforms to no one else’s standards but his own! This statement applies to social media and in real life. Yes, the discreet police are highly irritating!

Let’s take a look at the Webster definitions of “discreet.”


1.) Not likely to be noticed by many people. (Simple definition.)

1.) having or showing discernment or good judgment in conduct and especially in speech :prudentespecially:  capable of preserving prudent silence. (Full definition.)

2.) Unpretentious, modest.

3.) Unobtrusive, unnoticeable.

There is something I cannot help but notice when I read these definitions of the word and listen to those who insist that we must keep our sexuality “in the bedroom.” They are precise definitions of what we call unintentional homophobia. The whole concept of intent vs. impact comes into play when people “discreet police” me. People try to appear discreet when they know they are doing something that is against the rules. It does not matter if this regulation is in the official rule book or unwritten rules that one must follow to appear like they “belong.” They do not want to get caught in the act for fear of punishment or shunning. Regardless of what anyone says, I know that my sexual orientation is far from illegal or immoral. Therefore, I form the following impression when people say that I need to “keep it in the bedroom. They are still negatively influenced by the very individuals who think I am the devil’s spawn for showing genuine interest in the “homosexual lifestyle.”

What about my sexuality should I be more discreet? I do not understand what people are referring to when they insist on imposing such a standard on me. I get that we live in a sexually repressed world. I am also willing to acknowledge some of the reasons behind that. Sex and sexuality are topics that require a certain amount of emotional and physical maturity to understand and appreciate. This truth is something that many adults fail to understand. Let’s face it! We live in a world full of people who think that being gay is nothing but a childish joke. That is a joke used as a cheap punchline by someone who has yet to admit their faults and failings.

We also live in a world full of people who fail to realize one thing when they tell me, an openly gay man, to be more discreet. I kept it a secret for many years. By the time I entered junior high, I already realized there was such a thing as gay, bisexual and straight. My diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome caused me to struggle with the ability to understand my behavior and that of others. I knew that I was genuinely curious about the male body in the same way that most teenage boys were curious about the female body. At the time, I never discussed it with anyone. My adolescence, in that regard, was no different than the story of many other people who grew up and realized they were gay. I was curious about the male body and thought it was just a phase that I would outgrow.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane and go back to junior high. I cringe when I remind myself of one trend that began during that time and continued through to high school. It can be hard for any teenager to deal with the development of hormones. This is particularly the case when you are in a building with a bunch of mid-pubescent teens whose only exposure to (heterosexual) sex is through music, pop culture and pornography. Many of my classmates from junior high had the disrespectful tendency to push the topic on people who were just not ready to explore it. Therefore, they assumed that anyone who resisted conversation about that the graphic details of such a topic are a faggot or a queer. (One student used those exact words when they spoke to me.) So, back to the “discreet police.” I am supposed to sit here and keep and keep an essential aspect of my life secret so people can be their nosy selves and assume that I am gay? I don’t get it.

There is one thing I must reluctantly accept from time to time. Some places are just not appropriate for conversations about the most intimate details of my sexuality.

“He has a cute butt! I would bring him home with me!”

I can imagine the looks of disgust from parishioners after I, hypothetically, shouted that in the middle of worship. Even Episcopalians would frown upon that. It’s just not the best to proclaim a sexual interest in places that are specifically intended to look beyond the physical. That still does not change my refusal to allow people to pressure me into “keeping my sexuality in the bedroom.” I just highlighted several reasons why. I don’t like to be “militant” about this issue. (Those are not my words. I am just quoting it from people who have used it to describe the LGBT community.) However, I think it needed to be said and I could not find any other way to say it.

I thank you for reading and please feel free to leave a comment!




Aspergers Syndrome, Poetry

My Thoughts on “The Raven”

This was an essay I wrote in English class as a response to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.”

The Raven: Analysis and Interpretation

Analysis and interpretation of Literature is a great art form. The reader must read through the story or poem several times in order to gain a clear understanding of the work and its meaning. “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe is a remarkable example of a work that has been interpreted in many different ways. I intend to analyze why he used a black raven as a symbol of prophetic significance. The ghastly raven, along with other notable symbols, are one of the many reasons Edgar Allan Poe remains to be one of the most recognizable authors throughout American history.

The story begins on a cold night in December. The unnamed male narrator, whose wife Lenore has presumably died, is napping in his home and awoken by a sudden tapping sound. He is trying to overcome the sorrow from her loss. The narrator tries to address the person or object making the strange tapping sound and no response is heard.  The narrator then opens the door to see where the sound is coming from on and discovers that nobody is there. He then goes back inside and the tapping sound continues. He opens the door an investigates a second time, “Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore; Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he; But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—Perched, and sat, and nothing more.” (Poe, 1028-1031.)

The narrator then continues to ask the raven to state its name and is surprised to hear it croak “nevermore.” He initially assumes this Raven is exhibiting the parrot like tendencies of repeating words and phrases uttered by the creature’s human counterparts. Online articles have indicated the Poe intended to use a parrot as the main symbol, however, he decided that a raven would better fit the poems melancholy tone. However, the narrator’s reaction to this Raven radically changes as the poem progresses onward. Those endeared feelings change to perplexed when he questions why the Raven continues to croak “nevermore.” Perplexed then changes to downright unhinged. “Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend,” I shrieked, upstarting- “Get the back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian’s shore! Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken! Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my door! Take thy beak from out of my heart, and take thy form from off my door! Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore!” (Poe, 1028-1031.) The raven seems to be taunting the narrator and reminding him that he will not be able to see his lost Lenore in heaven. He allowed its taunts to push him into a satanic rage.

I, like many other readers, initially questioned why Poe would write such a dark and mysterious poem about death and the inability to overcome from grief. Reading about his life gave me a very clear perspective. Internet blogs and articles have indicated that “The Raven” was simply a rehearsal for the ultimate grief that American author Edgar Allan Poe was bound to experience. His wife, Virginia was playing piano and singing at an opera house when she suddenly began coughing up blood. It became apparent to Poe that those were symptoms of the deadly disease now known as tuberculosis. The Raven was simply a preparatory piece for the grief he was destined to experience when Virginia was to lose her battle with tuberculosis. (Women’s History Blog: Virginia Clemm.) Poe chose death as the central theme because it is an inevitable topic that we all face at some point in our lives. I especially appreciated line 89. “Is there balm in Gilead? Tell me – tell me, I implore.” (Poe, 1028-1031.) It is a reference to the old testament verse Jerimiah 8:22. Our church has often sung a hymn inspired by that verse titled “There Is a Balm in Gilead.” Poe obviously didn’t strike me as the religious type. Nevertheless, it certainly reminded me how dealing with a loved one’s death of a loved one can certainly seem like there is no “balm in Gilead.” Knowing such a truth begs one important question. Could Poe have deliberately portrayed this Raven as more than just an innocent bird parroting words and phrases uttered by its human counter parts? Could he have actually portrayed it as a satanic force that insists on reminding the narrator that he is doomed to eternal damnation and will never see his lost Lenore in heaven? I am sure this question would receive a variety of answers.

As one can see, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” has become one of the most recognizable works in American literature. The work is a very real reminder that people react to death in many different ways. Some are able to overcome the pain and marry again. Others, however, fall into deep sorrow and depression because they cannot cope. The American classic gave us a glimpse into Poe’s life and how he dealt with his wife’s diagnosis of tuberculosis. It gives us all a reminder about the importance of finding a way to cope with death.

Works Cited

Poe, Edgar-Allan “The Raven.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, 11th Ed. Kelly J. Mays.

         NY: Norton, 2013. 1028-1031. Print

Hallqvist Christopher. “Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven.” Poe Decoder. 1998.

         Web. 3 March 2016

Maggie MacLean. “Virginia Clemm: Wife of Author Edgar Allan Poe.”

          History of American Women Blog. 8 April 2014. Web. 3 March 2016


Aspergers Syndrome

“You Have A Chip On Your Shoulder!”

“Derek, you need to be more positive! You walk around like you have a chip on your shoulder!”

I’ve been told this many times. However, I have never really understood what it means. Teachers used to say it when I appeared unhappy and that I wanted to be anywhere else but in school. Typically, I just shrug it off. I am not one to take cheap advice from people who don’t have any idea what it is like to live with Asperger’s, Depression and Anxiety. I Googled the term “chip on your shoulder” and the following Urban dictionary entry was one of the first results.

Chip on his shoulder commonly refers to someone who has a self-righteous feeling of inferiority or a grudge. An example would be someone always bringing up how they are or were disadvantaged in some way.”

That definition brought back my memories to my sixth-grade homeroom teacher. To avoid the risk of starting a keyboard war, I am not going to mention this teacher’s real name. However, my mother and I did not think highly of her. She exhibited several tendencies that I felt were completely unacceptable for any teacher, but especially one responsible for educating students who were preparing to transition into junior high. Among her many unappealing traits, she had the tendency to say things that were very insensitive and disrespectful to my struggles and those of other students. On top of that, there were several instances where she would make them the center of attention. Knowing that sixth grade was eleven years ago, my memory is fuzzy. There is one situation, however, that I can remember quite distinctly.

I was working on something at my desk. Everyone else was talking and carrying on because the teacher walked out of the room for a minute or two. When she returned, my concentration was when she spoke in a very demanding voice. “Derek Warren! That is not your desk! That is everybody’s desk! Put your pencil down and clean it out!” The classroom was noisy, so I looked at her and tried to comprehend what she just said. So, my lack of an instant response compelled her to yell. “Stop staring at me like a deer in headlights and clean out your desk!” The entire classroom to became silent. She looked at everyone else, laughed and then commented. “Wow! That got everyone quiet!” Everyone laughed. They knew she didn’t like me and didn’t quite know how to handle me. (Plus, she was the “cool” sixth-grade teacher.)

Sixth grade was a very awkward time for me. It was the very first year I, along with my classmates, was assigned a different teacher and classroom for each subject. (The principal felt this was the best approach towards preparing us students for our transition into the pubescent years known as “junior high.”) Regardless, The whole routine of going from classroom to classroom was a major struggle for me. It impacted my organizational skills and my ability to keep track of assignments. I look back at that whole situation and realize one thing. I was a tough kid in some respects. I certainly knew I was different during that time. But, I knew little about Asperger’s Syndrome. The following important lesson never occurred to me until years later. People are bound to become frustrated when they are forced to work or interact with someone who exhibits idiosyncrasies like mine.

I never told anyone about this experience, including my parents. Some may think it is silly to feel upset about a teacher who insisted on running her mouth towards me. I agree with them. Regardless, this memory has always stuck with me. She failed to understand how insulting that remark was, irrespective of whether it was deliberate or just a “slip of the tongue.” Let’s think about it. The common perception of deer is that they are not the most intelligent creatures. (Click here for an article that explains why deer stare at headlights!) Organization was always one of my biggest shortcomings throughout my experience in the public school system. I have always been aware of it, but, habits are never easy to break. Her intent did not matter to me. She was trying to claim that I am stupid only because I didn’t instantly react to her demands.

What is the appropriate response to someone who is truly ignorant and insensitive about my peculiarities? That is not an easy one to ponder. What may be appropriate in one situation may be unacceptable in another. Some may not want to hear this, but, it is an important thing to keep in mind. We are not always as innocent as we think. It is important to take a minute and remind ourselves that diagnosis does not mean exempt from the basic rules of social conduct.

Have you never said anything that people may find disrespectful and insensitive to any of their personal struggles?

Have you never condescended to someone because you think your beliefs and experiences outweigh their own?

I greatly struggled with knowing when I was in the wrong. Some of it was due to the lack of basic social conduct. There are only two things I can do when people call me on that. Apologize and make sure it doesn’t happen again. However, I will never apologize for the things that make me stand out from everyone else. We live in a world which continues to punish those who dare to be different. It took me a long time to develop the courage to say that. It is the one thing that puts me one step closer to overcoming that chip on my shoulder from adolescence. The next step is going back to school and pursuing an English Degree. Improving my writing skills for a broad range of possibilities is the one thing that will help me overcome this “chip on my shoulder.”





Aspergers Syndrome

“Neurotribes” by Steve Silberman (Part 1 of 2)

“Autistic children have the ability to see things and events around them from a new point of view, which often shows inspiring maturity. This ability, which remains throughout life, can in favorable cases lead to exceptional achievements which others may never attain. Abstraction ability, for instance, is a prerequisite for scientific endeavor. Indeed, we find numerous Autistic individuals among distinguished scientists.”

Hans Asperger

One thing comes to my mind when I read the above quote. I sure wish I heard that when I was in high school. I have greatly appreciated the insight from Autism memoirists like John Elder Robison and Dr. Temple Grandin. The most important critics of our world perceptions about Autism are those who actually live with it.  Many people in the tech world know San Francisco resident Steve Silberman for his contributions to “Wired” magazine and his recent Ted talk. Aside from those worthy accomplishments, his recent book “NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity” continues to become his most recognizable.

Silberman’s inspiration behind writing this book was a technology conference that he attended back in 2000. However, this was not the typical corporate technology conference that you would find in a venue like Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence convention center. It took place on a cruise ship through Alaska’s beautiful Inside passage.

“In the past forty years, some members of this tribe have migrated from the margins of society to the mainstream and currently work for companies like Facebook, Apple, and Google. Along the way, they have refashioned pop culture in their own image; now it’s cool to be obsessed with Doctor Who – at any age. The kids formerly ridiculed as nerds and braniacs have grown up to become the architects of our future.”

Among the attendees of this cruise was Larry Wall, the creator of an open source programming language called Perl. Steve walked over to Larry and asked if they could meet at his home located in the heart of Silicon Valley. He accepted the invitation, only after warning Steve that he and his wife happen to have an Autistic daughter. Steve’s only introduction to Autism was from the award winning film “Rain Man.” He indicated that Raymond was “a memorable character, but the chances of meeting such a person in real life seemed slim.” That is still true in the 21st century. I certainly cannot count toothpicks at a glance or memorize a phone book because such impractical activities are uninteresting to me. Regardless, Steve soon discovered that Larry also exhibited several characteristics that would classify as “high functioning Autism” or Asperger’s Syndrome.

“As I chatted with Larry about his illustrious invention, a blub lit up on the wall behind us. He had replaced the chime on his clothes dryer with an unobtrusive bulb because the little ding! at the end of each cycle disconcerted him. Such tinkering seemed par for the course for a man whose code made it possible for a Perl hacker named Bruce Winter to automate all the devices in his house and have his email read to him over the phone – in 1998. It didn’t occur to me until much later that Larry’s keen sensitivity to sounds might provide a link between his daughter’s condition and the tribe of industrious hermits who invented the modern digital world.”

I look at figures like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Larry Wall. I realize they are more than just important figures in the development of computing and technology. They are important reminders of how far we have come with regards to recognizing Autism and Asperger’s. They are important reminders of how far the world has come with regards to encouraging these “brainiacs” and “nerds” to embrace their uniqueness by turning their skills into something marketable and rewarding. It certainly is true that we still have a long way to go with regards to challenging our society’s ignorant and negative mindset about being Autistic or “on the spectrum.” Before reading NeuroTribes, I never wondered what it took for our world to evolve into the belief that being different is cool. I must admit, this was an emotional journey for me to read about.

Adolf Hitler perceived the disabled as living “life unworthy of life.” The infamous dictator’s hatred towards the weak and feeble minded compelled him to enact Action T4 (German: Aktion T4.) This permitted involuntary euthanasia of the elderly, mentally or physically disabled, mentally distraught and the incurably ill. These “weak” and “feeble minded” children were tortured to death through starvation and forced overdose of medications. A nurse named Anny Wöbt testified against German psychiatrist Erwin Jekulius for the murder of her six year old son at the Am Spielgrund clinic.

“It was unambiguously clear from his remarks that he endorsed the entire operation against ‘life unworthy of life’ and that he was prepared to do whatever the Nazis demanded.” She begged Jekelius to at least grant her son a quick and painless death, and he promised to do that. On February 22, 1941, Alfred, six years old, perished of “pneumonia” at Am Spigelgrund. When Wödl viewed her son’s corpse, it was obvious that he had died in agony.”

This certainly is heavy material. The worst part of reading about these brutal “euthanasia crimes” was knowing that these children (most likely) could not have managed to escape the systematic abuse if an Autism diagnosis had actually existed. The general public did not even begin to recognize the term “Autism” until (approximately) the 1960s. Bruno Bettelheim sparked a lot of controversy in 1967 when he compelled the public and medical professionals to accept Leo Kanner’s “refrigerator mother” theory. He claimed that the child’s diagnosis was a result of the mother being “distant, cold and rejecting.” Parents commonly reacted to the revelation of their child’s diagnosis by institutionalizing them. However, there were many parents who refused to accept that as the “one and only” path for their future. They were willing to go the extra mile and provide for the child. Dr. Temple Grandin’s mother did that by introducing her to people who were willing to mentor and guide them along the way. This can be hard to do in our modern world. The main reason is because it continues to punish those who think differently. Nonetheless, it reminds us that there are people who genuinely care and they are the only ones who will truly matter!

Aspergers Syndrome

My Thoughts About Kim Davis

June 26, 2015 was a joyful day for many. It was the day our United States Supreme Court declared that all 50 states must legally recognize marriages between gay and lesbian couples, thus defeating the Defense of Marriage Act. Of course, not everyone felt that profound sense of joy in knowing that it continues to change our nation every single day. Tempter tantrums from Conservative Christian politicians and defiance from certain state employees has gained quite a bit of attention in the past few weeks. Rowan county Kentucky clerk Kim Davis has become one of the most infamous. Most of us already know that she was rightfully placed in custody by the US Marshals after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. I was appalled when I watched footage from that insane rally in support of her “constitutional rights.” We truly have a long way to go if people think the illegal and discriminatory actions of a county clerk are to be considered “heroic.”

I have yet to find that special someone in my life. I guess I can live by the belief that it will come when the time is right and that I should not desperately “search” for him. I still cannot imagine how devastating it would be to have someone tell me that I cannot marry him and receive the same legal rights that my heterosexual counterparts are entitled to. I watched the documentary “Bridegroom” about Shane Bitney Crone. His boyfriend, Tom Bridegroom, was tragically killed in an accident when he fell off the roof of an apartment building. I would hate to spoil it for those who have not viewed the movie. However, I still think this is an important example. Tom’s parents firmly believed the typical fundamentalist view that homosexuality is the spawn of satan and an attack on their image. They did everything they could to cut Shane from their lives and even banned him from attending their son’s funeral. The father went as far as sending death threats if he dared to show up.

This begs a difficult question. Would he have managed to get away with such despicable behavior if marriage equality had already been legal nationwide?

Of course, legal marriage is not going to change the mindsets of those people who are convinced that we are the spawn of satan. Kim Davis has proven that without a doubt. Some people will only find nice things to say when we are just like them. It is hard enough to accept that people like this will continue to exist. Moving on from people who want us to be unhappy is even harder. We go through that phase of thinking that everyone is out to get us and that we are always the victim. We insist on taking our bitterness out on people who have not harmed us in any way. I sure made that mistake after I was bullied in school, and it took me a long time to realize that it only made my social problems worse.

I have wanted to touch on this issue for quite some time. However, this is one of those topics that is so shocking, I feel like it is impossible to form a coherent thought. I feel like punching my computer anytime I read about pundit preachers who insist upon imposing their dogmatic, holier than thou stance on people of whom it will ruin their emotional well being. I just have to remind myself that I am the only person who can prove that I am better. I try to remind myself of the many people who want me to be successful, and ultimately, happy. If we all try to do that, Kim Davis and her delusional supporters will only be a distant memory.

Aspergers Syndrome

The Challenges of Portraying Autistic Spectrum Disorders

If you love television, you may (or may not) like what I am about to say in this post. It’s funny how many of these television shows that depict people with disabilities have this way of making the average viewer think that the things they see on television are accurate and true. When they encounter a person or situation in life which reminds them of a certain television show, they utter some variation of the following phrase.

“Wow! This is just like what I saw on __________!”

For the record, I actually enjoy a lot of those crime and hospital dramas. I have to admit that the actors are good at making it look real to the average person. They also raise awareness about the emotional impact that such devastating circumstances can have on people. However, I watched a few episodes of Grey’s Anatomy that I thought were horribly misrepresented of Asperger’s Syndrome. It was the three episodes from Season 5. Mary McDonnell played Dr. Virginia Dixon, a surgeon who happened to be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. From her very first scene in “These Ties That Bind”, I could tell that her character was going to be a walking stereotype. She never looked the other doctors in the eye, then started to name useless facts about the history of a piggy back transplant. She was also a stickler for “scientific” medical terms, which is very childish in and of itself.

Hetero-topic transplant! Piggyback is a colloquial name for the procedure!

Don’t do that!

(whispers) Don’t do that!

It is very common for movies and television shows to portray people on the spectrum as intelligent, but socially inept. The next several scenes made that incredibly clear. Dr. Dixon took unapologetic, blunt and socially inept to a whole new level. I am going to briefly describe several scenes where she did just that! The first example was an interaction with patient Clay Bedonie. Six years prior, he underwent a piggyback transplant. The patient wanted his donor heart back because he felt “haunted” by the new one.

Dr. Dixon:

Clay Bedonie, are you aware that without the donor heart, you will live a short life attached to a machine while dying a sudden and agonizing death?

This particular scene was nothing compared to the others I am going to discuss. Dr. Dixon refused to acknowledge or respect the patient’s religious and spiritual beliefs. (Clay Bedonie was a Navajo!) She stated several times that she only puts faith in science. Please, tell me I am not the only person who believes that this would be a very unprofessional example for anyone who desires to pursue a medical career. Simply put, there is a time and a place where it is acceptable to debate religious or spiritual beliefs. I do not have a medical degree, but I am old enough to know that interacting with a patient in any healthcare profession is not the time or the place!

The next episode featuring Dr. Dixon showed what can happen when a “clueless aspie” fails to show respect and understanding for the patient’s family when they face the devastating news that their loved one has died.

Patient Holly Anderson was involved in a car accident with Emma, her sister. Upon arriving at the hospital, the two bickered because Holly was texting while driving her father’s car. Dr. Alex Karev noticed that her eyes started to turn a strange red color as a result of brain matter leaking through her nose. She was then admitted into an operating room. “Good! Take her away! I hope she dies!” Emma yelled this as they rushed her away. Holly died on the operating table of a carotid dissection. Dr. Dixon made the typical aspie mistake of standing up in front of the family and going into graphic detail about the failed procedure. I transcribed this incredibly awkward scene here.

Dr. Dixon: I’m very sorry for your loss, but tests confirm that although your sister’s bodily functions are fine, her brain is dead. She has no thoughts, no emotions, no senses. I’m Dr. Dixon, I will be harvesting your sister’s organs, if your parents agree.

Mr. Anderson: Please, she’s our baby. We need more time.

Dr. Dixon: I’m very sorry for your loss, but her organs are young and vital. They could save many lives.

(Emma wheels over to Holly and begs for her to wake up.)

Dr. Dixon: I’m very sorry for your loss, but your sister can’t wake up. Her basic functions are gone. Her brain is dead. Her body is alive, but unfortunately, unfortunately, she is dead.

(Emma angrily demands for Dr. Dixon to leave. Meredith then politely asks her to leave the room.)

I cannot imagine what it would feel like to see my loved one dying on a hospital bed after a tragic accident. Combine the shear devastation with the added aggravation of having to deal with a socially inept doctor who is overwhelming me with the details about why my loved one is brain-dead. If I were in this situation, I can only hope that I would not end up smacking her right in the face! Believe it or not, those of us with Asperger’s Syndrome are more than capable of recognizing, understanding and expressing human emotions. It is part of learning these things the neurotypical calls “social skills.” Like riding a bike or playing the piano, it takes practice to master.

I look back on these scenes and I realize one thing. Most intelligent people know that this is not an authentic portrayal of Asperger’s Syndrome! (They know that Autism is a neurological disorder, not a disease like Tuberculosis or AIDS. Amount and severity of symptoms varies in each person.) It shows stereotypical resemblance to classic Autism combined with the physical ability to communicate verbally. I don’t expect others to use the same words and terms that I am accustomed to using. I don’t throw temper tantrums after being hugged by someone who I don’t particularly have the interest sharing such a personal interaction with. I am able to understand when a certain time or place is not appropriate for debate about beliefs and opinions. Furthermore, I do have feelings and emotions. I just communicate them in ways that are only somewhat different from everyone else.

I have yet to see one portrayal that does not put such strong emphasis on stereotypical symptoms and mannerisms, and that does allow the individual to reach their full potential. This is just one thing that will change people’s perceptions about Autistic Spectrum Disorders and about disability in general.

Aspergers Syndrome

The More Things Change (The More They Stay The Same)

The above quote is something that we’ve all heard before, but don’t understand the meaning of. Most people think of two certain politicians with different agendas. Regardless of their stances on issues, they are competing to earn the most powerful position in the United States of America. However, I think of that Bowling For Soup song called “High School Never Ends.” When a high school senior takes that final walk down the aisle and grabs their diploma, they think that life will instantly turn into the one they have truly dreamed of. When they begin working towards their aspiration or dream, they are faced with the instant realization that their perception was completely wrong! Sometimes, they discover that their chosen path is far from ideal. They are left to start at the very beginning.

It’s funny because it has been almost four years since I graduated from high school. I stood inside the Lenape Technical School gymnasium and I thought that life would instantly become the one I truly dreamed of.

Being realistic? What a joke! Why can’t I just sit here and dream about the life I want?

You may be wondering why I brought this up. I brought it up because I still am not sure where I am going to go to create that life I truly need and deserve. I went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania and I thought I was destined for a high tech career in Electro Optics. I was completely oblivious to how much I struggled with Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus. I thought I would finally be able to grasp the concepts of those subjects after being introduced to practical examples of their use. The problem was, I could not even grasp the core concepts. I must be as blunt as possible in saying that I no longer see the point in trying to finish a degree that requires skill in an area that I greatly struggle in.

So, I am now back at square one. I have been looking into possibly pursuing an English degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I am not going to give up on my ultimate goal of publishing a memoir. I truly believe that is the one thing in my life that will make it truly worth living. English Literature and Writing Studies are my top interests. I certainly agree that an English major will help me build my skill in something that I love to do. However, people are still discouraging me from doing so. Most of it is the typical “you will not be able to find a job with an English degree.” They base their stance on the select few people they know who completed a similar degree and still work at McDonalds. Regardless, I have been trying to do as much research as I possibly can about careers and about how I can work towards my ultimate goal of becoming a published author.

Oh yes, let’s not forget the not so enjoyable part of preparing for a “realistic future.” It all has to do with the money. I will have to find a way to pay for classes, housing and my vehicle. My mistake of pursuing a degree in Electro Optics resulted in my GPA being below the minimum requirement to graduate. Vocational rehabilitation is not able to provide any assistance until I bring it up. So, I feel like a high school senior again. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Aspergers Syndrome

To Tell Or Not To Tell?

Kennywood park is a favorite summertime venue for Pittsburghers who are looking for a day of fun. This traditional amusement park is found in the suburb of West Mifflin, about 10 miles from the city. During my last visit to this local treasure, something unusual captured my attention. Actually, someone caught my attention for a few brief seconds. This individual was an Autistic teenage boy who appeared to be non verbal. I wasn’t paying attention to his awkward, repetitive hand movements. He seemed to have aimlessly walked away from his parents. His white t-shirt perplexed me. This simple message was clearly printed in dark blue and all capital letters.

I have Autism. Please be patient with me.

Directly underneath those words, I saw the Autism awareness ribbon. I am actually quite surprised that I do remember this. I only saw this boy for about 5 seconds. He didn’t wander off too far and he was quickly reunited with his mother. I am willing to believe that a good number of people who display these ribbons are not the “Jenny McCarthy type,” if you know what I mean. However, I just could not stop asking myself the question. Why would a parent want to reveal their child’s diagnosis in such a “loud and clear” way? This is the first time I have ever seen such a thing. I pushed the memory to the back of my head until I saw this article from Toronto’s “The Star.” Farida Peter’s son also happens to be Autistic. Each weekday, they use Toronto’s subway system as their method of transportation to and from behavioral therapy sessions for five year old Deckard. The facility is on the other side of the city, and the quickest route is to take the bus, then the train. Seventeen stops combined with one train change equals a very hectic commute. I don’t know what specifically causes her son to become upset, but subway trains and stations are very busy places. They are full of hustling and bustling people who have a schedule to meet. If your child dares to interrupt their peace and quiet on that noisy subway train, their day is automatically ruined. They will make it known in the most insensitive and ignorant ways.

On the bus one day, a lady told her to control him when he was swinging his legs as they dangled beneath his seat. Other passengers have scolded him and then complained “wow, he’s not even looking at me.” Children with autism often don’t make eye contact.

He’s had fits after being knocked over in crowds or being pushed out of the way by passengers clamouring for seats.
Peters had to do something to stop the glares, gasps and
comments, which would only ratchet up their anxiety levels and exacerbate his behaviour.
Farida was desperate for a way to stop all the negativity directed towards her and Deckard.
She taped a laminated sign on her backpack.
My son is five years old and has Autism! Please be patient with us!
I must admit that I am not entirely sure what to think about this mother. This is mainly because I do not know her personally. I shared this article with a woman at my church. She works as an Occupational therapist for children on the Autism Spectrum. She felt this mother was trying to call attention to herself and gain sympathy from the passengers. Granted, I would never allow anyone to force me into revealing my diagnosis in such a way. I strongly disagree with the common practice of labeling those on the spectrum as “low functioning” or “high functioning.” These labels put the child in a box and push us into making preconceived notions about their strengths and shortcomings. Let’s face it, there are people in this world who do not deserve to know about my struggle as a gay man with Asperger’s Syndrome. I know that open expression of these things are bound to make people react in positive and negative ways. But, why would they choose the latter? Granted, I don’t care if people think my differences make them uncomfortable.It’s because they are unhappy with their own lives and will try to take advantage of me. They could internalize their unhappiness by using me to their own advantage. I can certainly identify with anyone who feels concern for this child’s future.

However, there are a few possible explanations why this woman would feel the need to carry the sign. Like the teenage boy at Kennywood, Autistic children do have the tendency to become lost in their own world and wander off. What could happen if he chose to wander off into a restricted area? These areas are off-limits for safety and security reasons. Some spectrum children are unable understand that certain people, places and behaviors are dangerous. Again, it is important not to make assumptions because we do not know the entire story. However, I tend to agree with the notion that she is using this sign to ask for sympathy from passengers. So, how should I determine whether or not someone deserves to know about my diagnosis? With regards to who I will tell and what I will tell them, it is up to me. It is usually determined upon my relationship with the person and how well they treat me.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” certainly does have a dark side that is the exact opposite from its usual meaning. I know not to fear people who appear genuine, but to be aware. In-genuine people insist upon reminding you how great and wonderful they are, but then turn around and act in ways that show they are truly not worthy of our trust. They are enough to drive you mad, if you allow them to do so.

Aspergers Syndrome, bullying

It Was The Worst Day of My Life (Recognizing Emotions and Overcoming Them)

I have written about depression and mental illnesses several times. I wrote about the tragic death of Robin Williams. I expressed great disappointment in Fox News analyst Shepard Smith and his claim that Williams was a “coward” for taking his own life. I am someone who firmly believes that a mental illness should never define everything about who we are. However, the human mind can be a very fragile thing. It can often cause us to do things we never knew we were capable of doing. These things can certainly be wonderful, but they can also be devastating and tragic.

I recently read a story about Virginia Gentiles, a mother from Pasadena, California. She is suing a local Target store for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and wrongful death.

Her son, Graham Gentles, committed suicide on July 18, 2014. Three days earlier, store security and local police met him at the front of the store as he arrived early. They grabbed him, emptied his pockets and hat, then paraded him around the store to an office. This practice is commonly called “the walk of shame.” 

“The walk of shame is a Target policy to purposely cause shame, embarrassment and emotional distress to any Target employee who is suspected of stealing from Target. The policy consists of employees being arrested and paraded in handcuffs through the Target store in full view of co-workers and customers.”

Long story short, the alleged harassment was not because he stole from the store. Graham’s mother stated that the supposed theft was all fabrication by the multiple media outlets that have reported on this story. It was due to a previous altercation that occurred between him and an employee, which also happened months beforehand. After being taken paraded around the store, police drove him to the local station for questioning and released without any charges filed. To add more devastation, he was wrongfully fired from his job. When he spoke to his mother about the ordeal, he said it was the worst day of his life. Unfortunately, this day was so terrible, he decided to take his own life because he could not bear the pain and humiliation anymore.  

Reactions from the public have ranged from very supportive and sympathetic to downright hateful and disrespectful. I cannot say that this surprises me, mainly because mental illness is such an under recognized issue in our world today. Normally, I would agree that the loss of a job alone is not a reason to commit suicide. However, this is the dark side of living with a neurological disorder like Asperger’s Syndrome. The emotional pain we experience in life can overpower our ability to think things through and find ways to cope. 

If there is anything this story has taught me, it is the sheer importance of finding positive ways to cope with negative emotions. It doesn’t matter what I am feeling or going through. Sometimes, I have no choice but to think it through and try to understand why I am feeling this way. This is when I like to take time to myself. I use what I do best. My gift in writing. “My Letter to Steve Grand” is one of those examples. I don’t normally share these writings with people. However, I decided to make a rare exception this time. 

Please understand that crushes, love and romance are very new feelings for me. Life with Asperger’s Syndrome has always made me a loner. The high school social scene considered me the loner who was a “loser.” I was an awkward, uncoördinated kid with zero confidence who walked around with a scowl on his face. My “phases” changed throughout that time. I refrained from talking to anyone for most of those 4 years, and then I became this kid who could not control himself and acted out just for the sake of acting out. I desperately needed a way to handle my pain and that was the only release I could find.

When I was a small child, my issue with emotions was not recognizing them. I’ve always known what I am feeling. However, there were times when I knew my emotions way too much. The thing is, it is still one of my demons today. My mammaw and papaw (southern talk for grandma and grandpa) used to tell me this story from when they came to visit us in Pennsylvania. It goes back to when I was somewhere between three and four years old.

We were celebrating my sisters 6th birthday. The local bowling alley was our chosen venue. The familiar sounds of bowling balls hitting the pins, people chatting and music playing filled the bustling local hangout. My attention was not focused on any of that. It was focused on the family to the right of us. They also happened to be celebrating a birthday and rented a helium tank and were using it to blow up balloons. I immediately covered my ears. I was terrified of the possibility that they were going to pop. My attention became hyper focused on those balloons and the possibility that they were going to burst and make a loud sound. 

Crying was the only way I knew how to handle it. My mammaw tried to give me a set of ear plugs, but that didn’t help. My papaw sensed that I needed to get out of the noisy room for a few minutes. I needed to tell him what was wrong and I needed to be reassured. While he did not say it in these exact words, this was the gist of the message he gave to me. 

“The world is full of things that are much scarier than balloons popping.” 

That is the one thing that we all need to be reminded. The world is full of things that cause a lot more pain. Sometimes, those experiences are directly caused by our tendency to negatively dwell upon those little things. I failed to realize that when I was a young child. I failed to realize it when I was in high school and feared that people were not going to like me. I fail to realize it today when I discover that things just don’t work out the way I anticipated them to. The big question is, how do we stop it from dictating our lives?

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Aspergers Syndrome

No! I Am Not Your Inspiration!

“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” 

Scott Hamilton 

Many people tend to believe these quotes are “inspirational.” They are instantly moved by the story about Natalie du Toit, the Olympic swimmer from South Africa with only one leg. She was inevitably forced to have her left leg amputated after she was hit by a car while riding her scooter school. Non disabled folks look at these pictures and feel this sudden rush of “inspiration porn” that magically gives them the motivation to put their struggles into perspective. “Wow! My problems are not so terrible after all! Look at what that Olympic swimmer had to go through! She must have had it so terrible! I am now proud to know that I have both of my legs!”  This orgasmic rush is only temporary, however. Before too long, they go back to the boring and normal folks they truly are. Thankfully, I am not the only person who strongly believes that “inspiration porn” is an epidemic. I thoroughly enjoyed a TED lecture by Australian disability rights activist and comedian Stella Young. Her diagnosis of Osteogenesis Imperfecta (brittle bone disease) has made it necessary for her to use a wheelchair. Despite that, she managed to achieve success as the editor for the Australian Broadcasting Network. 

I know what you are thinking. You think I am just going on my soapbox and ranting just for the sake of ranting. I would hate to burst your bubble, but that is not the truth at all. I most certainly do not believe my diagnosis is terrible. I also do not believe that it makes me exceptional. I only believe that disability can make one exceptional when they genuinely achieve something that nobody else has managed to do so. I am only willing to serve as inspiration” to people who are willing to help us live up to the belief that we are exceptional. 

I intend to follow Stella’s footsteps and challenge the belief that disabled people are to be used as objects of inspiration.  This brings back memories to the day I wrote about Kathie Lee Gifford and the day she made an Autistic child cry on national television. The mother of handsome and popular high school senior Zach Hirsch felt compelled to write to Kathie Lee and Hoda in hopes of appearing on the segment called “Everyone Has A Story.” To sum it up, Zach befriended freshman Graham Jackson after he saw him sitting alone at a cafeteria table. Graham is also diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and that caused him to struggle with social skills development. The two instantly discovered their love of sports and became fast friends. To honor Zach, broadway singer Kate Baldwin performed a song that told their story. The horrid lyrics are reluctantly quoted below. 

We see them everyday, but too often look away from the ones who are sitting alone. 

We seldom hear their voice because we make the choice to leave them right there all alone 

We see them everywhere, but to often we don’t care. We’re lost in a world of our own. 

We rarely realize, they’re angels in disguise, so we leave them right there all alone. 

Can you imagine if hello was a word you’d never heard? Can you imagine if you’ve never had a friend? 

Can you imagine if loneliness was all you’d ever known?  

It’s more than we could ever comprehend. A world, a silent world, without a friend. 

But miracles can happen, sometimes they really do. 

And sometimes, the miracle turns out to be you. 

When you embrace a stranger and show love you’ve never shown, you will make the greatest friend that you have ever known. 

Someone who used to be, someone who used to be, but now will never be all alone. 

I think that Stella’s lecture is one that is very beneficial for people who live with disabilities that are often considered “fake” by ignorant people in our society. This story with Kathie Lee Gifford and the Autistic teenager is an example of a vapid and patronizing publication of a “feel good” story. I know they meant well. I am willing to believe that Zach is genuinely a good person and that their friendship is something worth recognizing. However, I can’t help but feel insulted for Graham’s sake and reminded of my high school experiences. I was one of those kids who nobody wanted to sit with. I was occasionally bullied in school. People threw things at me and called me names like retard, faggot, queer and butt pirate. I was sexually harassed a few times by a girl who was desperate to be the center of attention and use me as her way of getting it. I did not ask to go through most of the treatment people subjected me to. I don’t think it is necessary to elaborate on my experiences. However, there is one thing that has particularly stood out in this video. Kathie Lee was “inspirationally aroused” after she fulfilled her desire to remind Graham that he is different. I know many people throughout the rest of society can’t get enough of it when it comes to their attitudes towards disabled people. When we encounter them, the most difficult thing to figure out is whether we should ignore them or call them on it. 

People have also told me that I am “brave” and “inspirational” when they have read many of my writings from the past year. “My Letter to Steve Grand” was one of those posts. Sure, it was emotional for me and those who were emotionally moved by it. However, I never intended for it to be an “inspiration” to anyone else but myself. When I look back and read it to myself, these are the messages it conveyed to me.  

1.) Stop beating yourself up about the past. We’ve all been through experiences where our true feelings were forced to be ignored and even believed to be “wrong.” 

2.) Learn from your words and experiences. Use them to create a life that is truly worth living!

Life as a gay man with Asperger’s Syndrome has often forced me to ponder one question. Do I allow my life to be dictated by these “inspiration fetishists” or do I try to live by the example of those who do genuinely want me to live a happy and successful life? Without the latter, none of us can live up to the belief that we are “exceptional.”

Aspergers Syndrome, LGBT, LGBTQIA, Mental Illnesses

Being Brave (In A Cowardly World)

Selfish: having or showing concern for only yourself and not for the needs or feelings of other people. 

Coward: 1.) someone who is too afraid to do what is right or expected 2.) someone who is not at all brave or courageous. 

Fox News analyst Shepard Smith was recently put under fire for insulting comments regarding the recent death of actor and comedian Robin Williams. The 63 years old man committed suicide on August 11, 2014. Smith referred to William’s death as “cowardly” in a recent news segment. 

One of the children he so loved, one of the children grieving tonight. Because their father killed himself in a fit of depression. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? You could love three little things so much, watch them grow, they’re in their mid-20s, and they’re inspiring you, and exciting you, and they fill you up with the kind of joy you could never have known. And yet, something inside you is so horrible or you’re such a coward or whatever the reason that you decide that you have to end it.

Rightfully so, his comments were not well received. Criticism has come from people who know how it feels to live with severe Depression. Many have actually contemplated or attempted suicide. They know how it feels to reach that point where you feel like there is no hope. They are left with two choices. Do I end it all or do I face my fears and find the help I need? I live with Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of the neurological disorder known as Autism. I still find it difficult to connect with people, even though I try so hard to do so. Whether I like it or not, I have to do it if I want to survive on my own. This condition has made me especially vulnerable to Depression and Social Anxiety. I am also a gay man. I love men! It has taken me a long time to find the confidence to say that. I am this complex person who nobody else will even care to understand or even get to know. (At least that is what I hear from the occasional troll who loves to comment on my blog.) The truth is, Depression is a very difficult topic for me to explain. It is mainly because the condition affects people in many ways. Australian writer and illustrator Matthew Johnstone described his journey towards overcoming Depression in his book “I Had a Black Dog (And his Name Was Depression.)” As the title suggests, the black dog was used as a metaphorical alternative to the word depression. 

I had a black dog and his name was Depression. Whenever the black dog made an appearance, I felt empty and life just seemed to slow down. He would surprise me with a visit for no reason or occasion. The black dog made me look and feel older than my years. When the rest of the world seemed to enjoy life, I could only see it through the black dog. Activities that used to bring me pleasure, suddenly ceased to. He liked to ruin my appetite. 

I have learned not to beat myself up and try to figure out the exact cause of my symptoms. Personally, I don’t care if it is directly because of my Asperger’s, obliviousness to my sexuality or just biology and genetics. I was shy, socially challenged and closeted kid who insisted he was “just going through a phase.” If I were to suddenly find out the cause of all my problems, I can guarantee that my symptoms would worsen. I would be this miserable, unhappy guy who constantly focused on everything that is wrong in my life. They could even push me to the breaking point. I know that I have to stop it from going there if I want to survive in this world. It’s very hard to do, but life is not always a walk in the park. 

He chewed up my memory and my ability to concentrate. Doing anything, or going anywhere with the black dog required superhuman strength. At social occasions, he would sniff out what confidence I had and chase it away. My biggest fear was being found out. I worried that people would judge me. Because of the shame and stigma of the black dog, I was constantly worried about being found out. So, I invested vast amounts of energy into covering him up. Keeping up and emotional lie, is exhausting. Black dog could make me think and say negative things. He could make me irritable and difficult to be around. He would take my love, and bury mine to the sea. He loved nothing more than to wake me up with highly repetitive and negative thinking. He also loved to remind me how exhausted I was going to be the next day.

Having a black dog in your life isn’t so much about being a bit down, sad or blue. At its worst, it’s about being devoid of feeling all together. As I got older, the black dog got bigger and he started hanging around all the time. I’d chase him off with whatever I thought might send him running, but more often than not, he’d come out on top. Going down became easier than getting up again. So, I became really good at self medication, which never really helped. Eventually, I felt totally isolated from everything and everyone. The black dog had finally succeeded in hijacking my life. When you lose all joy in life, you can begin to question what the point of it is. 

Thankfully, this was the time that I sought professional help. This was my first step towards recovery and a major turning point in my life. I learned that it doesn’t matter who you are, the black dog affects millions and millions of people. It is an equal opportunity mongrel. I also learned there is no silver bullet or magic pill. Medication may help some, but others need a difficult approach altogether. I also learned that being emotionally genuine and authentic towards those close to you can be an absolute game changer. Most importantly, I learned not to be afraid of the black dog and I taught him a few new tricks of my own. The more tired and stressed you are, the louder he barks. So, it’s important to learn how to quiet your mind. It’s been clinically proven that regular exercise can be as effective to treating mild to moderate depression as anti depressants. So, go for a walk or a run and leave the mutt behind.  Keep a mood journal! Getting your thoughts on paper can be cathartic and often insightful. Also, keep track of the things that you have to be grateful for.

The most important thing to remember is that no matter how bad it gets, if you take the right steps, if you talk to the right people, black dog days will pass! I wouldn’t say that I am grateful for the black dog, but he has been an incredible teacher. He forced me to reevaluate and simplify my life. I learned that rather than running away from my problems, it’s better to embrace them. The black dog will always be a part of my life, but he will never be the beast that he was! We have an understanding! I’ve learned through knowledge, patience, discipline and humor, the worst black dog can be made to heal. If you’re in difficulty, never be afraid to ask for help. There is absolutely no shame in doing so. The only shame is missing out on life!

Matthew Johnstone “I Had A Black Dog (And His Name Was Depression) 

If there is anything that Depression has taught me, it is that none of my differences entitle me to sympathy from other people. When I meet a new person, you will never hear me say anything like this. “Hi! I’m Derek! I’m gay, I have Asperger’s Syndrome and I’m Depressed! Woe is me!” The only way I will ever believe that someone genuinely respects me is if they chose to look beyond all of those things that make me appear “different” from the rest of society. I do not care if people know that I am gay. I have grown used to the fact that people are going to find out sooner or later. However, I have a very different expectation for disclosing my diagnosis. Should I ever tell any person I meet, they must not disclose it to anyone else without my explicit permission. I know that people can be very judgmental when they find out someone has an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. They believe the stereotypes portrayed in fictional television shows and by news media outlets. (For example: Dr. Virginia Dixon on Grey’s Anatomy and Dr. Temprence Brennan on Bones.) I wrote that heartfelt letter to Steve Grand because I was confident in the belief that he was actually willing to listen. I hate to be this way, but most people could care less. I am greatly improving in my ability to “hide” my symptoms at times and places when it is necessary to do so. I must admit, it can be very overwhelming! Society does not think “high functioning Autism” is a “legitimate disability.” Regardless, it is “legitimate” to me! 

There is one thing I have learned about the tragic death of Robin Williams. When the world overwhelms, frustrates and saddens me, there still is hope. I am not selfish. I am not a coward. I am just someone who needs help coping with the world. It took me a long time to realize that. I often wonder if Robin would still be here if someone would have told him those words. Even if it cannot bring him back, it can still help people who feel like they have lost hope. That is one of the many reasons why I write the way I do! 



Aspergers Syndrome

My Letter to Steve Grand

I am sure we all know how it feels  when we finally get the chance to meet a person we idolize. Last night, I had the opportunity to meet Steve Grand at Pittsburgh Pridefest. Our meeting was short, but I was so glad I finally had the chance to give him a hug. I did not have the time to say the things I really wanted to say. So, I figured it would be best to say them in writing. Without further due, here are my words to Steve.


You, your music and your talent have made an incredible impact on me. I wish I could personally thank you for everything you have done for me. It all started when I watched “Back to California.” It put me on an emotional rollercoaster and I could not figure out why.  It reminded me of my lonely and painful high school journey without that one friend whom I could rely on. I could not hold the tears back. Several minutes later, I finally gave myself a mental slap. It’s almost like God was telling me to get a hold of myself and think it through.

Like many gay youth, my high school journey wasn’t wonderful. I didn’t have friends. I was an awkward, closeted mess of a kid who had no idea how to interact with people. I was picked on and I allowed them to control me and I acted out in return. I was afraid to take risks and put myself out there.

Please understand that crushes, love and romance are very new feelings for me. Life with Asperger’s Syndrome has always made me a loner. The high school social scene considered me the loner who was a “loser.” I was an awkward, uncoördinated kid with zero confidence who walked around with a scowl on his face. My “phases” changed throughout that time. I refrained from talking to anyone for most of those 4 years, and then I became this kid who could not control himself and acted out just for the sake of acting out. I desperately needed a way to handle my pain and that was the only release I could find.

“In the midst of our lives, we must find the magic that makes our soul soar!” I immediately thought about you when I found this journal. I am at an unknown time in my life right now. My previous path did not turn out to be the one for me. Anxiety is overpowering me. I am debating whether college will truly help me discover myself or if I will have to form my path to success, happiness and love. I know that I cannot just sit here. That will not help me accomplish much of anything. So, I have no choice but to apply for a temporary “job.” I need interaction with people, even though it can be frustrating. There were days when it frustrated me to tears. I try my hardest not to let shallowness, judgmentalism, ignorance and hatred kill my confidence. I know that I cannot let it define who I am.

Speaking of which, I know that my differences cannot prevent me from loving a man with my heart and soul. I truly wish my handsome prince charming could be exactly like you. I’m sure this isn’t the first time a fan of yours has admitted to having a crush on you. Let’s face it, your talent, your looks and your incredibly hot body makes you the perfect package. I know eventually that “someday my prince will come.” (thank you, Walt Disney)

As I maneuver the world at large, there are several things I have to keep in mind. For my well being, I have to be very careful with the men I chose to date. Bitchy, brutally frank and shallow gay men are not my concern. I am concerned about those who really do come off as sweet and respectful. They seem to be able to handle homophobia and all the typical prejudices LGBT people are subjected to, so they think high functioning Autism (Asperger’s Syndrome) is no match for their confidence. He may claim to appreciate my quirkiness, honesty and articulateness. He could very well be that handsome prince I have dreamed about since I first discovered my love for men. However, he will not act shocked or offended when he discovers that my Autism will always be there. Although your struggles may be different, finding that right person who can love you for yourself and not the singer Steve Grand, I feel that you are with me in my journey of finding true love.

I keep trying to remind myself that I am destined for great and wonderful things in this world. Aside from publishing my first memoir, I want to spend an entire month in the state of California and drive the entire coast. I will be sure to think about you when I finally get the opportunity to do it. It’s funny how one song can cause a person to become so emotional. It reminded me of that time in my life when I felt like I would become a dismal failure. I try to stay positive, even though it is very hard at times. I try not to ask for too much from people I don’t know. However, I do ask this. Please do not forget me! Please keep up the fight and continue to write such amazing and touching songs. Finally, I hope that we will get to meet someday. Please keep and use this journal as a token of my gratitude for you. I know that magic is out there somewhere, but I know in my heart I will find it.

With all of my love, affection and support,


I truly hope you enjoyed reading this special post. Much love and happiness to all of you, too!

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Aspergers Syndrome

Learning to Trust Again (Part 2: A Blog About Lee Hirsch’s Documentary “Bully”)

This is part 2! Click here if you wish to read part 1! 

I have been through the feeling where it seems like nobody is willing to respect and listen to you. It is one of the worst feelings anyone can ever experience. Sometimes, these feelings can cause us to act in unpredictable ways. Most people do not want to imagine being guilty of hurting or killing someone when we feel like those negative emotions are uncontrollable. I felt that when I watched the scene with Mississippi teenager Ja’meya Jackson. She was repeatedly targeted by a gang of nine boys who (judging from the video) threatened to beat her up. Her mother talked to faculty and administration, but neither of them took action to resolve the situation. Ja’meya decided to take matters into her own hands. The pistol belonged to her mother and she hid it in her backpack. The gang continued to taunt her until she snapped. She pulled the gun out of her backpack and brandished it in front of everyone. A student managed to disarm her before any shots were fired and all students were safely evacuated from the bus. Ja’meya Jackson found herself at the Yazoo county youth detention center where she awaited trial.

“At the point she takes out the gun, that’s 22 counts of kidnapping. She has 22 counts of attempted aggravated assault. She’s got 45 total felony charges facing her. And for me, there’s nothing, no amount of bullying, or teasing, or picking on, or whatever, there’s nothing, unless someone was actually whipping on this girl every day, unless someone was hitting this young lady in the head and being physically brutal to her, there’s NOTHING to me that justifies her taking her gun on that bus, I don’t care what it is. … Even though things came out as best they possibly could have, if you added up all the years that she could get it, it would be hundreds of years.” 

Thankfully, she was cleared of all charges and ordered to receive counseling. The above comments came from the Yazoo county sheriff. It seems to me that he was trying to speak from a public safety standpoint. I agree that her situation was unique and that she deserves a second chance in life. Because of this, I think his comments were very ignorant and insensitive. I think we should also remind ourselves of one thing. Incarceration and loss of life are two serious and irreversible consequences that can result from gun crimes. When I look back on situations like this, I realize that all I can do is be relieved that I never went down that route. I know that I have many people in and around my community who really do care about me. They are worth more time than anyone who has ever shunned or bullied me. I am very proud that I am able to say that now. There once was a time where I would cower in fear anytime someone would pressure me to do so. It’s time to eliminate that mindset for good. 

As I said in the first post, an important first step towards challenging those emotions is to identify and recognize those who are on my side. The Computing Workshop summer program was a very supportive environment for me. I’ve mentioned it several times before because this organization has made a lasting impact on me. I first met coördinator Mary Hart in 2006. At that time, I was about to enter eighth grade at Freeport Area Junior High School.  The one thing that has always impacted me was the simple fact that I was not the only person who felt discounted by society. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but it was a big deal for me! It is great to know when people are willing to work for you and with you. I wish I fully understood that fact during high school. 

When we see someone who struggles academically or socially, we tend to discount any claim that they are capable of following their dreams. Not only do these assumptions come from society, they come from our teachers and administrators. Often times, they want the individual to follow their agenda and not what is truly best for them. There is one harsh reality about these people and it is only discovered behind closed doors. They despise anyone who even attempts to challenge their viewpoint. They try to win you over by providing questionable claims which (supposedly) make their point valid. They try to sugarcoat it by giving you a plastic smile and saying “I respect your opinion.” You then realize that there is only one way to make them do what you know is right. You have to rely on the law. You know that you have to come up with good, solid arguments which should convince the law to rule in your favor. You know that people could say ignorant and off-putting things. You try your hardest not to get emotional because you have just discovered how mean “adults” can really be. Regardless of the outcome, you know that you fought for what is right and what is best for that individual. 

Computing Workshop has not only let me explore different computing skills in a supportive and inclusive environment, it helped me make meaningful. I felt that high school was not a safe place for me to reach out to others. I felt like my classmates did not know how to interact with me and I didn’t know how to interact with them. (This is why I never came out as a gay man until after graduation.) Former Computing Workshop staff member Aaron is a neurotypical. He will never truly understand the ins and outs of being an openly gay man who happens to be diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, I am grateful for the fact that he has always been willing to listen when I am in need of a friend. His sweet, easy going personality and intelligence really make me wish I could be more like him. I must be honest with you and admit that he is very easy on the eyes! He can thank four years of high school wrestling for that. His great looking chest and broad shoulders are pretty catching. However, everyone will notice one thing when they see him for the first time. That striking feature is his smile! It shows that he is genuinely happy to see you. As you begin to have a conversation with him, you would notice how easy he is to talk to. He’s always had a very laid back personality. This makes me feel comfortable to approach him when I have a problem. I trust that he will try his best to make me feel welcome and deserving of his company. Most of my high school classmates did anything but that.

I think Mary Hart and our staff would agree that he wanted to reveal the true potential in the students he worked with. Aaron understood that some our students had some unique challenges. I think he felt the same sense of frustration that we all felt when they kept regressing into their own worlds. However, I commend him for continuing to help them persevere in the best way he could. Trying to enter their world and use their interests to improve their struggles is an essential way to do that. Aside from my parents, Aaron is the first person who learned about the fact that I was gay. Long story short, I wrote a letter to him and sent it in the mail. It took him a while to respond, but he did read it! Looking back, I wish we could have arranged to meet and I made the decision to tell him in person. He sent me a text message that simply said that my newly discovered queer identity did not change the fact that he was my friend. I think it is beautiful that he accepts me! However, he is straight and I am gay. I wanted to meet a friend who has previously gone through the whole coming out process and who managed to find a path to happiness. 

His older cousin Ray came out of the closet when he was a teenager. Just like clockwork, people then started calling him every single anti gay slur in the book. Despite the shear hatred that came from his classmates, he managed to pull through. After high school, he went to beauty school and obtained his certification in Cosmetology. He then landed a job at a beauty salon. He still works there to this day. Aside from the salon, he works two other jobs to make ends meet. Ray’s personality is a bit different from Aaron’s. He is very animated and loves to lighten the mood with humor. Aaron and I enjoy going to restaurants and meeting him for dinner. When I meet new people, I do posses some introverted tendencies, some of which I am trying to overcome. At first, I did find it difficult to open up to Ray because of his extroverted personality. I have known him for about a year now and time has made it easier to open up to him. Despite the personality differences between himself and Aaron, they do get along with each other and that is what makes it rewarding to know him. It’s easy for any of us to rant and rave about all of those individuals who are not supportive of our differences. All it does is give us this temporary adrenaline rush that regresses to bitterness and anger. It does not encourage the change that we want to see in the future. I hope this future will continue to have many meetings with Ray and Aaron in the future. Both of them have tried to give me the motivation to be the chance I want to see in my life and in society as a whole. 

To the best of my ability, I have just described Lee Hirsch’s documentary “Bully” and it’s impact on my life. What is next for me? I really don’t know. I am still trying to consider whether or not my current path will guarantee happiness and success. This film has given me hope for the future and to get back up again. I hope this encouraged you to do the same thing! 

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Aspergers Syndrome, bullying, LGBT

Getting Past My Past (A Blog About Lee Hirsch’s Documentary “Bully”)

I know that change cannot happen overnight. I also know that hope can encourage one person to make a difference in a town, country and world. Filmmaker Lee Hirsch recently accomplished a first in his new critically acclaimed documentary “Bully.” This is a topic that I feel very personal about. I was bullied in high school and it is something that still effects me today. I felt a number of emotions throughout the scenes in this film. I felt sadness when I heard about the tragic death of Tyler Long, the seventeen year old from Georgia who committed suicide because he could no longer take the physical and mental abuse from his classmates. I felt the horrible combination of anger and shame when Alex Libby’s tormentors kicked, stabbed, punched him on the school bus. These bullies did not even care that Lee Hirsch’s camera captured the whole incident on film! Frustration and confusion overcame me when I heard the comments from the school board members in Murray County, Georgia. Some of them were willing to acknowledge the seriousness of the issue, but they had no idea how to intervene and prevent it. They tried to justify the behavior using cliché’s like “boys will be boys” and “kids are cruel at this age.” I felt disgusted when a pastor from Murray county stated that kids went to school the next day with nooses hanging around their neck. This was a blatant mockery of Tyler’s family and the school district seemed to have shrugged it off.  To the best of my ability, I want to write a blog post about this documentary and how it had an impact on me. To all of you out there who are any shade of different, I hope my writing will give you positive motivation. It doesn’t matter if you are LGBTQ and risk being disowned from your family or if you are Autistic and trying to understand the world around you. I also hope my writing will give you the courage to stand up for what you believe in.

When it comes to my experiences, I honestly felt like my tormentors expected the worst of me. They wanted to see me unhappy. Therefore, my academic performance and my desire to interact with others plummeted to the lowest possible level. Most of these bullies wanted to manipulate me into thinking they were trying to be nice. However, I knew they were not to be trusted from the beginning.  I felt like every single person in my Western Pennsylvania high school was out to get me. I didn’t trust anyone. Period. When I look back on it, I question one thing. Paranoid delusions can increase your chances in becoming victimized, can’t they? People will notice if you appear to be nervous, angry or depressed. Some of them will show genuine compassion and understanding, while others will intentionally or unintentionally exacerbate it.

The scene featuring Kelby Johnson in her rural Oklahoma town was all too real for me. “You can always count on something happening when you are walking down the hall at school and in the classroom, after school when I’m walking home, when I am walking through the parking lot in the mornings, to school. I wasn’t welcomed at church. I’m not welcomed in a lot of people’s homes.”  When I look back, I honestly cannot predict what would have happened if I decided to come out as a gay teen while I was still in high school. People in my Western Pennsylvania high school did call me names like faggot, cocksucker, queer, loser and retard. They certainly noticed that I was different and you can bet that some of them tried to use it for their own laughs and personal gain. I was one of those kids who tried to avoid being put into any of those “cliques” that are commonly associated with the high school social scene. We have already gone over the fact that I felt like I could not fit in with anybody. I was a loner. People tried to convince me into believing they “cared” about me. The truth was they did not have that “magic wand.” What magic wand am I talking about? I am talking about the one which would have eliminated my diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and all the struggles that came with it. Therefore, they were not to be trusted. 

If we take a trip back into the real world, we face the bitter realization that magic wands only exist in fantasy. My writing is no fairy tale. I try to express myself in the most real way I possibly can. It is important for me to get over the phase where I dwell upon the fact that people do not accept me. However, there is one question that still remains. Why does it feel like these experiences are always going to be embedded in my brain? Why does it feel like most neurotypical people are confident enough to (literally and figuratively) throw the middle finger at anyone who makes derogatory remarks about their sexual orientation or any other trait which makes them seem different from the societal norm? I cannot help but feel like I am demanding others to fight my battles for me. Is it normal for me to feel that way? I know that I am not in any way comparable to an alcoholic with codependency issues. But, why do I feel that way? I cannot expect others to fight my battles for me, but I want to know that people are willing to answer questions and are willing to help me when I reach out to them.

I know that I need to learn how to move on from those experiences. Over the spring and summer months, I have deeply thought about ways to move on. I know that I have been very fortunate to have people who genuinely care about me. I have decided to write about some individuals who have made a lasting impact on my life and why they are so important to me. They are all from different parts of my life. I am not doing this just for myself. I know there are people who desperately need to feel good about themselves. Some may risk being disowned from their family because of who they are. Others have loving and accepting families who are willing to fight for what is truly best for them, but still experience cruelty anytime they go outside their home. We all need to learn how to recognize those who do genuinely care about us. One thing comes to mind when I think about those people in my life. I know they would be devastated if I even contemplated suicide. I am offering my words for them and I hope you are able to use them in your own lives! This is an essential step for me in overcoming those wounds.

I know that I am fortunate to have such loving and caring parents. I do not deny that they are on my side and they are willing to guide me through the road to a happy and successful life. Raising a child with any kind of Autistic Spectrum Disorder has it’s fair share of challenges.  It is important to know that no parent is perfect. Am I ever going to pretend that my parents are perfect? The answer is no! My parents are both very intelligent human beings who did everything in their power to support my sister and I. They have tried to understand the pains that result from the challenges associated with Asperger’s Syndrome. It goes back to as far as I can remember.

I was about three going on four. We just finished a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada. At the time, my aunt Teresa and uncle Benny lived in that area. It was very early in the morning. It started out as a normal airport routine until we heard an announcement that our red-eye flight back to Pittsburgh was abruptly canceled and we had to book another one. We had no choice but to wait at the McCarren International Airport.  We went through security, rode on the tram and walked to the gate. Things went smoothly until a few minutes after we arrived at the gate. An ear-splitting alarm was mysteriously triggered and it blared throughout the entire terminal. We assumed that it would only last for a few minutes. Instead, it continued for over an hour. Everyone around us became impatient and sick of listening to the alarm. Naturally, I became very upset. My mother tried to put earplugs in, but that still didn’t help.  I continued to cry and scream until my parents decided to get back on the tram and wait in the ticketing area. They held me and did their best to comfort me because we were all very tired. Despite that we had to go through security again, we were relieved to discover the alarm was silent.

I am 21 years old now. Struggles can become more complex than a loud noise hurting my ears. I am grateful for the fact that my mother and father are willing to guide me through any struggle I may experience down the road. Mom and dad are still trying to understand my communication barriers. I feel these barriers are comparable to a crying infant. A baby cannot use words when they are hungry, in need of a diaper change or craving attention. I did not know how to communicate the emotions I felt during high school. So, my high school life consisted of withdrawing from people and just having an unhappy outlook on life. I happen to know that many Aspies go through their high school lives wondering the many complex reasons behind those communication difficulties. I refused to accept answers like “that’s just the way you are.” I hated being placed in special education classes because they treated me like I was an idiot. I hated being placed in mainstream classes because I felt distant from the majority of my peers. If I tried to explain this to adults, I can guarantee they would ask that one question I hate. “Why is that?” Do you know why I hate that question? It’s because I do not know how to answer it. My mother and father do not know all of the answers. I don’t think they ever will. However, they were proactive in advocating for me when professionals were only willing to do what they felt was best for me. This was the case when I was a student at the Computing Workshop summer program. Long story short, my school district felt that their services were superior to those offered by Computing Workshop. They wanted me to work with a traditional one on one tutor for two hours a week. We went into due process, and the hearing officer ruled that the services offered by Computing Workshop were the best fit for me and that they must reimburse my family for summer tuition. The next summer, they came up with a new extended school year program. They were extremely vague about the program and the officer ruled in favor of the school district. The fact that mom and dad possessed the patience to deal with such difficult people is truly astounding to me. 

As you can see, my mother and father are just two examples of people who do genuinely care about me. I have begun to accept that my parents will never have all of the answers when it comes to understanding my diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and the fact that I am a gay man. My next challenge is to think about people from other parts of my life. I hope to reach out to people who are experiencing the same (or worse) feelings of loneliness. I could sense these feelings of hopelessness throughout the documentary because this is the first film to ever raise awareness about the profound impact that bullying can have on people’s lives. I hope people will use these experiences and understand that they are worth a lot more than those people who punch, kick and call names. This message is a message that needs to be spread more than it is now. 

To be continued soon!

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Aspergers Syndrome

Re: Tolerance vs. Acceptance

I enjoy reading people’s commentary on my writing. I am aware that commentary is necessary for any writer to gain suggestions for future content. I may not answer every single comment, but I do my best to take people’s feedback into consideration. I happen to know that the Autism community is very diverse. The fact that somebody else has an Autistic Spectrum Diagnosis does not necessarily mean that we will become best friends. We all have different beliefs, personalities, strengths, flaws and interests. I cannot answer for every single one of them. With that in mind, I encourage you to go back to my last blog post and read the comment submitted by Mark. I tend to disagree with some of the points he made. To the best of my ability, I want to provide my response to him. I tend to disagree with some of the points he made. I greatly encourage people to provide constructive criticism, however I do have a problem with people who claim that I am shallow because I quoted lyrics from a song. That was something I noticed in the comment below. 

And speaking of relationships, one of the most important things to be able to do to find and create a meaningful relationship is to get beyond just finding the “beautiful” woman or man (and based on the perspective you show in your blog, that “beautiful” term could mean you are saying that ugly people need not apply?)

Contrary to your belief, I do not desire to get into a relationship just to get my piece of “eye candy.”  I am in no terms comparable to Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries. This kind of shallowness is one of the many reasons why gay men are so negatively stereotyped. You may be surprised to know that many of “those gay (and straight) men” have gone through experiences of isolation and bullying. This causes a decrease in their confidence and they work endlessly to fix their flaws. While physical exercise is a great thing, I cannot stand those gym rats who think the world revolves around themselves and their hotness. You are right that we all are all allowed to choose who we like. We are also allowed to choose which physical, emotional and intellectual traits we find attractive. You have probably heard the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” A person who is physically attractive but boldly rude to “ugly” people is not “beautiful” in my terms. I am sure most people would agree with me. If people don’t like my future mate for whatever reason, I should not have to care because all that matters is that I am happy with the person I love. 

One can be gay, hetero, autistic, non-autistic, or what have you, and still have the problem of not looking beyond their own needs in trying to find a mate. That issue has to do with self-centeredness, self-absorption, even selfishness. Now, given the defined clinical aspects of autism, an autistic is described as self-oriented and “other averse”. It would seem they, by their own description, have greater difficulties in recognizing and responding to the needs of others. On the one hand, this is called “autism”, is diagnosed, medicated, treated, etc. Based on your blog, it seems that self-absorption and lack of accepting others is unacceptable, which is a mature outlook. However, on the other hand, it seems that a key component of this disorder (unsociability) is also supposed to be excused, overlooked and accepted, if one is diagnosed with Asperger’s. Though you are obviously intelligent and a good writer, what comes through in your writing is an overwhelming and laser focus on every micro-possibility that you are not being treated appropriately, why you are not treated appropriately, what others should do to treat you more appropriately, and how very appropriate you believe you are. Bear with me here, because I’m saying some things I happen to see as very appropriate and helpful that most people today won’t say. Whether it’s autism or just plain selfishness, the result is the same and the “treatment” is the same. 

I am perfectly aware of the fact that Aspies have the difficulty with the thing neurotypicals refer to as “social skills.” I have been through more than my fair share of these “professionals” who listed the symptoms of Autism/Asperger’s and they endlessly drilled me with exercises that are supposedly intended to “fix” me. My former therapist was very little help. He made me feel like socialization was just a dreadful burden instead of a “necessary and beneficial skill.” His tactic mainly consisted of bombarding me with questions, telling me how much I should “open myself up” and comparing me to the one other client he used to work with and how this person became a complete failure in life. This (“opening myself up”) was something that never would have happened during my high school years. Every time he asked me a question, about 5-10 seconds of silence would follow. I obviously needed that time to process an answer to that question and come up with a response to it. Instead, he would become impatient with me and bombard me with even more questions. (I wrote just a few examples below.) 

“What are you thinking about? “

“Why aren’t you looking at me when I am talking to you? My eyes are here not there!” 

“Why aren’t you answering the question? You should already know the answer!” 

A therapist can either be a positive or a negative influence on somebody. It all depends on how compatible the therapists is with the client’s needs and personality. During that time, pushing me to “come out of my shell” simply would have caused more resistance. Nobody would have changed that. There is no point in working with somebody who makes you feel that the only purpose of therapy is to make you feel like it is your fault for being diagnosed with a disorder that causes you to have difficulty interacting with people. Parents and teachers tried to convince me into believing that he wanted to help me, but his “in your face” tactic caused me to loose any trust in him.

We all need to learn to 1) consider others just as much as we consider ourselves, 2) learn to move on if someone isn’t appropriate or maybe just doesn’t like us instead of picking it apart in ongoing critiques (people make mistakes and we are all allowed to choose who we like; are you always appropriate, have you NEVER offended anyone, and do you believe that you like and want to be around everyone? By your blog I see that’s not the case, so why put that standard on others?), and 3) learn to consider, reflect on, get to know, understand, and even get a sense of the needs of others. The inability of autistics to relate and identify with others has reached mythic and even romantic proportions.

While I do believe that it is important to recognize the needs of others, how do you help somebody who refuses to use every single resource that has routinely been provided for them? If one particular resource does not work, then the individual (or their parent/guardian) should certainly assert themselves and expect to be referred elsewhere! My former therapist was just one person who did not connect with me. Just because one resource is ineffective does not mean that one should give up. To answer your question whether or not I “like to be around everyone”, I can come up with a response that most people would agree with. I know that I will encounter people who are not genuinely accepting of me. If they insist upon ” praying for me to change my evil and sinful ways, I will be sure to thank them for their “concern” and push their “prayers” to the back of my mind. However, I will take issue with any person who electronically, verbally or physically attacks me or any of those people who do genuinely love and support me. I will not back down when it comes to standing up for what I believe in. I say that regardless of any criticism people throw at me. I say that despite the fact that I can be shunned, isolated, harassed, beaten or even killed just because I am gay.

The brooding or acting-out autistic who is doing algorithms in his head has been some kind of hero ever since “Rain Man”, but this perspective is ridiculous and not helpful to autistics at all. Autism is of course on a spectrum; we have the non-verbal all the way to the Asperger’s. Everyone, including the Asperger’s folks, marvel at their intelligence-so much is made of it. But this comes at the expense of ignoring the very detrimental lack of social skills, which autistics, who can excel academically, are given a pass on. This only encourages higher functioning autistics to give a pass on it themselves, and encourages others to neglect training those autistics in that area. And yes, social skills are learnable, consideration is learnable.

Let’s go back to my therapist for a minute. We obviously did not see eye to eye! So, why continue working with him? It would have wasted my time and it would have wasted his time. You have probably heard of these things called “social skills” groups. I can tell you now that I can only pick out one or two useful things that still stick to me now. Because I am a man who happens to gay and who happens to be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, I ponder one question that is on the minds of many of those like me. Why do people discriminate against the LGBT community? Children learn this from their parents and teachers. These beliefs were instilled upon the parents during their upbringing. Regardless of who they are, they all contribute to the downright lies people spread about the LGBT community. It is indoctrination, plain and simple! So, what is the motivational force behind this behavior? They could have possibly experienced a conflict with somebody who happened to be gay or lesbian. They base their feelings upon that one negative experience. It is sad, but what else can we do? As you say, we all chose who we like.

There is one thing that I noticed about these “social skills groups.” I am sure there are others who feel the same way about them. It seems to me that many of the therapeutic activities are only intended to keep the group members busy instead of teaching them “useful and beneficial skills.” Honestly, it’s been fourteen years since I went to kindergarten! I cannot stand adults who tell me that I need to “be more mature” but expect me to cut pictures out of a magazine then glue them on a sheet of paper to emphasize personal hygiene or some other social skill that was completely straight forward for me. I can remember observing other group members who either did not care about their profound lack of social skills or they were completely oblivious to it. 

Pretending to be in a social situation (aka “role-playing”) did not work for me either. It was incredibly awkward. All you do is pretend to be in some hypothetical social situation where the message is either obvious or completely foreign to me. I already know that people do not want to experience the smell of bad breath and body odor. It can cause social shunning and even bullying. My parents have already taught me the shear importance of bathing daily and brushing my teeth twice a day. I already know that it is not socially acceptable to whine and complain when I am out with my friends and they want to eat at a different restaurant than the one I want to eat at. I know this kind of behavior will cause my friends to avoid me and think that I am self-centered and immature. I already know that you should never give any of your personal information to strangers. My parents and my teachers reminded me about stranger danger since I was in kindergarten. I already know that it is rude to interrupt somebody when they are talking. I find that real conversations with real people are beneficial to me, as opposed to thinking hypothetically and addressing a skill that people have instilled upon me several times. I know there are people out there who do benefit from this practice, but I must be blunt. Getting to know people is more beneficial than being a conformist who always does what is “acceptable” and “normal” in society.

Let me say this: I have Asperger’s, and I have worked with autistics. Through a series of difficult life circumstances I was forced into the revelation that I had to get along with people if I wanted to survive and have a reasonably happy life. And in working with autistics, I’ve seen that they can learn social skills when those skills are given priority and intense, diligent attention. In Temple Grandin’s book, she stresses the importance of the social skills she was expected to learn from her own mother, and how important those were to her. Asperger’s are too coddled, yes, coddled, and that only strengthens their aversion to appropriate social interactions. 

I have written about Temple Grandin in the past. I do admire her and the many things she has accomplished in life. She has raised a lot of insight about Autism and her writings have helped encourage people to achieve their dreams. However, I think something else must be made clear. Not every single Autistic person dreams of pursuing a career in the livestock industry. Not every single Autistic person “thinks in pictures.” Not every single Autistic person is fortunate enough to have dedicated, caring, nurturing and helpful parents. There are parents out there who lack the ability to cope with the many difficulties their child will experience in life. This makes it more difficult to teach “social skills” because the parents are unwilling to coöperate with professionals who genuinely care. On top of all this, they have to deal with the intolerance and hatred that comes from thoughtless people. Some of these parents are even abusive. They feel that hurting their child is the only way to eliminate “inappropriate social behavior.” These children do not know how to seek the help they need to remove themselves from these horrible situations. I honestly feel like I am the only person who has brought up issues like this. This problem is grossly unrecognized in the Autism community. The big question is how can we educate others about this problem? 

When do we teach autistics to look for POSITIVES in others instead of negatives? Derek, can you make a list of all the times people were kind, accepting, supportive, helpful, nice or friendly to you? Sharing that would give a lot of hope to others struggling socially. If you can’t, or if it is very short, how subjective is your experience? It is also said that autistics have trouble seeing when they are at fault or lacking. Shouldn’t the focus then be on developing more self-awareness and self-development, as opposed to self-absorption? If those with Asperger’s claim this is not possible, that it is part of their diagnoses that this cannot happen, then it would make sense then that they should refrain from the common Asperger habit of being so comfortable in negatively judging others.

I do know several people who have truly made me feel welcomed and accepted. I can guarantee you that my experience is not “subjective.” I would be glad to share my experiences with these certain individuals in a future blog post. However, it seems to me that you don’t understand how it feels to encounter people who are not “accepting”, “supportive”, “nice” or “friendly” to me. I can tell you right now that my experience is not “subjective.” I have encountered several people who have attempted to manipulate me into thinking they were genuinely being nice. I feel that I don’t need to go into detail about these experiences because I have done that before. Harassment of any nature should never be attributed to the individual being “at fault” or “lacking.” I knew right from the start that these people were trying to make me feel bad about myself because of the fact that I did not have friends. They were trying to provoke me into reacting in a way that would get me into trouble. This is what caused me to lose trust in just about everyone at my high school. I didn’t want to talk to anybody if people did not genuinely treat me with respect.

If meaningful relationships is the goal, Asperger’s need to be held to some standards (which shows respect for their ability to learn), and need to accept help for developing those other-oriented skills that are necessary for caring interactions. This is not just an autistic issue at all; we’ve been bombarded by a selfish construct of relationship for the last 75 years. No one should be given a pass on this, not even Asperger’s. The better we all get along, the more fulfilling place this world will be for everyone. I must say also that no one has any exclusivity on dealing with bigotry, rejection, unacceptance and repugnance. I’m not the only one who can’t dredge up more sympathy for another well-off celebrity whining about “coming out” when babies are being abused and sex-trafficking is alive and well even here in the US. None of us should be so quick to complain when we consider how much others have suffered, which is another good trait-considering the pain of others-that Asperger’s, and this society in general, needs to develop. Aspies, their “handlers” (who are making millions), and gays need to give it a rest. If any of us are looking for a perfect world, then we’d each have to leave it. I wish you well.

I am already aware that being LGBT, Autistic or “different” in any way does not automatically grant me “permission” to complain. Have you ever thought that the abused babies you talked about could end up being disowned just because they are gay or lesbian? I also happen to know homosexuals were subjected to the most brutal treatment during Hitler’s 1940’s regime in Nazi, Germany. I read about the tragic story of the fourteen year old African American boy named Emmett Till. He was brutally murdered in Mississippi just because he flirted with a white woman. You should know that I write blogs about issues that are important to me. Let me be as blunt as possible. Martin Luther King Junior did not “give it a rest” when he wrote the letter from the Birmingham jail. I can tell you that I will not “give it a rest” when there are many people who are LGBT and/or Autistic. They desperately need people who can help them understand they are not alone. I can guarantee that you will find tons of information about abused babies and sex trafficking on the Internet. I think you need to picture yourself as the teenage boy who is holding a gun to his head because his parents refuse to accept the fact that that are different. I can guarantee that nobody would tell you to “give it a rest” if you went through the same experience. 

As you can see, I do like to read commentary from others. It is okay if people do not like my writing because I never promised to answer for everyone. Being gay is still a very new thing for me, and I am doing whatever I can to help figure out the place I have in the world. I hope you enjoyed my writing and I should be posting again in the near future!

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Aspergers Syndrome

Tolerance vs. Acceptance

I recently viewed a documentary about Chely Wright. The documentary titled “Wish Me Away” followed her three-year journey towards publicly coming out of the closet in her memoir. It also followed the release of her latest album “Lifted Off The Ground.”  Ms. Wright is the very first country music star to come out as an “out and proud” lesbian. You should know that coming out of the closet is a difficult time for many people. Country music fans mainly identify themselves as Christian and most of them belong to the Republican party. Many (but not all) people from these political and religious affiliations are not accepting of the LGBT community. Due to this fact, many upcoming country music artists are forced to hide their sexual orientation for fear of losing their career. Since coming out, Chely has been the subject of numerous death threats from anti gay country music fans. She has not received a single invitation from the country music industry. Despite this fact, she has absolutely no regrets in her decision to reveal the truth that country music forced her to deny for many years. Chely has become a world-renowned advocate for the LGBT community and her story has helped many people who are going through similar struggles.

“I hear the word ‘tolerance’—that some people are trying to teach people to be tolerant of gays. I’m not satisfied with that word. I am gay, and I am not seeking to be ‘tolerated’. One tolerates a toothache, rush-hour traffic, an annoying neighbor with a cluttered yard. I am not a negative to be tolerated.”     Chely Wright

The above quote addressed a word that I feel LGBT activists should eliminate from their vocabulary. The word I am referring to is tolerance.  Tolerate means “to endure without repugnance; to put up with. “We gays and lesbians already know there are people who have repugnant attitudes towards the LGBT community. If you are reading this, I would like to ask you a few questions. Do you believe that same sex relationships are more evil than sick and twisted behaviors like incest, polygamy, pedophilia, necrophilia and bestiality? Do you say that you “love” us but detest our sin? Do you believe that we are “unnatural” and a threat to the “sanctity of marriage”? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are repugnant attitude! I will accept that you have your own views. I have grown used to the fact that people do not accept my “decision” to be attracted to men. However, that absolutely does not mean I will tolerate people who impose their repugnance on me. 

Many people on the Autistic Spectrum understand what it feels like to be merely “tolerated” instead of genuinely accepted. I am sure you know that the Autistic mind is a specialist mind. They have a very specific learning style and are incredibly gifted in one particular hobby, skill or topic of interest. There are many advantages towards these unique gifts. It is a great way to build social skills. It gives the child the ability to connect with people of whom they have in common with. If the child possesses enough knowledge and skill, there are many rewarding possibilities in life after high school. They can enter the workforce, join the armed forces and/or pursue post secondary education at a college, university or technical school. They could even start their own business and make money doing that one thing they love to do. These qualifications can put them on the path to a very rewarding career! It is great to know that there are many people who do accept and appreciate our differences, whatever they may be. These are the only people who will matter.

However, there is a darker side towards having a mind that develops differently. You probably know that Aspie kids have the tendency to obsess about their interests and hobbies. They can vary from child to child and often to change as time goes on. They all have the same effect on the neurotypical individuals who interact with them. They (the neurotypicals) tend to get very annoyed when an Aspie obsesses about their favorite topic. This is the number one reason socialization can be a nightmare, at least it was for me. Even during my elementary school days, I can remember feeling an overwhelming sense that I just could not connect with people. It seemed like my classmates had everything that I lacked. The one thing I wanted more than anything was something called acceptance. Instead, they reluctantly “tolerated” that they had to be around me. I don’t even think tolerance was an appropriate word to describe their attitude towards me. During elementary school, people would point at me and say things they could not stand about me. I can remember some insults that come from my fourth grade classmates. “Oh, look! It’s Derek! He needs to shut up! He talks about buses! Nobody likes him!” If we fast forward about nine years after that, insults from my high school classmates became more redundant and unoriginal. “I’m not sitting next to that queer! He is a faggot!” This came from a closeted classmate who refused to sit in his assigned seat, which was right next to me. He said this while he was whispering to his pal in the back of the classroom. This is not one of my fond memories from Comparative Cultures class. I think of tolerance as a word that simply implies how a person feels another one’s existence is a burden that deserves to be negatively critiqued, but they do not admit it because they don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. Now, what would have happened if the teacher forced my possibly closeted classmate to sit with me? I probably would have felt even more hurt, because I don’t want to be around someone who feels that way about gay people. He probably would have rebelled because he didn’t want my “queer germs. 

I have thought about many things since I came out almost a year ago. What steps can I take to change those feelings of isolation and alienation that I experienced during high school? I must say that I cannot provide a definite answer to that question. I know for a fact that rural Western Pennsylvania is not the ideal place for a man who happens to be gay and who happens to be “mildly Autistic.” I have decided that one of my goals in life is to leave my hometown and find a place that is more inclusive of the LGBT community. The burgh is certainly not as vibrantly gay as New York City, Los Angeles or San Fransisco. The gay community is smaller and anti gay bias always has and always will exist. It exists in every city or town across North America and around the world. However, that does not mean Pittsburgh’s LGBT community and their straight allies will back down! They will not tolerate violence, hatred and intolerance towards their brothers and sisters! When it comes to the whole topic of LGBT rights, you will encounter a wide range of opinions. Some of very Liberal about social, economic and political issues and others are very Conservative. Once I get my driver’s license, I hope to drive into Pittsburgh and explore some of the LGBT resources the city has to offer. I hope these resources will help me find the acceptance that I so longed for during my adolescent years.

There is another thing that I hope to start looking for this year. Aspies are often misconceived as sociopathic, psycho and anti social. These ignorant assumptions can be quite damaging to their psyche. I want to begin dating and find a the right man. While there are many Aspies who do not desire to get involved in romantic relationships, many of them do dream of finding “a beautiful woman or a tall handsome man” who will love them. (Those lyrics are quoted from Chely’s song “Like Me.”) I think that the only way for me to be able to do this is to get out there and begin looking! I have to realize that it could possibly take several tries before I find the right one. If I discover that we do not get along, then I have to tell him goodbye and find somebody else. Once I find the right person, I am sure that he is another person who will be able to make me feel accepted.

I am sure you can tell that I am looking forward to seeing what is in store for me in the future. I know the world outside rural Western Pennsylvania does have a lot to offer. I know that if I want the results to be positive, I must learn not to stress about people who do not accept me. This is a very difficult thing for me to do. I hope my words have helped you understand the feelings that are going through my mind right now. I would be delighted to hear your feedback! Thank you for reading this and I look forward to writing to you again soon!

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Aspergers Syndrome

“I Am Proud To Be A Gay Autistic Man!” (Part 2)

Go back to part 1 

I discovered a comment from somebody on my last post. It described her stance on the topic known as “gay pride.” 

Proud is a weird word to use sometimes, it is enough to say, “I am not ashamed, I am not in denial, I am what I am”, and leave it at that. Live as you need to live, as you wish to live, as you would hope others would live, if they walked in your footsteps. I wish you all the best the world has, and hope the crap stuff doesn’t reach you too often. Be well. Live well.

The truth is, I don’t think I ever will understand the true meaning behind the statement “I Am Proud To Be A Gay Autistic Man!” After hearing about the whole Chic-Fil-A controversy, I have often wondered if there is really any point in being “proud” of who I am. I have come to the belief the supporters of Chic Fil A just don’t like the gay and lesbian community because the bible says so. The Conservatives “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” While the focus of this post is not really going to be about an American fast food chain that does not support marriage equality, there are still many questions that go through my mind.

Why should I be “proud” if there are still people out there who have the blatant audacity to fear monger, insult, berate, pistol whip, beat and even kill us for no other reason besides we “decided” to be gay? Why should I be proud of the fact that they use their religious beliefs to justify it? I thought this kind of bigotry was a thing of the past!

Why should I be proud that Autistic people are forced to believe their social and academic difficulties will ruin their dreams of living a happy and productive future? Being Autistic does not mean that I am a loser! 

Why should I be “proud” of the fact that the many labels thrown at us are considered “mandatory” to fit in with our own “community”? I don’t care if people call me a “bear”, “twink”, “gaystriaght”, “flamer”, or a “fairy.” My sexuality does not define who I am as a person! 

Part one of this post expressed my stance on the statement “I Am Proud To Be LGBT And Autistic!” I stated that I feel no shame of the fact that I am gay, but I am not proud to be Autistic. I brought up this statement on the forums. One of the answers that really stood out was when someone stated they are not “proud” of who they are but they feel no shame in who they are. They stated they did not do anything to achieve their sexuality or Autistic Spectrum Diagnosis. It was one of those things that just happened when I was in my mother’s wombI stand by my strong belief that I do not need to prove that to anybody. I revealed it four months ago, and I am still trying to figure out the place I have in this world. I really hope to move out of this town someday, but I don’t really know where I want to go. 

I am sure you know that I am new to the whole “gay” thing. The thing that every single “out” LGBT person must learn is to find his or her own way to deal with the fact that not everyone in this world will truly accept the fact that we are different. I want to quote something from a wonderful article written by John Scott Holman. It describes his reaction to the people who we often refer to as homophobes. 

While we’re on the subject of homo… er… sapiens, I should mention that I’m also queer in the popular and crude sense of the word – I’m a guy and I like guys. If that makes you uncomfortable, I can assure you that I understand. I’ve spent my entire life bombarded by a daily assault of heterosexuality imagery; a constant suggestion of my social irrelevance. Yeah, you’re sexual orientation makes me uncomfortable as well.

Though prejudice and social pressure inspired years of self-deception, self-loathing, and heterosexual mimicry (a: worthless, counterfeit), I can no longer deny it – I practically pranced out of the womb striking poses to the tune of Vogue. I may not be the biggest queen to ever purchase a Judy Garland album, but there’s no mistaking basic nature – I’m a queer (homosexual), a fruit, a flamer, faggot… whichever adjective is hurled across the bar by the drunken red-neck who will soon learn the meaning of “lanky strength.” 

There is one thing that immediately came to my mind when I read just those two paragraphs. How do I respond to the question that I am sure will come from a nosy heterosexual neurotypical? 

“So Derek, do you have a girlfriend?” 

While some of you may think this kind of question is “not that bad”, there is one possible dilemma that could come up. I happen to know that in 28 states, it is perfectly legal to be fired for no other reason besides the fact that I am gay. Pennsylvania just so happens to be one of those states. That’s right, there still is a “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in the United States! If my employer simply does not like the fact that I am a gay man, they are perfectly within their rights to fire me. The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy still exists in many organizations that refuse to include gay and lesbian people in their anti discrimination policies. As a matter of fact, there are also many organizations that completely ban the discussion of controversial topics while on the job. Chic Fil A claims not to discriminate against their gay and lesbian employees, while they actively donate their profit to organizations who intend to impair the rights of LGBT citizens throughout the country. So, there is still one question that goes through my mind. While there are many big name organizations that do not actively include LGBT people (cough cough: Boy Scouts of America), there are many out there who are truly proud of their diverse workforce. The big question goes something like this. Is it still safe to reveal my sexual orientation to my coworkers?  There are many scenarios where the answer would be a definite “yes”, and there are many scenarios where the answer would be a definite “no”.

I think an answer to the above questions depends on the attitudes of your coworkers and the organizations core values and policies. There are some organizations that ban discussions about any of the worlds current “hot button” topics. If that is the case with your organization, then I would not recommend discussing your sexual orientation with your coworkers. So, that means no discussions about your sexuality, abortion, religion, or the war on terror. It doesn’t matter if your stance on the topic is Very Conservative or Very Liberal, you cannot talk about it at all! I often wonder if organizations decide to implement restrictive policies because employees have gone too far when it comes to expressing opposing views with their colleagues. After all, hostile and disrespectful behavior disrupts the work environment. It gives the organization a bad reputation, and disruption of the work environment has the potential to create violence.

The most important circumstance that determines whether or not it is safe to reveal one to “come out of the closet” at work is of course the attitude of their coworkers. The individual must first use his or her own judgment to see whether the time and place is appropriate, and they must realize that you cannot always predict how a person will react to such a revelation. The only way to overcome this fear is to begin by establishing a friendly relationship with coworkers who seem to be open-minded and respectful of other’s differences. Find some time to talk with them during lunch break or outside of work. Start with a simple opening remark. “If you don’t mind, I would like to ask you something.” Then ask about their views when it comes to the issue of gay rights. If they start quoting scripture and expressing their belief that gays are hell bound, then I obviously would not waste my time with them. People who are willing to accept me for who I am are the only ones who I will ever consider true friends!

“Coming out of the closet” has given me a huge sense of relief, but I am still experiencing a a large amount of anxiety. This anxiety is mainly about what lies ahead of me. I am trying to figure out the root causes of this anxiety. I know that I must get to the root of the matter and figure out ways to reduce those feelings of doubt and fear. So, I have come up with some important open ended questions which I do not know the answer to. No social role play has ever prepared me for some of the things I have yet to experience in life. What are these questions about? They are about the many things that are bothering me as a twenty year old man who happens to be gay and who happens to be diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. These things are a contributor to the anxiety that goes through my mind every single day of my life. The only way to address them is to ponder, and figure out how to overcome it. So, here are the things I came up with.

How should I respond to anti gay bigotry that is specifically directed towards me? Would others recommend me to respond in this way? 

How do I respond to LGBT people who direct their intolerance towards my Autism and vice versa? 

What kind of traits are essential for a future mate? How can these characteristics determine happiness in the future? 

How do I tell a person they are making me feel overwhelmed or frustrated? Why is it so difficult for me to explain my emotions to somebody who does not understand how Autism effects me? 

How should I respond to the media representation of both gay and Autistic people? 

I am sure you can tell that I have a lot on my mind. If I want to truly feel like I am “Proud To Be A Gay Autistic Man”, then I must do whatever is necessary to figure out the answers to those difficult questions that are impairing my confidence.

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Aspergers Syndrome

“I Am Proud To Be A Gay Autistic Man!” (Part 1)

I have become aware of the topic known as neurodiversity. This particular belief is very controversial in the Autism community. The term “neurodiversity” is the belief that a disorder in the nervous system should be referred to as a normal human difference. Simply put, they are people who strongly oppose the search for a cure. I don’t fully understand what neurodiversity is, and therefore I don’t know what it means to me. With that in mind, my recent blog post was probably the hardest one to write. It was the blog post where I revealed that I know I am a gay man. This one is going to be just as challenging. I now want to share a post on the forums. I asked the users on the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) forum one question that might seem simple  to those in the neurotypical community. 

Can you honestly and truly say “I am proud to be a LGBT Autistic? Why or why not?” 

At first, I thought everybody was going to say  “Duh! What kind of stupid question is that? Of course I love who I am. I was born this way!”  Once people started commenting my predictions changed quickly. Some of them expressed the belief that they feel no shame in their Autism or their sexuality. They have embraced the fact that they are different from the rest of society and they seem to have enough confidence to stand up to people who try to bible thump and convince them to “change” who they are. There are others who do not feel ashamed, but who feel that neither qualities are things to be “proud” of. Surprisingly, my opinion was different from everyone who answered the question so far.

As of now, my stance on this complicated question is half and half. I am sure you can tell that I felt a huge sense of relief when I finally revealed that I know I am a gay man. I say that mainly because I live in a mostly Conservative Pennsylvania town. I have come to the immediate conclusion that people who use a religious text as a method of “changing” my feelings and desires are not real friends. Despite what 14-year-old Caiden Cowger says, I know that I have always been attracted to the male body. I began to notice it during my junior and senior years of high school,  but I knew I was not ready to reveal it to the world. Here is a quote from my earlier post about my former therapist and why I did not trust him.  

His tone of voice was often very questionable, meaning I had trouble figuring out whether he was being genuine or being sarcastic. I was “not like everybody else” and I was not interested in most of the neurotypical activities, in particular, dating. I wanted to “be like everybody else” but I didn’t know how to. Just about every single session consisted of him trying to cause that magical epiphany. He wanted to me “put myself out there.” He would go on and on about how I should be interested girls, the sarcastically said “unless you like boys or something…”  That was one of the many comments that caused a major personality clash between the two of us. I didn’t know I was gay back then, so I just refused to respond to him. If I had known, I still would not have “come out” to him.

 It might seem shocking to some of you when I say that I am not “proud to be Autistic.” I honestly don’t truly understand why I say that, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that I am a gay man who recently came out of the closet. I am only twenty years old, and it has been a little over a year since I graduated from high school. It is a known fact that symptoms of depression and social anxiety are common characteristics in people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, and that is true regardless of whether or not they are actually diagnosed with the two conditions. Now that I identify myself as a man who happens to be gay and who happens to be diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, I have to be prepared for the many bumps that I could hit on the road ahead. 

If you are a parent of an LGBT Autistic teen or young adult, I must be honest that I do not know the many answers to your questions. I say that because I am new to the whole gay thing. However, I am sure you know an Asperger’s child will always experience difficulties with socialization. This could have the potential to make me vulnerable to acts of hatred and violence. The tragic death of Matthew Shepard was a grim reminder that there are sick and hateful people out there. It happened  on October 7, 1998. Two men named Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson drove Matthew to a remote area east of Laramie, a city in Southeastern Wyoming. The two men pistol whipped him multiple times and left him out in the cold for eighteen hours. He breathed his last breath shortly after midnight on October 12, 1998. 

Matthew was tricked into believing that Aaron and Russell were gay. After meeting them at a bar, Aaron agreed to give Matthew a ride home. As soon as they brought him to the remote area outside of town, Aaron said “Guess what? We’re not gay and you just got jacked.”  That was when he started to beat Matthew. The most painful aspect of being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome is that I have to do everything in my power to prevent my social naivety from overtaking my life. The murder of Matthew Shepard was an violent example of the bullying I experienced in high school. As my regular visitors know, bullies would try to convince me into believing they were being kind, then turn around and back-stab me. So, I ask you one question after hearing about tragedies like this. What is there to be “proud” of? I assure you that I will never feel shame in who I am, but I must come up with something that will prevent a tragedy from taking the lives of people in the most vulnerable “minority” groups out there. 

To be continued by next week… 

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Aspergers Syndrome

Do They Truly “Care”? (Part 2- A Blog Post About Facing Fears)

A Continuation of Part 1

When we experience a life threatening situation like a car accident, it reduces our self-confidence to great amounts. We think that cowering in fear will make the problems go away. Anxiety is a common characteristic in people diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorders, regardless of whether or not they are actually diagnosed with a particular type of Anxiety.  I’ve always hated therapists who tell me that I need to “put myself out there” if I want to make new friends. I am in college now, and the feelings of not “fitting in” have been with me for a long time. I am sure they will stay with me in any social situation. 

Throughout most of my (almost) twenty years of life, I have always known that I was “different.” I was “unpopular” in high school and the vast majority of my classmates either didn’t know that I existed or took advantage of it. Because of that, I found it extremely difficult to decipher whether or not people were merely trying to be kind. My former therapist, Mike thought that forcing me out of my comfort zone would magically cause an epiphany and end all of my problems. His demanding personality and use of scare tactics made me believe that he was not really trying to “help” me, even though he tried to convince me otherwise. The truth was that I really had no idea what was bothering me. I was just bitter about the fact that I was “not like everybody else.”

You are probably asking me to answer that one burning question. What is that thing that has caused me to feel so empty? So, you should know that I am “putting myself out there.” I now know I am a gay man. I knew that I was not ready to say that during my high school years. My classmates seemed to notice this and they used it as a way to provoke me. My small, unincorporated hometown in Western Pennsylvania mainly consists of Conservative Christians who are not very accepting of the GLBT community. Life in the Freeport Area School District was about conforming, fitting in and doing what was expected of me.

The school claimed to have a “zero tolerance policy” towards bullying. From elementary school until tenth grade, the schools seemed to think that displaying signs that read “bullying will not be tolerated” or “teasing hurts” would give students the message that bullying was not acceptable. The truth was, it did the exact opposite. The vast majority of the students paid no attention to the signs. My teachers were under the kind of mindset that we were in a perfect school in a small town and that any forms of intolerance and bullying are just a little pigment of our own imagination. As a matter of fact, I remember my tenth grade health teacher rambling about how he thinks it’s “funny” that our school district even needed a bullying policy. He was just one of the many Freeport teachers who lived under the “perfect small town” mindset. If you are still not convinced, look at the website and read the one and two star reviews written about the junior and senior high schools. 

Going back to my “drill Sargent” therapist, I can remember one thing about his tactic that truly infuriated me. His tone of voice was often very questionable, meaning I had trouble figuring out whether he was being genuine or being sarcastic. I was “not like everybody else” and I was not interested in most of the neurotypical activities, in particular, dating. I wanted to “be like everybody else” but I didn’t know how to. Just about every single session consisted of him trying to cause that magical epiphany. He wanted to me “put myself out there.” He would go on and on about how I should be interested girls, the sarcastically said “unless you like boys or something…”  That was one of the many comments that caused a major personality clash between the two of us. I didn’t know I was gay back then, so I just refused to respond to him. If I had known, I still would not have “come out” to him. This was due to the lack of respect and understanding from the vast majority of my peers, teachers and counselors. So, I am sure you can guess why I felt this comment was pretty questionable. His tendency to bombard me with questions, to get in my face and tell me how much I need to “open up to people” caused even more resistance. I most likely will never change my opinions about the man. He had no regard for the fact that I simply was not ready to discover and reveal what was really bothering me. 

If there are any Autistic and/or gay people who are reading this blog post, I am sure you know that we have many stereotypes and labels thrown at us. This is why I felt that “coming out” during high school was not safe. When people think of the word “gay”, they picture a male who is effeminate, materialistic, shallow and overly obsessed about sex. When people think of an Autistic person, they picture someone running out of control and throwing things in a screaming meltdown. It is true that there are gay and/or Autistic people who show those characteristics, but that most certainly does not excuse the acts intolerance and hatred that society throws at them. 

I have also noticed one thing when it comes to “cultural and neurological diversity.” There have been times where I have been around Aspies who negatively use offensive slurs such as “faggot”, “cunt” or “dyke.” I have also heard LGBTQ people negatively use offensive slurs like “retard”, “freak” or “psycho.” It infuriates me to hear anybody use those slurs, but especially those who know how it feels to be different. I have come to the sad realization that they use these slurs for the same reason that anyone would use them. They fear people who are different because they still believe the ridiculous myths and negative stereotypes that are always thrown at that particular “group.” It’s called the fear of the unknown. 

My Asperger’s has always caused me to be very careful who I choose for a friend, and I know I will have to be even more careful now that I know I am gay. This could very well mean that I could lose support from friends and family due to their religious stance on “homosexuality.” I will most likely endure my fair share of  the bible says it’s wrong” lectures. Those family and friends could start negatively gossiping about me and even use those slurs that always have and always will infuriate me. I know that I shouldn’t let them bother me, but it will truly hurt if this ever ends up being the case. All I can do is expel them from my life, tell myself that it’s their problem and hope they change their ways. However, homophobes usually don’t change the way they feel about people who are different. Their religious propaganda “molds” them into that kind of mindset. 

My priorities in a friend are now starting to change. I am experiencing a friendship where I am always the one who reaches out to the person, when they never seem to reach out to me. It makes me feel like I am the only one who seems to truly care. I’ve had friends who say they are going to help me with things then turn around and not do it. It makes me wonder if they really want to spend time with me. It also makes me wonder whether they are avoiding me or just “forgetting” about me. I know not to automatically take it personally, but I always have wondered what the real answer is. I ask myself two questions. Are they using that as a cover up? Do they truly care? This is the hardest part, but I must accept what the real answer is. 

I thank you for reading this very important post!

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Aspergers Syndrome

“The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night-time” by Mark Haddon

When was the last time you have ever gotten fed up with the media about something? Recently, we have heard about things like the Tiger Woods affair, Obama sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, and the H1N1 virus (the swine flu). The sad fact is the media focuses on just about everything negative that happens. When I turn on the news every day, you expect to hear about which bank in Pittsburgh was robbed, who is cheating on who, and who has gotten arrested. If you watch Fox News, you also notice the people yelling and arguing about political and social issues that are happening in the world. There are also many people in the media who disrespect the private lives of celebrities. When I check out at Wal-Mart, you see all of those celebrity gossip magazines. Those magazines are the reason for why punk rock band Bowling For Soup wrote their song “High School Never Ends”. The social politics of high school still exist in the media. You will always hear about who is having sex, who is arrested for drugs, and who has gotten caught drinking.

As you know, I experience one thing that has always been a very controversial topic in today’s society. It is Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a mild form of Autism. You hear about non-profit organizations like Autism speaks and how they are trying to search for a cure. They still think Autism is a “disease” even though scientists have proved that it is not true. Autism is really a neurological brain disorder. A neurological disorder is a disorder that affects the nervous system. Like all neurological disorders, Autism is not curable and the symptoms are very difficult to treat.

You read my review of John Elder Robison’s “Look Me In The Eye” and my blogs explaining the rules from Temple Grandin’s “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships”. People don’t understand what Autism really is, and people never will fully understand what it is. These books have given people a better understanding of what Autism is, and they have given people a better understanding of what their Autism means to them. Like I said in the dedication for my book, people will understand your diagnosis more if you think hard about your experiences and write about them. And again, it does not matter whether it ends up being published. That is the main reason I encourage people to write about their life experiences.

One particular story that helped me understand my diagnosis even more is Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Nighttime”. The book is an “autistic account” of the Sherlock Holmes murder mysteries. The case he is investigating is the death of his neighbor’s dog Wellington, who belongs to Mrs. Shears, a woman who lives across the street from him. He found a fork impaled in Wellington’s body. His parents are a working class type of couple, and they don’t have the patience or the education to understand his diagnosis.When the police came to investigate the situation, Christopher hit a police officer because he touched him because he was trying to help him stand up. As  result of that, he was sentenced to a night in jail. Christopher John Francis Boone is a teenage autistic boy from Europe. He is a teenager with an above average IQ who knows all the worlds countries and their capitals. He also knows every single prime number up to 7,057. Because of his quirks and his parents not understand his diagnosis, he has been through some extremely difficult times as a teenager. I have been through many similar situations in my life, so I can relate to Christopher in many ways.

Because of his above average intelligence and his odd interests, he has experienced quite a bit of discrimination throughout the book. In my memoir, I am going to touch on some of the false things the media says about Autism. Like I said in the beginning of this blog, the media often thinks that Autism is a death sentence and a disease that “somehow” will be cured. People believe what the media says, no matter what the issue is. Because of the ignorant things the media says, people believe it. There are numerous parts of the book that people have discriminated Christopher. Because of how people thought he was “socially hopeless”, they have told him that he would only be capable of getting a job “collecting super market trolleys” or “scooping donkey shit at an animal sanctuary”. Christopher was told this by a boy named Terry, who was apparently jealous of Chris because of his above average intelligence and cleverness. Terry would call him named like “spaz” and would say “they don’t let spazzers drive rockets that cost billions of pounds”. Terry thought he was “spastic”.

I have been through similar experiences, and I have seen other kids on the spectrum go through the same thing. One students shared a particular experience at Computing Workshop, the summer camp program I work at. We had a staff member who told a story about one of his former computer teachers in high school. This particular teacher didn’t like the fact that this student had a difficulty with spelling. In the class, the students would often do activities that involved researching things on the Internet. This particular student really enjoyed researching things on the Internet, and he was very gifted at it. He wanted to participate in the activities, but the teacher wouldn’t let him. One day he asked if if he would participate, the teacher then snapped and said “You will not participate in the Internet research activity until you can spell perfectly”. Instead, the teacher would have the student correct all of the spelling mistakes he made on all of the previous projects they participated in. The teacher was punishing him for his difficulty spelling words correctly.

Kids with Asperger’s Syndrome often have difficulty understanding humor, idioms and sarcasm. At the beginning of the book, Christopher quotes “This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them”. One thing about humor and sarcasm that can be risky for kids like me is we have a difficulty understanding whether or not someone is being serious versus being sarcastic. I have been through many situations where people have tricked me into thinking they were just merely trying to be friends with me, but they were really trying to belittle me and set me up. Throughout my years in school, there was one particular kid that seemed to realize that I didn’t understand whether someone was really my friend or not. They would walk up to me in a very friendly and polite manner, then I turned around and they would say something really rude and disrespectful to me. I didn’t understand the social rule “Not Everyone Who Is Nice To Me Is My Friend”. In elementary school, this kid tried to convince me into saying something inappropriate to a teacher, he thought it would be funny for me to get into trouble. I went with his “advice” and I recieved lunch detention for a whole week. During my freshman year of high school, this person tried to pull off another stunt like that, but this time I ignored him. I wasn’t going to fall for his tricks this time.Teenagers often playfully joke around with each other, it is their way of bonding with their friends. There have been instances where people have told me jokes, and I took it the wrong way and thought they were really trying to “badly tease” me. Playfully joking around is “good teasing” and bullying and harassing is “bad teasing”. When the kid in elementary school convinced me into saying that inappropriate joke to the teacher, I made the mistake of thinking he was playing around with me when he really was trying to bully me. I don’t like it when people I barely know use sarcastic humor around me because it will make me think they are trying to belittle me. I am afraid I will take the joke the wrong way by saying it to someone else and getting into trouble, or being offended by it and overreacting. I will use humor around people I know well, not people I barely know.

In this blog, I just wanted to give people a general description of the book. If you want to find out more about the book, I would recommend reading it. This book is great for anybody who enjoys murder mysteries, and it is great for anybody who wants to understand the Autistic brain. On the bottom of the page, I have provided a link to the book and an unabridged audio version of the story.


Unabridged Audio book:

The 10 myths about Autism: (

Aspergers Syndrome

From My Perspective: Why Write A Memoir?

One of the things that I hope to have in my stocking this year is a book called “You Don’t Have To Be Famous: How to Write Your Life Story”. Just reading the title made me want to buy this book. My last entry was the intro to my memoir, and I wanted to expand on reasons why it is a great idea for anybody in the world to write a memoir. Everybody goes through a hard time in their life, whether it is a break up with someone, a struggle with a disease or drug addiction, or the death of a family member. The most famous memoir ever written was “Night” by Elie Wiesel. The book was about the terrible experiences he went through during the Holocaust. You also saw my review of John Elder Robison’s “Look Me In The Eye”. This book talked about his life with Asperger’s Syndrome. I wanted to write this blog to encourage as many people as I can to write a memoir. As I said in the intro to my life story, it does not matter if it is published or not, you will be proud that you wrote it once it is complete. Writing a book will take more time than writing a blog would, but all the hard work will pay off when you are finally finished with it. Here I am going to talk about reasons why you should write it. I will also write this blog to inform you of the “dont’s” if you are considering having the memoir published.

One of the things I absolutely dreaded when I went through counseling sessions because of my depression and social anxiety was having to sit for two hours and talk about my feelings about the situation. If you are going through any kind of hard time in your life it is not easy to talk about it around other people. My freshman year in high school we listened to a World War II veteran from Freeport speak, and I could tell that he was about to tear up. Those bad memories from the war most likely still upset him today, and they probably will for the rest of his life. It a lot of guts to go up there and talk about something as extreme as a war. I dreaded “social skills” groups because they were entirely too structured and mundane. Pretty much everything you did was planned, and the staff members were expected to do it with the group members, even if it wasn’t something they didn’t like. A synonym for the word “mundane” is ordinary. I think the “normal” teenagers are the boring ones. Writing a memoir will hopefully convince people who I am proud to be an Aspergian, even though I have to deal with all the social politics in high school. My memoir will hopefully convince all people who it is better to be different then to be an “average joe”. My point in this paragraph is to inform you that it is easier to write about an experience than talk about it in front of a lot of people. Writing is an awesome way to inform people about your life. I have gotten comments on my other blogs telling me they never knew I had Asperger’s Syndrome, and they never thought that I would be able to write the way I do. Writing my blogs has given people a chance to know me better, and hopefully writing a memoir will give them a chance to know me even more.

The second question you are probably asking yourself is “what all should I include in my memoir?”. The most difficult part of writing anything is getting started. Don’t feel bad about thinking this way, I am sure every author out there has a difficulty coming up with how to start and what all to include. But first, I must say that a memoir is different from an auto biography. An auto biography is simply writing your own story. It just talks about events in your life all the way up to now. A memoir, however is pretty much a novel about ones own experiences throughout life. A memoir is supposed to have a certain theme. As I mentioned in the intro to this entry, some of the themes mentioned were a personal struggle, a personal tragedy or a relationship or friendship. Once you have come up with a theme, think about events that have happened related to that theme.

Before you start writing, it is best to write a list or an outline of as many of those things as you possibly can.

  • Be sure to include as much detail as you possibly can. What did you hear, see, smell, touch and taste when that particular event happened.  Most importantly, you should include how the event made an impact on your life.
  • If you are writing about a personal struggle, make sure you include how that event made your personal struggle even more difficult to deal with. At the end of the memoir, be sure you include how you overcame that personal struggle and how it changed your attitude about life now.
  • If you are writing about a relationship or friendship with someone, talk about as many memories with that person as you possibly can and tell how your relationship with that person impacted your attitude about life now. This is also true for talking about your family.
  • If you are writing about your dreams for the future, make sure to include what made you want to live that dream, and the steps you are going to take to get there. How are you going to convince other people that they too can follow those same dreams?

Those were just a few suggestions, just Google “memoir topics” and many results should come up. You can be sure to find something you will want to write about. But wait, don’t start writing just yet! If you are seriously considering having the memoir published, here are a few “don’ts” you should be informed of.

  • Don’t mention anybody, regardless of your relationship with them without their permission. If the person you want to mention is under 18, be sure to ask their parent or guardian before you ask them. If the person says “no” then give them an alternate name. And, remember to keep your comments about the person positive! Use an alternate name for anybody who made a negative impact on your life.
  • Don’t mention another person’s medical diagnosis, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, skin color, etc. without their permission. That can easily offend some people.
  • Don’t mention an employers name without their permission (past or present)
  • Don’t quote from another person’s work without the authors permission (especially song lyrics)

Hopefully this gave you a better picture on why you should write a memoir and how you should write it. I hope this blog inspired you into writing your own memoir someday. But I must say one more thing before I go, try to read other people’s memoirs as well. Those can give you some pointers on what to include in yours. I hope you enjoyed reading this and I will be back to write soon!

Aspergers Syndrome, Life

“Being Polite Is Appropriate In Any Situation”

Can you remember the last time you had to be around a person who has the worst manners you have ever seen? You and your family are sitting at a restaurant and one of the members of your party burps out loud, where everybody can hear them. Everybody turns around and looks, but the parents do absolutely nothing about it. After it happens, everybody continues with their meals. A few minutes pass, then the child acts up again. This time, he starts asking people inappropriate questions, the questions dealt with the three major “turn off” topics, which are sex, politics and religion. The kid is so loud that people from across the room can hear every word he is saying. Their parents pay absolutely no attention to the child, and everybody else in the restaurant gets irritated. The other customers finally had enough and they complain to the waitress. Because of the kids inappropriate behavior, they ask the party to leave without their money back.

I actually did witness something like this happen, but this time it was not a kid and the parents not paying attention to them, it was a group of college kids and their girlfriends. My family decided to go out to eat at an Applebees, and we did not enjoy our meal because of the behavior coming from these kids. I am surprised that their girlfriends didn’t even walk out on them, I most certainly would not want to be around someone who acted like that. They obviously didn’t understand this unwritten social rule. Manners is a must have skill if you want to have social interaction with people.This is rule # 5 in Temple Grandin and Shaun Barron’s “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships”.

Temple mentioned something that I thought was pretty interesting and true, the quote from the book states “As a whole, people in our society have become ruder and cruder than ever before. People behave in social settings today in ways that would have been considered really impolite when I was growing up in the 60’s and even in the 70’s and 80’s, and it’s tolerated. Over the past twenty years or so, having good manners and being polite in social interaction — the whole idea of there being a “right” and a “wrong” way to act in social settings– has become less and less important. Fewer parents take the time to instill manners and teach proper social etiquette to their children. It’s having a ripple effect. Young parents today aren’t even conscious of some Miss Manners’ rules, which used to govern society when I was growing up”.

Asperger’s kids are not alone, there are neurotypical adults who show behavior that demonstrate a lack of social skills. A perfect example is a therapist I had to deal with when I was in about first or second grade. There were two times when she wouldn’t show up for our sessions, and she never called us and informed us she was running late. We were supposed to meet two times a week, and there was no sign of her both sessions. The next week she arrived thirty minutes late and said there was “traffic on Route 28”. I have heard from many people who traffic congestion and car troubles are both not an excuse to be late in the work world. I was scheduled to be her first client of the day, and she only lived in Kittanning, which is only about 20 minutes from Sarver. I also noticed that she would make that excuse more often as the weeks went on. That wasn’t the only issue we had with her, there was a major personality clash between her, my mother and I. Instead of teaching me social skills, she talked to me in a very threatening tone. She was only focused on reprimand me for my behaviors instead of teaching me social skills. Her attitude pretty much sounded like “I will fix that f***up if he continues acting like this. I am the boss and he does everything I say.” I told my parents I was sick of her, and we finally decided to discharge services with her. When a child demonstrates inappropriate behavior, their parents and therapists need to explain to them why the behavior was wrong and a more appropriate way of handling whatever the situation was. Parents, teachers and therapists need to also help them understand why their behavior will cause people to not want to be around them. They need to keep practicing until they get it. Repetition is a must in social skills training because later in life they may make a mistake that will help them realize why it was inappropriate. The child may not like every activity their therapist or teacher does with them, but they should realize that he or she may not function well in the work world if they continue to act the way they do. You should also teach the child that teaching them social skills is not a punishment, you are doing it to help them. Just verbally reprimanding them and saying “don’t do that again” won’t change their behavior, they will just keep doing it even more.

Remember what the word “tact” meant? The rule “Honesty Is Different From Diplomacy” goes with this rule as well. Sometimes kids with Asperger’s Syndrome are too honest and the things they say offend people. Here are some basic conversation don’ts that I have learned along the way, Temple did not mention some of these in the book.

  1. Don’t ask another person about the cost of their possessions.
  2. Don’t talk about the three major turn off topics (sex, politics and religion)
  3. Don’t use swear words in public.
  4. Don’t use swear words on social networking websites. (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter)
  5. Don’t talk about people behind their back.
  6. Don’t laugh about people’s age, appearance, weight, sexual orientation, etc.
  7. Don’t call adults you don’t know well by their first name. (Use “Mr.”, “Mrs.” or “Ms.” instead)
  8. Don’t burp, belch or pass gas any time you are around other people. (remember to apologize appropriately if it slips out)
  9. Don’t make comments about another person’s bodily functions.
  10. Don’t hug a person unless you are in a romantic relationship, or they are a close family member or friend.

As I have said before, teaching a child manners in social interaction is not a punishment, it is intended to help them function in life. Learning these manners will help them succeed in the social and work world. I hope you found this very interesting and informative, and I hope you will use this as a guide in the future.

Aspergers Syndrome, Life

Why Did People Avoid Me?

Everybody in the world needs at least one close friend. We all need that friend who will stick up for you when somebody is mistreating you and that will always be there in time of need, whatever it may be. In life, I have never really had that one person that I could consider a “true friend”. I have been through a real sad and depressing time in high school and I have never understood why people didn’t want to be friends with me. There have been days where I have come home crying because I didn’t have friends. As a result of that, I became severely depressed and anxious. If you remember my blog titled “Honesty Is Different Than Diplomacy” it talked about the word “tact”. A definition of the word “tact” simply is “a keen sense of what to say or do without giving offense; skill in dealing with difficult people and situations”. The word “diplomacy” simply meant “tact and skill in dealing with people”. Many children with Asperger’s want to make friends, but they don’t have the understanding of what is appropriate and what is not appropriate when trying to establish any kind of social relationship with someone. I wanted to write about some of the experiences I’ve had with people and I wanted to write about some of the things I have done with friends in the past that have caused them to not want to be around me. I hope that after reading this, people realize the things I have done, and that you won’t make those same mistakes.

I’m sure people have dealt with that one friend who treats you like you’re an unpaid servant. This friend is always bossy, and they want things to go their way. If things don’t go their way, they get very angry and uncooperative. In my opinion, these are the most difficult people to deal with. For example, you and a few friends decide to go to a movie, but one person wants to go see a different movie. That one friend argues and argues with you until everybody gives in and see’s the movie the friend wants to see. Nobody enjoys the movie because they are so irritated with the friend that argued and argued with them. As another example, at the Computing Workshop summer camp we went on a field trip, and at the time we ate at the LaRoche College cafeteria for lunch everyday. The group wanted to find a fast restaurant in town so we could get back in time for the afternoon class periods to start. We had a student that did not want to do that, so instead of going with the flow and doing what everybody else wanted to do he decided to throw his water bottle on the floor, swear and throw a temper tantrum at everybody. We eventually decided to give in and hurry back to the cafeteria before they closed it for the day. We luckily made it back on time, we had only twenty minutes to eat our lunch, and we could have had plenty of time to eat if we found somewhere to eat in Pittsburgh. The fact is, when you are out with a group of people, and you don’t want to do something everybody else wants to do, you sometimes have to just suck it up and do what they want to do. We never took this student on any field trips for the rest of the summer because of his behavior.

One thing that I have caught myself doing, which has also caused friends to not want to be around me is expecting too much from them. On an Autism forum website a few weeks ago, a teenager was complaining about a friend ignoring his messages. He mentioned that he had a friend in school that he would text message a lot, but he would become frustrated about his friends not replying to every single text message he would send. In the post, his tone sounded very demanding. It pretty much sounded like “I expect my friends to reply to me when I text message them, I don’t care if it takes them a few hours to text me back, I just want them to reply”. If this person wants to keep his friend, he should not make demands like that. Doing so can make the friend feel like you are a burden to be around. Nobody wants to be around someone who acts like a burden. I agree that it is upsetting when friends don’t keep in touch as often as you would like them to, but sometimes they just don’t have the time to do it. I used to get very upset about this and feel that every time a friend does not answer messages that they have something against me. I try to be cool when I am around my friends, because if I act pushy they will definitely start avoiding me.

This brings me to my next topic, which is jealousy. You may think it is stupid to write about, but I have dealt with people who are jealous of me for many reasons. These were the people who tried to convince me they were trying to be my friend when they really weren’t. I am good at making PowerPoint presentations, and I have done many school projects with the program in the past. Most of the PowerPoint projects I have done in school are group projects, and I was usually the one that was in charge of doing the PowerPoint presentation. People realized my ability to do PowerPoint presentations like that, and they would take advantage of me and make me do most of the work. When the teacher was not around, most of my group members would sit and socialize with their friends instead of helping me work on the project. When the teacher would come in the classroom, they would sit there and pretend to do be working. When I would add a slide background they didn’t like, or a font they didn’t like they would rudely tell me how much they didn’t like it and to change it to something else. I talked to the teacher about it the next day, and he gave the group members the typical “do your work” lecture. They were pretty angry that I complained to the teacher about how rude they have been to me, they then proceeded to yelling at me and telling me what to do throughout the project. After that, I had enough and asked the teacher to give me an alternate independent assignment. I got full credit for the assignment, and I never had to work with those people again. Another funny thing about this was that they asked me to sit with them at lunch one day, and I simply said “no”. They then asked me “But we thought you were our friend”. It was obvious they were not my friend because of how they took advantage of me, and they knew how disrespectfully they treated me.

I am not trying to blame everything on other people, I have caught myself being jealous of people many times. Some of the people who I have gotten jealous of were my close friends. One or two of them do have girlfriends, and there have been times where it seemed like they were spending more time with the girl and her friends instead of with me. I started becoming extremely angry and jealous when I would hang around them. The anger then turned into sadness, I can remember asking myself “why are they spending more time with the girl and her friends instead of with me?” I asked my counselor and my parents about it, and they both told me to talk to them. I did exactly what they told me, but I said it in a tone of voice that was not appropriate or friendly. I made the mistake of saying incredibly rude and inappropriate things about their girlfriends. They then proceeded to walking away from me, and that was the last time I ever heard from them. Going back to my blog about Honesty, I was honest, but I said it in a crude and inappropriate way that caused me to lose my good friends. The words “tact” and “diplomacy” never existed in my world then. I could have changed the way I talked to my friends about the situation, I could have politely and sincerely told them my feelings, and that I am upset that they never spent time with me. I don’t think I should have been that jealous of them in the first place, if they spent more time with me instead of their girlfriends, their girlfriends would be jealous and upset. I should have waited a few days, then talked to them in private about it. I didn’t do that either. As soon as I found out they were dating the girls and hanging out with their friends, I got angry and overreacted to the situation. Like I said, I said some things about their girlfriends that were pretty mean and inappropriate, but I am not going to talk about it on here. Just because a friend gets into a relationship with somebody doesn’t always mean they are going to drift away from you and forget about you. They still liked me, but I just had trouble dealing with the change. I should have just accepted the change and stayed friends with them.

To sum things up, I now understand why many people avoided me in the past. Every mistake I make will help me become a better person, because I learn not to do it again. I learned not to treat a friend like an unpaid employee, expect to much from them, or be jealous of them. I realize that will cause people to avoid me and not like me. If I didn’t get the opportunity to meet my friend Aaron, I probably would not be the person I am now. I would still be the depressed, unhappy person that John Elder Robison was as he described in his book. Hopefully all the school work he is doing right now will pay off and give him a job he will like. I am proud of him for that. Anybody enjoys seeing their good friend succeed. I will learn more social skills as I grow older, and they will hopefully make me become a very successful person. Hopefully after reading this, you will not make the mistakes I made. Life is about making mistakes and learning from them. I thank you for reading this, and I will be back to write next week!

Aspergers Syndrome, Life

“Look Me In The Eye” by John Elder Robison

Recently my parents bought me the book “Look Me in The Eye” by John Elder Robison. I found an audio CD of the book that was read by the author for sale on I find it easier to listen to the author read the book then just sit there and read it. Depending on the material we’re learning about, I learn it easier by listening. For the most part, I consider myself an auditory learner. The book talked about his life with Asperger’s Syndrome, and how it affected his social performance throughout his life. He lived a very tough childhood, his father was an abusive alcoholic and from what I remember his mother suffered from severe depression. Because of this, his parents never gave him support about his social difficulties. Because of these issues, he dropped out of high school in the 10th grade. John Elder started his successful career when he started working with the rock band KISS. There, he designed exploding, fire-shooting special effect guitars for Ace Freshley.

After years of working with KISS, he was employed at a company that designs electronic games. His social difficulties prevented him from advancing in the job, as a result he quit his job. From there, he started his hobby of working with cars. He worked on cars when he was in high school, and he wanted to start it again. He wanted to make money doing the thing he loved, but he wasn’t sure how. Then came J.E Robison service. His business repairs and customizes cars, and it became one of the most successful independent repair shops in New England. He discovered he had Asperger’s Syndrome from a therapist who came to his repair business. He showed him the book “Asperger’s Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Professionals”. When he read the book, he said the book perfectly described him.

I am glad I found out about Asperger’s Syndrome when I was young. I was in about second or third grade when I found out about it. If John Elder found out about it long before he did, things would have been much different for him. Because of his father’s abusive drunkenness and his mothers severe depression, he did not get any help from his disorder. Professionals often misdiagnosed him for disorders like schizophrenia. I am getting very sick of people gossiping about me and giving me labels such as “anti-social”, “psychopath”, “retard”, “loser” or “freak”. I am not any of those things, I want social interaction with people and I want to fit. I’ve dealt with pushy, overly involved therapists and counselors who thought they understood my diagnosis and how it affected me. They obviously didn’t! I am perfectly capable of making friends with the people I want to be friends with, and if they don’t want to be friends with me it is their loss. I am willing to be friends with anybody who accepts me for the kind of guy that I am and who won’t be judgmental and give me stereotypes. I am not going to be upset about not having twenty “casual friends” like most teenagers I know. I am going to try to find one close friend who will respect me and stand up for me. I don’t really have friends that will let me be myself, and I am real upset about that. Kids my age believe the labels the fools give me. Because of that, I don’t have that many friends in school. If I didn’t find out about my Asperger’s Syndrome when I did, I could have considered dropping out of high school like John Elder did.

I am thankful that I have people who support me and accept me for who I am. This book was very painful to read because of the things that John Elder had to experience. His father mistreated him by hitting and not just plain not believing in him. He is very lucky to have gotten where he is now. These days, you need to have education to get just about anywhere. I realize the importance of education, but the thing is we don’t have teachers that are certified to work with Autistic kids. A classic example of this is the story “Gerald Mcboing-Boing” by Dr Seuss. The story is about a young boy named Gerald Mcloy, instead of using real words he would make a “boing boing” noise. His parents called a doctor to try to find out what was wrong with him, but the doctor could not figure out what was wrong with him. His parents thought that sending him to school would teach him how to use words instead of making noises, but it didn’t go well. When he got home from school, his parents left him a note telling him that he was completely hopeless and that he would keep making noises for the rest of his life. Gerald did not realize that when he makes noises, nobody wanted to be around him. He then became very upset and ran away from home. Gerald’s “inappropriate noise” making eventually landed him a job at their local radio station. He got a job doing the thing that people love to do the most, which was make noises. When a child with Autism or Asperger’s demonstrates any kind of inappropriate behavior, teachers often get the impression that they are “ignorant and hopeless”. John Elder Robinson struggled in school because of his fathers alcoholism and his mother’s severe depression and, as you heard earlier he dropped out of high school because of the social shunning and his difficulties at home with his parents. He overcame that depression and he eventually became one of the most successful aspergians to ever live. This book is recommended for all people to read, especially parents and teachers. Hopefully after reading both the book and my review of it, you understand Asperger’s Syndrome more.

Aspergers Syndrome, Life

Asperger’s Syndrome and Sensory Issues

Life with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome can be very hard, not understanding social skills is one of the main symptoms of the disorder. Aside from that, kids with Autism often are very sensitive to sounds, touch and sights. This is called either sensory integration or sensory processing disorder. They also tend to react so sights and sounds that typically don’t bother most neurotypicals. As a result of this, they can’t participate in many every day activities that people do. The thing that really bothered me was loud noises. I couldn’t go to things like restaurants and amusement parks because the loud noises would overpower me. This really stressed my parents out because they couldn’t do things that most kids really enjoy doing, such as going to amusement parks, birthday parties, firework shows and some school events.

I was about four or five years old, and we were waiting for our flight back to Pittsburgh from the McCarren International Airport in Las Vegas. We just finished a week long visit at my aunt and uncles house who lived in town, and from what I heard, our plane was delayed until about three or four o’clock in the morning. We were sitting at the gate and waiting for our plane until we heard a real loud “whoop, whoop”.  Somebody seemed to have set off the airport security alarm, which went off throughout all the airport gates. I sat, held my ears and dealt with it for about three minutes, when my mom put ear plugs in my ears. The noise became very overpowering and I started crying and screaming. My parents, along with my sister decided to get on the tram and go into the terminal. It was noisy in there, but at least we didn’t have to listen to the security alarm in the gate. We stood there for about thirty minutes and we had to go through security to get on the tram back to the gate. When we got off the tram and went back to the gate, the alarms were finally turned off. We sat down at the gate and I was fine. We got on the plane and we went back to Pittsburgh without problems. I am sure there are parents out there who would just sit there and let the kid scream because they thought that I was crying just to get attention.

I can’t stand going to parties, it’s not necessarily because of the loud music, but it is because of how shy I am when it comes to meeting new people and social interaction. When I was younger, one of the things I couldn’t stand was loud parties and balloons popping. Anytime I would see a balloon, and I would tense up and become very irritated and nervous because of the fear of the balloons popping. I was afraid of them popping because of how sudden the popping sound was. It always happens when you least expect it to, and I would cry and scream when they would pop. Most of the people around me when I would go to birthday parties thought I was upset because I was trying to get attention, like a baby. One of my neighbors down the street was babysitting me, and they had balloons left over from a family member’s birthday party. One of them popped because they were sitting underneath the heating vent, and I started crying because the sudden noise frightened me. The balloons were in their kitchen, which was next to the living room. I would not go in the kitchen or the living room because I had the fear of the balloons popping again. I didn’t stop crying because of that fear, I cried for about thirty minutes because I was so afraid of the balloons popping. My mother came and picked me up later on, and I finally calmed down. One of the things that upset me when I was at my neighbor’s house was the change in the environment. One of the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome is the difficulty adapting to change, I think that was also one of the things that upset me when I was at the neighbor’s house. They thought I was only upset about the balloons popping, but I was also upset about the change in the environment.

A few years ago I went into Mrs. Casey’s third grade class at Buffalo Elementary School. They just finished remodeling the first part of the school building. We were all adapting to the change of being in a brand new building. A few weeks into the school year, we were getting ready for lunch. When we went in line to go to the lunch, we heard a very loud, high pitch chirping and screeching sound. I had no idea what the noise was, until I saws the alarm strobes flashing. When we walked outside, I held my ears and cringed from the shrill, loud noise. When we went outside, everybody complained about how loud the alarm was and how their lunch time got interrupted. When we went outside and walked to the cafeteria, I started talking about how loud the fire alarm was and how it scared me when I first heard it. I went on about the fire alarm for about thirty minutes until somebody finally blurted out “Derek, we are sick of hearing about the fire alarm. Stop talking about it”. It was obvious that they didn’t want to hear about the alarm anymore, I kept myself quiet the rest of the lunch period. Looking back at that situation, I realize that I talked about the fire alarm because I had the fear that it was going to go off and hurt my ears. My method of getting rid of the fear of the alarm going off was obsessing about it. I didn’t understand that talking about the fire alarm and fire drills got them angry, because there are other things to talk about besides that. When I would start talking about it, they would just ignore me or rudely tell me to talk about something else.

Aside from the fear of balloons and the fire alarm, there were quite a few things that have bothered me in school and at home. These, however are not fears, they are just sounds that really bothered me and distracted me from my schoolwork. I remember when I was at Buffalo Elementary, we had these carpeted areas around each of the grade level sections called “pods”. Our teachers would send us out there to study or finish homework assignments. The thing that really bothered me about these “pods” was that they were right beside the hallways. When people would pass by, it would really distract me. The school had a “no talking” rule when we were in the hallway because people are usually sitting in the pods working. When teachers were not looking, they would still talk and goof around. My teachers aide always took me out there to finish worksheets, and anytime I would get distracted from people walking by they would rudely yell “Derek, look at your paper and quit looking around”. I can’t tell you how many times I heard that annoying line when I was at home and at school.

Another thing that really distracted me when I was in elementary school was when the heater or air conditioner would come on. I would make a comment about it, and most people usually don’t even notice it when it comes on. When I did that, people thought it was strange. That was one of the things that caused teasing, name calling and labeling. I have gotten over my fears of loud noises like balloons popping and the fire alarm. As I got older, I naturally found out appropriate ways to deal with sensory issues. Kids need to be sure to tell somebody that a noise bothers them. People won’t know something bothers you unless you tell them. Parents, if you have a school that is unwilling to address your child’s needs, it is time to find a different place for them to get their education. If you stay with the school that is uncooperative with you, school life will become miserable.

To wrap up, when I look back at situations like this, I realize that it is typical for many people with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. I have been in many situations where people have thought of those things as “weird”. I think the people who label and make fun of me because of my differences are the “odd” ones. My best advice for that is to just sit back and pretend it doesn’t bother you. It is not worth getting upset about people who label and make fun of you. Hopefully after reading this entry, you learned more about me and my Asperger’s Syndrome. Thank you for reading!

Aspergers Syndrome, Life

Making Social Plans with Friends

I am currently reading two books that I bought recently, one of them is “Look Me In The Eye” by John Elder Robison. Just like me, he wanted to connect with other people, but he didn’t have the skills to do so. The most obvious behavior he exhibited was not looking people in the eye, you can tell that from reading the title of the book. His father was an alcoholic, and his mother suffered from severe depression. Because of his odd social behaviors, his parents thought he would grow up “pumping gas for a living”. Robison had the ability to visualize electronics circuits, as a result of that he found a job with the rock band KISS. When he was with KISS he designed special effects guitars. After that, he landed a job as an engineer in a toy and game company. His lack of social skills prevented him from advancing in the field, as a result he left his job. That still didn’t prevent him from working with machines, he still kept fixing his own cars. His passion for working with cars inspired him to open his own business, J.E Robison Service. There he repaired and customized cars. Despite his social difficulties in school, he became a very successful person.

The other book is “Freaks, Geeks and Asperger’s Syndrome” by Luke Jackson. The book simply talks about his teenage life and how he suffered with Asperger’s Syndrome in school. It is written as a guide for Aspergian teenagers on how to deal with issues such as bullying, friendships, issues in school and dating. I strongly reccomend both of these books for Asperger’s teens, parents and teachers.

These books do talk about how to find, make and keep a friendship with somebody, but they don’t necessarily talk about the high importance of making plans. The fact is, everybody makes plans. When I lay in bed at night trying to go to sleep, I try to think about what I am going to do the next day. Most aspies are good at making plans for themselves, but when it comes to making plans with other people is when they have the most difficulty. The fact is that you are dealing with another person other than just you, the person you want to spend time with may be busy, or they just don’t want to spend time with you. I knew how to reach out to somebody and ask if they want to spend time with me, but I just didn’t have the confidence to do it because I didn’t really have that many friends to spend time with in school. When kids are younger, parents usually make social plans for them, when you get older you have to learn how to do them for yourself. If you are a teenager and your friend calls you and asks your friends parents if you can spend time with them, it would be pretty awkward. Of course, that depends on the aspie teens functioning level. This is a social skill that is very important, especially if you want to keep the friends you have. Nobody wants a friend that won’t spend time with them, regardless of what their excuse is. These are four easy steps when you are calling a friend and asking them if they want to hang out. I really hope they help you!

1.) Be sure to know who you want to hang out with, and ask them at least three hours in advance so they can have some time to plan and get anything else they have to do out-of-the-way. As a common courtesy rule, don’t call them before 9:00 in the morning or 9:00 at night. Their family won’t be very happy if you wake them up and it could jeopardize your chance of spending time with them in the future. If they answer, be sure to give them an appropriate greeting and have a short small talk conversation. When there is a break in the conversation, that is when it is appropriate to change the topic and ask what their plans are.

2.) Talk about what you want to do. If at all possible, try to think of some things you would like to do with some things you would like to do before you call them. I don’t normally like to call people on the phone, and when I have to I usually spend about a minute thinking about what I want to say. In this case, think about what you would like to do and where you would like to do it. This is especially true if it is a person you haven’t hung out with before. It will make phone conversations seem a whole lot less awkward. You should also ask them if they have a suggestion on what to do. Remember to listen to them and acknowledge you are doing it by making interjections.

3.) Tell them where and when you want to do it. This is the most important thing when you are giving somebody an invitation to spend time with you. If your friend can drive, be sure to ask them if they know how to get there. If they don’t, be sure to give them directions that are easy to understand. Be sure to include landmarks that you will see along the way and about how long it should take to get there. Be sure to include the date and time you want to meet with them, and make sure that time works out for the person. If that date or time doesn’t work out for them, be sure to ask them what date would be best for them. You don’t have to ask them a specific time, just ask them a general time, such as “Can we hang out sometime next weekend?” If they are not sure about their plans, wait a few days before asking them again. Then be sure to ask them what date and time will work out for them.

4.) Be sure to ask how you are going to get there. If you have a friend that drives, kindly ask them if they could give you a ride to or from the outing. If it is a lengthy drive, it would be nice if you offered your friend money for gas. It is a lot to ask a friend to drive them to and from an outing, especially if the ride is longer than twenty minutes. As you know, gas is very expensive. This is a courtesy rule, your friend will think that you are using them for a ride if you don’t give them money back for a long drive. It shows them appreciation for what they did for you.

Additional Points to keep in mind

  • Ask your parents for permission. Be sure to give your parents information about everything you plan to do with your friend. Always make sure you have the phone number of at least two trusted family members in-case anything goes wrong.
  • If your friend is picking you up from your house, be sure to be ready fifteen minutes before they arrive. That way you can leave as soon as they pick you up, and you won’t be late if you are meeting other people at the destination you’re going.
  • Don’t take it personally if your friend rejects you, they could be busy and just not have time to spend with you. If it does seem like they are avoiding you, just move on and find another person to be friends with. It is their loss if they don’t want to be your friend.
Aspergers Syndrome, Life

Five Bad Personality Traits In A Therapist

Most parents want their kids to know that they want the best for them. Because of my Asperger’s Syndrome, social skills and making friends are very difficult for me, The bad therapists that I’ve had in the past have made my problems even worse. The fact is that counselors and teachers want their kids to work very hard on “social skills”, but some of them demonstrate behaviors that show a lack of “social skills”. After my past experiences in the Wesley Wonder Kids “social skills” group, and my former therapist, Mike, I know that for a fact. Mike and the staff members at Wesley are not the only bad therapists that I have experienced, I have dealt with many of them over the years. There are people like this everywhere, but if you are considering being a therapist and demonstrate these kind of characteristics, this is not a career choice for you. I am not doing this to offend anybody, but I am stating the truth. I Google searched “bad therapist” and “bad counselor”, and the only things that came up were complaints about bad marriage counselors. I found nothing regarding complaints about bad counselors who work with kids who have Autistic Spectrum disorders. I wanted to talk about this so parents can be aware of who not to hire when looking for someone to counsel their kids.

1.) Incompetence:

A Webster online dictionary definition of the word incompetent is inadequate to or unsuitable for a certain purpose. Simply put, it means the person or thing can’t do the job right. My former therapist, was named Mike would always try to push me to the limit and make me do things that I really was not comfortable doing. “pushiness” is one of the other qualities I will talk about later on this list. Back to incompetence, Mike’s personality was “in your face”, he seemed to enjoy shoving “social skills” down peoples throat. Because of my Asperger’s I had a difficulty making friends and socializing in school, I didn’t seem to understand why people didn’t want to be friends with me. One of the things Mike always did with me that I absolutely dreaded doing was role-playing. Role playing is when you act out a situation to understand another person’s behavior. The only things Mike would do in social role plays was have me ask questions like “what is your favorite sport?” How is answering questions like that going to give me advice and help me make good friendships with people I can relate to in school? We always did role-playing in my house, and sometimes he would have me do it with my parents and my sister, which made socializing in general even more awkward and more dreadful. I have never felt so awkward around a therapist in my life, and the personality clash between him and I contributed to it mostly.

2.) Sarcasm

In my opinion, sarcastic therapists are the ones that are the most difficult to deal with. Some sarcastic people are just angry, and some of them do it to be funny. A sarcastic joke is okay every once and a while, but if it keeps up it can get on people’s nerves really quick. I have been around sarcastic people who make jokes about peoples religion, race, sexual orientation, size, and so on. If a counselor ever makes those jokes, you should not take it lightly at all. To see a counselor demonstrate a characteristic like this is unacceptable, they are supposed to be a person you can trust and seek for advice, not hurt you and make your problems worse. In kindergarten, I had a counselor who worked with me during school, and he would ridicule me with the most sarcastic jokes that were about very sensitive topics. When I informed my parents about his actions, they finally decided to end services with him. Shortly after we discharged with him, I heard a rumor that he got fired. I don’t know if that was true, and if he did I don’t know if it was because of the way he treated me in front of everybody in school, but I was glad that he was finally out of my hair. Not only was that unacceptable for a counselor to do, but it is beyond unacceptable to do it to a kindergartener of all people! It is sad that these rude, sarcastic people who consider themselves “therapists”.

3.) Forgetfulness:

Have you dealt with that incredibly forgetful person? Can you not stand that employee who constantly arrives to work late? What about that person who constantly forgets deadlines? I have dealt with therapists who are like that, and I absolutely can’t stand them! I realize that you should not judge other people, but forgetfulness is bad when you are trying to find any job. Counselors are supposed to be people who help you with your problems, and it is very frustrating when they can’t remember anything. I had one particular therapist who would constantly ask the question “Do you remember what we did during our last session?” I’ve had to spend most of the time reminding her what we did during our last session, which was very frustrating. It was a major waste of time, because it seemed like I was counseling her. She met with me at my house, and she would constantly arrive late. Because of that, we never had time to get anything accomplished. Another thing she did was make excuses about why she arrived late, her excuses were something like “there was traffic on the Route 28 expressway”. I noticed that she came up with that excuse every time she was late, I met with her three times during the week, and she would arrive late at least two days during the three sessions. I am amazed that there are people who push their clients to work really hard on social skills, and they demonstrate behaviors that show a lack of social skills. That is the sad truth.

4.) Pushiness

I don’t like people who stand there and constantly try to shove things down my throat. Like my friend Aaron, I am a pretty calm and laid back most of the time. You can’t shove social skills down an Autistic person’s throat, it will overwhelm them and they won’t want to learn social skills anymore. The thing about my old therapist, Mike was that he would constantly overwhelm me and put me in social situations where I felt really uncomfortable. From my perspective, his style of therapy was pushing the client to the limit until they think like he does. One particular situation was when he was observing me at the Computing Workshop summer program when we were at LaRoche college. Mike wanted me to introduce him to four people who don’t know him, and I was overwhelmed even thinking about that. I was afraid of the students knowing that he was my therapist, so he told me to tell him that he was my “friend”. First off, a therapist is not supposed to be your friend, they are supposed to be your helper. You need to have a professional relationship with a client, not a personal one. I did not want to introduce him as a “friend” because I simply don’t consider a therapist a friend. I did not want to introduce him to these people because I was to overwhelmed by what he wanted me to do, and that I don’t connect with him well in the first place. He asked me if I was going to do it and I refused to do it. I am not going to let somebody force “social skills” down my throat, being pushed to the limit and overwhelmed makes my social anxiety and depression even worse. Nobody can change anything about me, it is who I am!

5.) Intolerance:

A therapist should not have the right to push religion or spirituality on their client. Because everybody has different religious beliefs. If you have a therapist who tries to do this, you should definitely find somebody else to work with. The type of people I can’t stand the most are people who take everything from the bible literally, and who try to rub their beliefs into your face. When I worked with Mike, he would try to ask me questions regarding my religious beliefs. I find that very offensive, and I will get very angry if somebody does try to do that. In America, we have the right to believe what we want to, however, it does not give you the right to harass people who don’t believe the same things you do.

To wrap up, I wrote this blog just to remind parents to be aware of who they are hiring to work with their Autistic children. I am not using this to offend anybody, I am just doing this to inform you that there are bad therapists out there, just as there are bad teachers and lawyers. Hopefully you will take this information into consideration when finding a therapist for your child.

Here are some other blogs about similar topics:

Do social skills groups help all students on the spectrum?

Do social skills groups help all students on the spectrum? (part 2)

Should an Asperger’s teen try to be “normal”?

My experiences with mobile therapy

What turns me off?

What turns me off?

Aspergers Syndrome, Life

“People Act Differently In Public Than They Do In Private”

If you remember my blog titled “Not Everybody Who Is Nice to Me Is My Friend”, it talked about how when you first meet a person, they may seem nice, but when you get to know the person their real personality comes out. This is rule # 7 in Temple Grandin’s book “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships”. People who are on the Autistic Spectrum often take things literally, as a result of that they don’t understand jokes and humor, because pf this, they are often teased and picked on in school. When a child with ASD meets a new person who has a smile on their face, they tend to think that they are happy all the time. In the book, Temple gave the example of when you Google search the word “happy”, the only results that show are information about the word “happy”, they don’t show anything about the word “sad” or “angry”. To put it in simpler terms, an extremely happy person may be hiding that they are angry or sad about something. As mentioned in the book, kids on the Autistic Spectrum demonstrate black and white thinking, which is taking everything they see and hear literally.

In the book, Temple mentioned that “If people acted any way they wanted, at any time, in any setting, we would be living in a chaotic, messed up world. We wouldn’t have basic structures that provide us with the essentials we need to survive, like food, clothing and shelter.” As I have said before, kids on the Autistic spectrum don’t understand boundary issues, in this case it is what is appropriate in public versus in private. Go back to Temple’s example from the book, it mentioned how her mother would not tolerate her messing up the living room, but she will tolerate it if she messes up her own bedroom. The fact is that parents do not teach their kids appropriate behaviors when in public. There are some teenagers and young adults with Asperger’s Syndrome that want to make friends, and take part in activities like dating, but not respecting boundary issues and public versus private behavior will prevent them from doing so successfully.

This rule also related to another characteristic that individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome may show, and that is making assumptions and generalizing. Shaun Barron mentioned how when he would go to public places like a shopping mall or a restaurant, he would see young couples holding hands. That got him very tense and upset. When they came home, he angrily made the comment “Everybody is in a great relationship but me”. This was another “black and white thinking” situation. When you see a teenage couple at the mall or at any other public place holding hands, they look happy, therefore they are happy together. That unfortunately is not always true, they hide their relationship issues by holding hands and acting happy. It is not a good idea to make generalizations about people because you don’t know their real story. Their private life could be completely different, they could be arguing and fighting about things you never could have guessed they were going through when you saw them happily holding hands, smiling and kissing in public. This is true when you meet any person, for example, there is a kid that talks about you rudely behind your back, and you are really getting sick and tired of hearing him do it. I strongly agree that it is extremely rude and inappropriate to do that, but the person may be having similar feelings of not belonging with their friends, and they make fun of other people to try to stand out with their friends. It could also be because of the mood they are in. When somebody is ill, they usually are not very sociable and friendly. Being sick, even if it is just a small cold can really affect a persons mood and ability to do their job. As I mentioned before, when you see a person who is demonstrating the characteristics of a “happy go lucky” person, that doesn’t always mean they are “happy go lucky”. They could be hiding that they are angry or sad about something. I am going to give you an example that every single high school and college student can relate to. It’s Wednesday in Chemistry class, and your teacher gave you a lab assignment that was to be completed by the end of the class period on Friday. You really do not want to do this assignment, and to make matters worse, your assigned partner is a person you are not very fond of. While you work on the lab, you and your friends make up jokes about how much you enjoy the lab and the person you are working with. If somebody on the Autistic Spectrum was in this situation, they would take their jokes literally and think that they really enjoy working with you and that they love the teacher and the class. Kids with Autism often don’t understand sarcasm, which very well could lead to teasing and bullying in school. I have been in situations where people have told me jokes, and I took them the wrong way and became upset about it. Kids with Aspergers Syndrome often don’t understand that some jokes are inappropriate for certain settings, which could also lead to teasing, bullying and trips to the principals office. Going back to my example, humor makes getting through a situation easier than complaining about it. It is not socially acceptable to complain about things that don’t go your way, because the simple fact of life is that things won’t always go your way. I completely agree with Temple and Shaun when they talk about that particular unwritten rule being unfair, because it is unfair. The cold hard truth is that nobody wants to be around somebody who complains and mopes about things all the time. Complaining about things is more appropriate to do in private than in public. Once again, that is because nobody wants to listen to a complainer.

To wrap up, I have been around many neurotypical people who demonstrate a lack of social skills and understanding of this rule. My philosophy is that the “normal” people are the ones with problems. Many of them are ignorant enough to call people names just because they are different from you. The best thing you can do is to not listen to them, and think of them as the ones who lack social skills. Hopefully after reading this, you have a better understanding of some of the experiences I have been through in life.

Aspergers Syndrome, Life

“Not Everything That Happens Is Equally Important in The Grand Scheme of Things”

Think about the last time you had a really terrible day. I am sure every single person on this whole planet can come up with something. Your car breaks down and you have no other way to get to work. If you have read the book “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships” by Dr. Temple Grandin and Shaun Barron, you have heard them mention that people on the Autistic Spectrum often think of the world around them as black and white. If you go back to my blog about honesty, I mentioned about how Shaun Barron didn’t like the board game he received as a gift from his friend because he already owned that same game. In his mind, he wanted to show that he was angry, and that he already had the gift. He just said I remember when I went to the Wesley Wonder Kids social group in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania they had a discussion about “big deal” versus “little deal”. A little deal would be something that only affects you right this moment, and that shouldn’t have an effect on you in the future. An example of a “little deal” would be somebody accidentally sitting in your assigned seat in the classroom. All you have to do is kindly ask them if they can move, or find another place to sit. However, and example of a “big deal” would be if somebody purposely pushed you into moving traffic. If you got hit by a car you could have been severely injured or even killed. The person who shoved you could also have faced charges.

Shaun Barron mentioned a “little deal” situation when he got extremely angry.  He went with his family to a Dairy Isle, and he ordered a chocolate shake. Anytime he would order a drink, he had this “rule” that was always very important to him, he wanted his drink to be filled completely to the top. When he finally received it, he saw that the drink was filled to just under the line. It was only two-thirds full. He was filled with anger, and he refused to touch the drink. To get rid of his anger, he decided to stomp on the cup until it was completely destroyed. I can imagine he felt a sense of relief after destroying the cup, because that was how he got rid of his anger. I can relate with Shaun very well in this example, there have been many situations where I have dealt with “little deal” situations inappropriately. One example was when I was in second grade at Buffalo Elementary School. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Coyne, and we were outside at recess. I was extremely bored at the time, and I decided to go sit on a swing. I walked up to the swing, and just before I sat on the swing another student said “I was going to use that swing”. I didn’t see him walking to the swing when I tried to sit at the swing. We then got into a verbal argument and he tried to grab the swing from me. I don’t remember what was said, because it was so long ago. I tried to come up with a way to show him how angry I was for telling me not to sit at the swing, so I then went to punching him in the stomach. One of the playground monitors saw me, and reported it to Mrs. Coyne. When we came back in from recess, she gave me a lecture and my punishment was lunch detention for a week. At the time I didn’t care that I was punished for the situation, I didn’t care that the situation was wrong, I was furious that he wanted to use the swing that I started to use. Looking back at that situation now, I realize that I reacted inappropriately. I think that we both of us acted inappropriately, I think this person should have just moved on and found another swing to play on. When he told me that he wanted to play on the swing, I should have done the same thing, but I didn’t, I reacted in a way that got me into trouble. That was a perfect example of a “little deal” situation. Later on, most people would think that a situation like this would be just a dim memory, I am sure that people wouldn’t even think about a situation like this later in their lives. I talked about this situation because it was a perfect example of many of the social skills that individuals on the Spectrum don’t understand.

Aside from big deal versus little deal, this rule also means you should not get upset about all the negative things that happen in your day. Shaun mentioned in the book that he got upset about a very minor situation, such was the case when they talked about his school changing the daily schedule. I had a very similar  situation, last year I toured the Lenape Vo tech school in Ford City, Pennsylvania. I was very impressed with the opto electronics program, they had a great instructor, named Mr. McCauley. He was one of those enthusiastic instructors that really enjoyed teaching. He had a goofy type of personality, and he made it taught in a way that would make anyone understand what he was teaching. I went to the electro optics summer program at IUP Northpointe and he was one of the instructors there. There he taught the electronics portion of the program. The kind of teachers I can’t stand are the ones who stand there and talk with an uninterested monotone voice. Most public speakers who talk in a monotone voice show that they either are not interested in the topic, or they just don’t know what they are talking about at all. That is one thing I have noticed. Most of those teachers stand there and talk for the entire class period, which is extremely boring! Mr. McCauley did do quite a bit of lecturing during the short time he taught during the summer program, but he was interesting to listen to. His enthusiastic attitude influenced me to realize that not all teachers are going to be grouchy, uninterested, over payed individuals who hate their job and every person on the entire planet. He inspired me to stick with what I want to learn for a future career, even if it means I will have to deal with the other kind of “teachers”, the ones who hate the world and all who live on it. I am sure I will have to deal with a few bosses like that, and I shouldn’t let them get to me either. Last year I went to Lenape and observed the opto electronics class, and I found out that Mr. McCauley was going to retire. Even though I didn’t get to know him at Lenape, I am still glad I got to meet him and have him as a teacher at the IUP summer camp. I am glad there still are some interested teachers out there who mostly enjoy their job and who like seeing their students succeed. In my opinion, grouchy uninterested teachers need to retire or find something else to do for a living. I am sorry if you are offended by this, but that is my honest opinion.

My final thought about this rule is that it shows me to not worry about the people and situations that piss me off and try to ruin my day. Anyone who tries to belittle me in any way, or that thinks I have problems means that they have problems themselves. When someone tries to belittle me I think I should just sit there and laugh about how stupid they really are. When I look back at my memories from junior high and high school, that is one of the things I am going to do! People who stand there and make fun of me need to get a life and find something better to do. Life would be so much easier without people like that! Unfortunately, I will have to deal with many of them. I want to ignore people who act like that and just keep on being myself.

Aspergers Syndrome

“People Are Responsible For Their Own Behaviors”

It’s obvious in our society that many people do not take responsibility for their own actions. I have been in many situations where I have done something wrong, and blamed another person for it. When I went to the Wesley Wonder Kids social skills group, one of the rules in the younger “social pathways” group was “Take Responsibility For Yourself”. For example, when I had problems getting my homework completed, I would constantly blame all the bad teachers that I’ve had in the past for my problems in school. Every time my teachers would lecture me about completing homework and studying, I would always make a negative comment about the teacher of whatever subject we were studying. I would say things like “it would be nice if Mr. Teacher would retire so we didn’t have to deal with him” or “this teacher can’t teach worth anything”. I am sure many high school kids make the same comments about teachers, so I am not alone this time! Taking responsibility for your actions is one of the keys to being successful in life, you definitively jeopardize your future. Unfortunately, people who don’t do this end up in prison, and not many criminals get a second chance in life, they have to stay there for the rest of their lives.

In one of my previous blogs, I wrote about this rule and the rule “Everybody In The World Mistakes, It Doesn’t Have To Ruin Your Day”. I did that because they tied in with each-other, but now I am going to focus on just this rule and expand on it a little bit more. We all know that the teenage years are about making mistakes and learning from them so you don’t make them later on in life. During my early years of high school, I had a problem with completing homework. It wasn’t just because I was not interested in the assignment, it was because I was afraid to ask for help when I needed it. In the past I’ve had teachers that have spoken to me rudely when I would ask for help or accidentally do an assignment wrong. For example, in elementary school I had an art teacher who had a very smart Alec personality. I don’t remember what it was we were working on, but I accidentally did the project wrong and she yelled at me and said “you don’t know what the hell you are doing, go back and fix this now!” Luckily, my teacher heard her say this and she reported it to the principal. Ever since that situation, I have always been afraid to ask for help when I needed it. My social anxiety is part of the blame for this, because of the many bad experiences I have had with people, I am still afraid to ask for help when I need it. The memories from people like my art teacher from elementary school always come back to me when I try to ask for help. I still can’t believe that a teacher would talk to an elementary student like that, that was a very unacceptable thing for her to say.

One of the obvious symptoms in a person with ASD is the lack of social skills, I’m pretty sure you all know that by now. Because of this, they don’t understand empathy, which is the understanding of another persons situation, feelings and motives. For example, I read this on an Autism forum website, it was from a mother of two boys, the older one has Asperger’s Syndrome. The youngest one is a newborn baby, who like all babies, cries when he needs something. The older brother would constantly ask his mother “why is he crying?” “Why does he do that”? “Can we bring him back to the store and find another baby?” His mother tried to explain to him that he was crying because he was hungry. Another unacceptable thing that many kids with Asperger’s Syndrome will do is use their diagnosis as an excuse for their bad behavior. The fact is that Asperger’s is not an excuse for inappropriate behavior! For example, if you get pulled over by a police officer and he gives them attitude, the officer will not care about the fact that they have Asperger’s. Giving a police officer an attitude will most likely get you into even more trouble. I also failed to mention that you could risk losing your driver’s license, and your parents will not be happy if they have to end up driving you everywhere!

Individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorders often wish they could change the actions in other people. I do feel that way, especially if the person is my friend. I want them to change their behavior because I care about them, and I don’t want to see them face negative consequences for their actions. I am a very sincere person, and in my opinion that is the best way to show a friend you really care about them. Back to reality, the fact is “the only person you can change is yourself”. You know that you can’t change the actions of others, but you can change the way you react to them. If you remember watching trashy talk shows such as Jerry Springer and Maury, that is living proof that there are people out there who demonstrate social skills. I have seen episodes where they take blame on other peoples problems. In the real world, that is very unacceptable. People will not want to be around you if you are constantly negative and blame others for your own problems and mistakes. I know that for a fact, I have caught myself doing that many times, and did it get me anywhere? ABSOLUTELY NOT! For example, I have a neighbor who has a dog who constantly walks right in the middle of the road. Every time I go past his house, I see him sitting on his porch and reading a newspaper. One time I walked passed his house, his dog ran out into the street like it always would, and all of a sudden a car comes speeding down the street and almost hits the dog. Can you guess who this guy threw a fit at? It was me! He flipped out at me because he was too lazy to put his dog on a leash and make sure it stays in the yard. I am just glad this dog was not aggressive, because then I could have pressed charges against the owner if it hurt me in any way. I usually am walking my dog when I go past his house, and she doesn’t like this dog at all. I’ll bet if the dog got hurt by the car that came speeding down the street, he would take all of his anger and frustration on me! This guy seems to think he owns our street. It’s not my fault that he can’t keep control of his, it’s his responsibility.

To wrap up, parents do not teach their kids this rule enough. If they want to be accepted in life, they have to take responsibility for their actions. I can’t think of anything else to say, so I am just going to leave it at this. I hope you enjoyed reading this, and I will be back to write again next week!

Aspergers Syndrome, Life, true friend

Friend vs Acquaintance

We all know that the definition of a friend is a person who somebody likes, knows and trusts. Individuals on the Autistic Spectrum usually don’t understand the crucial differences between friends and acquaintances. Simply put, a definition of the word “acquaintance” is a person known to one, but usually not a close friend. An acquaintance may be somebody you see at work or school on occasions, but really don’t know anything about. For example, every day at around four in the afternoon, I see a woman walking down my street with her dog, which is a chocolate lab. The only thing I know about this woman is that she has a chocolate lab who she walks down the street everyday. If I ever did get a chance to talk to her, it would probably only be about her dog. I don’t think it would be appropriate to talk about anything else with her. In high school, you will have the annoying people who are considered “popular”. They usually hang out with people of similar interests, they consider the twenty or thirty people they hang out with “best friends” when they are either acquaintances or “casual friends”. This entry talks about the differences between an acquaintance and a friend

A casual friend is somebody you may hang around or talk to at events like social gatherings, work or school. If you do hang out with them, you usually don’t share personal information with them. I’ve had trouble with this in the past, I have considered people “real friends” when they really weren’t. I’ve tried “icebreakers” and asked them if they wanted to get together with me when they rejected me. Their response was the typical “no, sorry I’m too busy”. It was obvious that they really were not my friend because they wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. I would rather hear somebody tell me they want nothing to do with me then avoid me. When people avoid me it makes me feel that I am a bad person, or that I did something that offended them. I could tell that this person was avoiding me because they didn’t stop and give me a good explanation of why he was busy. Telling me “I’m busy because I have other stuff to do” tells me you really are not busy, you are just trying to get out of being around me. If somebody honestly tells me they want nothing to do with me, I will just move on and find another person to hang out with. I have been avoided by people my entire life, and it really hurts. Like I said, it makes me feel like I am a bad person and that I don’t deserve to have friends.

Sometimes acquaintances do become friends. After they have spent enough time with each other, feel comfortable around each other and trust each other is when a friendship starts to develop. Before you start to consider an acquaintance a friend, there are three things you should ask yourself.

1.) Do they try to keep in contact with you?

A true friend always keeps in contact with you no matter how far apart you are from them. When a friend moves to a different school or goes off to college, they get very busy and don’t have the time to spend with you. I have learned from past experiences with friends that a little contact goes a long way. Writing a letter takes up a lot more time than emailing or instant messaging a person. However, writing a letter really does show a person how much you really care about them. We teenagers from the 21st century should consider ourselves lucky, we have social networking sites such as Myspace, Facebook and Twitter and don’t forget cell phones! Call them as often as you can, even a five minute “how are you doing” call will mean a lot to the person. But, remember that a friend should also make an effort to keep in contact with you every once and a while. When you reach out to a person, you should expect them to reach out to you every now and then.

2.) Do they show interest in being around you?

This is one of the more difficult things to deal with in friendships. The fact is that you can’t be friends with everybody, and you probably will deal with that one person that just doesn’t show interest in being friends with you. Two signs that show a person is not interested in being friends with you is they will make excuses for why they can’t spend time with you, and they will avoid contact with you. One thing to remember about friendships is that you can’t force a person to be friends with you. When they start to make excuses and avoid you is usually a sign that you should move on and find somebody else to be friends with. If somebody doesn’t want to be your friend, it is their problem, not yours. A true friend is somebody who WANTS to spend time with you and who MAKES time to do it. I can understand when they are busy, but when you are in need, a you should expect a friend to help you. If they can’t be there physically, they should make an effort to call you and talk to you about the problem, whatever it may be. A friend must show interest in being around you, and they must show interest in getting to know you and helping you when you are in need.

3.) Are they accepting of you?

One of the characteristics in people that really turn me off is judgmentalism. You read that in my blog titled “what turns me off”. Have you ever been around a friend that gives a stereotype to every single person they see? I can’t stand people who act like that, being a student in high school, I have been around people like that many times. They can’t find anything else to do besides judging and making fun of other people. As I said in my “what turns me off” blog, I am not trying to sound hypocritical, I have caught myself doing this many times before. I’m sure every person has judged someone they don’t even know at least once in their life. As friends grow closer, they will learn what they tolerate and what sets them off. I have said this many times before, a friend is somebody who loves and accepts you for who you are, and won’t ever try to change anything about you. Those kind of friendships only happen once or twice in a lifetime.

I have learned that there are some real great people out there, and not everybody in the whole world is going to try to bring me down and make fun of me. You never know what will happen when you meet a new person, maybe they could end up being your best friend for life. When I first met Aaron, I never thought we would become such good friends. I am really glad that I had the opportunity to have people like him in my life. If it were not for Computing Workshop, I would have never met him. I have one more piece of advice about friendships, when you meet a new friend, just be cool and find out what happens. Don’t be pushy, because that will just draw the friend away from you. If the friendship doesn’t workout, just move on and find someone else. It is a larger world than you think, there are tons of people out there to be friends with. Close friendships are rare, and they take time to develop. Hopefully after reading this, you should have a general idea of who your real friends are and who they aren’t.

Aspergers Syndrome

Most Annoying Male

I never was a fan of awards assemblies throughout my years in school. I suppose part of that was because my name was rarely called. It was always the same people who won the same awards. Some of the teachers presenting these awards would even say into the microphone that it “is my own fault” if my name was never called. I suppose there is more to life than being deprived of a ribbon or a trophy at my end of school year awards assembly. That being said, some stories often do take me back to my days in school.

The parents of 11-year-old Akalis Castejon were outraged after their son was presented with a trophy that reads “most annoying male.” He has an Autism diagnosis and is non-verbal. One might expect a child to become upset when he doesn’t know how to communicate his wants or needs. I can understand why a teacher may feel frustrated at times. However, that certainly doesn’t explain or excuse why school employees felt the need to humiliate Akalis in such a way.

I certainly don’t feel sorry for the teacher, and I frankly hope all employees involved in this insulting prank are never allowed to teach in a classroom again. There is one aspect of this story that I personally find the most disturbing. It is the fact that he was unable to pick up on the fact that his trophy was indeed a prank. Experiences have shown me that people are bound to take note of that. They are bound to use that as an opportunity to humiliate the child because they know they would never get away with subjecting a neurotypical child to such treatment.

I had my annoying moments back when I was in fifth grade. I went through this phase where I was obsessed with Dory from Finding Nemo. The same thing goes true for my utterances of “Polly want a cracker.” It gave me an audience. I took advantage of that by speaking whale and talking like a parrot at any opportunity I could find. My fifth-grade teacher would even laugh. However, it started to get old pretty quick. It took having to stay in for recess a few times to send the message that there is a time when it is okay to chat and joke around. There is also a time when we must be quiet and listen to the person speaking.

I had excellent teachers growing up. I still keep in touch with some of them today. They all had a strong moral compass. They all set amazing examples both for my classmates and for me. Therefore, I am sure they know the lifelong scars that a prank like the one pulled on Akilas Castejon has the potential to scar a child for life. I am grateful for them. I look back on my memories from junior high and high school. I realize how easy it is to focus on those who were everything but kind. I hope that Akilas and his family remember that, no matter how cruel some adults may be.

Update: Three teachers and a principal have been fired for their involvement in this offensive prank. 


Aspergers Syndrome

You Are A Liar! (My Thoughts About The “High Functioning” Label)

My double minority life as a gay man with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome) has more than it’s fair share of excruciating challenges. I do not demand people to feel sorry for me when I share even the most painful experiences. Not everyone is going to understand how it feels to live with my condition. Nor do I expect praise from people who are willing to read about my life. It can be easy for me to come off as such a person. However, I know I am far from the type of person who demands metals and trophies just for writing about my life. Demanding praise and adoration is only going to result in the exact opposite. 

I know there is a lot of diversity in the Autism community. People like Dr. Temple Grandin refer to Autism as a continuum, that ranges from nonverbal to traits that are more characteristic of Asperger’s Syndrome. I have never been a fan of functioning labels. I have many reasons for that. This quote below is the one which stood out to me the most. It comes from the Autism wiki and is regarding the high functioning label. 

It minimizes the need for support and may make it harder to ask for help.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people claim that I am lying about my diagnosis only because I don’t exhibit the characteristics associated with low functioning Autism. I am not running around, screaming, throwing feces and lashing out. I have the ability to communicate verbally. I know that our society doesn’t consider that to be an acceptable way to communicate my frustrations. I cannot think of anything else that leads to such ignorance than the high functioning label. It leads to the assumption that Autism is a contest. The child with the most “severe” traits receives an “A” a grade on their Autism report card. The graders are people who simply base their perception of what constitutes as “legitimate Autism” on the one person whom they happen to know. 

I now know that Autism is a much more complex neurological disorder than our society likes to think it is. Another major problem many have with the high functioning label is that it can cause the individual to believe they are more superior others who have ASD. As indicated on the Autism wiki page, this mindset can cause the child to grow up to behave disrespectfully towards those whose struggles are different or more significant from their own. I am not proud to admit that I was guilty of such a thing back in my teenage years. I internalized the bullying and social stigma my peers subjected me to.

I used my experiences with bullying as an excuse to completely shut out those who also understand how it feels to be different. I like to think those who accuse me of lying about my diagnosis will change their minds after reading my admission of such a statement. However, I can only change the minds of those who are willing to listen to me. They say the steps towards becoming an active listener are pay attention, show that you are listening, provide feedback and respond appropriately. Such a statement should apply to one’s own words and thoughts just as much (if not more) than it does for those of others. I still have trouble doing those things when I experience depression and anxiety over situations which most people wouldn’t experience such feelings. 

I know my high functioning label never will be absolute. It changes from day to day and situation to situation. I cannot seem to come up with any other way to explain that, other than to say that it depends on the person I am dealing with and the environment that I am in on that particular day and during that particular situation. That is one of the things neurotypical I wish neurotypical people understood. Despite such ignorance, I know that to be true. I know that I will only need to prove that fact to myself. 









Aspergers Syndrome

Revisited: “No More Talking About Fans!”

Please note this disclaimer: 

I am not licensed in any of the professions that are intended to assist children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome.) I wrote this post from my experience and knowledge. Please do not automatically take anything I write as an alternative to seeking a licensed professional who specializes in providing any help your child may need. 

Original Post From 2010:

Conscious knowledge of one’s character, feelings, motives and desires is the first definition that comes up when I Google the term “self-awareness.” I can agree with psychologists when they say people on the Autism Spectrum are prone to struggle with it. A classic example of this lack of self-awareness is perceived obliviousness to the child’s tendency to focus intensely on the particular details of an individual object. Its repetitive movement is one of the most common examples. Any psychologist who observed me would say the other trait is a textbook example of Autistic Spectrum Disorder, or, Asperger’s Syndrome. 

My narrow interests became evident to mom and dad when I was about three years old. There was something about a particular electrical/mechanical device that made my mind completely oblivious to everything else in the world around me. It’s ability to spin and move air was mesmerizing in and of itself. Yes, I am talking about the simple device known as a fan. Other adults thought it was cute when mom and dad informed them of “fan” being one of my first words. Mom and dad’s feelings of adoration changed to worry as my speaking vocabulary evolved into the ability to speak in complete sentences. It became a regular topic of conversation in our household. 

Of course, my parents should have worried to a certain extent. I am sure they felt the need to ask therapists about why my mind would become so focused on a simple mechanical device. For starters, fans are one of the most predictable electrical/mechanical devices you can find in any home or business. They serve one purpose. That is to move air. They do that through the repetitive movement of spinning around and around. That is all there is to it. The world, however, is nowhere near as simple. There becomes a time when we must face reality. The imaginary world certainly is much more desirable. But, it is imaginary and not real. 

John Elder Robison’s first book Look Me In The Eye is a memoir about growing up without an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (a.k.a Asperger’s Syndrome) diagnosis until he was in his mid-40s. A classic Autism trait is the tendency to change the subject of a conversation to something completely irrelevant. A selection from chapter 2 of his first memoir “Look Me In The Eye” brought back memories to my early childhood when I would change the subject to a random type of fan that I saw in any of the buildings my parents and I would frequently visit. 

I suddenly realized that when a kid said, “Look at my Tonka truck,” he expected an answer that made sense in the context of what he had said. Heere were some things I might have said prior to this revelation in response to “Look at my Tonka truck.” 

1.) “I have a helicopter.” 

2.) “I want some cookies.”

3.) “My mom is mad at me today.” 

4.) “I rode a horse at the fair.”

John Elder Robison, “Look Me In The Eye” 

Chapter 2, Page 20 

People typically perceive the abrupt tendency to change the subject of a conversation as an act of disrespect. Those who are not familiar with ASD may be more inclined to feel such a way. Robison continues to say that people expect replies that make sense and that are relevant the current topic of conversation. It shows that you are, at the very least, willing to listen to what they have to say and take it into account. It took some prompting from my parents, teachers and Autism professionals before I finally began to understand this social expectation. They used a combination of social stories, role plays and supervised interaction with my peers. Sometimes, prompting was the only way to get through to me. 

“Derek, we’re not talking about fans right now!”

My parents were right when they said that my obsession with objects like fans was just a phase. The regular social stories and prompts finally began to remind me that not everyone will be a fan of my previous love for fans. Writing this post made me look back on that memory. I compare it to the topics I am passionate about now and realize they are far more complicated than a fan that repetitively spins around and around. Nope. Not everyone is a fan of the fact that I happen to like and be attracted to men. I am not a fan of people who always feel the need to remind me of that. The only thing I can do is eliminate those people from my life and focus on those who are genuine “fans” of me.

Like anyone else, I try to smile when I look back on my childhood. I do that anytime I see something that reminds me of those days when I was the little boy who was a fan of fans. One particular example is the Lexington, Kentucky-based company Big Ass Fans. (I cannot think of any other way to make it abundantly clear what you specialize in.) Little reminders like that give me a unique perspective on life. It shows that people may not always be fans of the things that make us different. Despite that, it gives us the potential to find how we can use those things to make a difference in the world we live in. 

Autism Spectrum Disorder: 

18 Ways To Tell If Your Child Has Autism:

Computing Workshop Facebook Page:

Social Stories:

Big Ass Fans