It is a fact that Autism will never be fully understood. It is also a fact that Autism will never be cured because it is a neurological brain disorder, which is a genetic disorder that affects the functions of the brain. People often generalize the term “Autistic” and think all individuals with the disorder are hopeless. The media focuses on just about every thing negative that happens in society. Every day you hear about the most recent bank robbery or drive by shooting that occurred in your area, then you change the channel because you hear the same old stories every single day. As I have mentioned before, people don’t know the difference between Low functioning autism and high functioning Autism. You have read about my experiences in my earlier posts, junior high and high school can be a nightmare for teenagers on with the high functioning Autism disorders. The “disorder” has become much more well-known because people have published books and written blogs about their experiences. Once again, the more people write about their experiences with the “disorder”, the more people will understand it.
One of my favorite sayings is “It’s Better To Be Hated For Who You Are Than To Be Loved For Who You’re Not”. In Luke Jackson’s book titled “Freaks, Geeks and Asperger’s Syndrome”, there was a chapter titled “To Tell or Not To Tell”? It described how telling somebody you have Asperger’s Syndrome and/or Autism can be an extremely difficult task. When people use the term “Autistic”, they normally associate it with low functioning autism. Most kids with a low functioning form of Autism usually can’t function in society and can’t live on their own. Most of them also have a below average IQ, have little or no verbal communication skills, and have little or no awareness of the world around them. I know of one example of a low functioning Autistic person. We had a student during my previous summer sessions at the Computing Workshop summer program who had severe Autism and Down Syndrome. He had no verbal communication skills. To communicate with other people, he used a special computer called a dynavox. At the end of the summer, we had a program called “parents day”, which was a day that students could showcase all the projects they worked on during the summer. We gave a short demonstration of this student’s device. One of our staff members gave him a brownie as a reward, but before he could have the treat, he had to tell everybody what it was through the dynavox. He clicked on the picture of the brownie on the device, and it spoke the word “brownie”.
These special devices have helped kids and adults with brain disorders improve their communication skills by leaps and bounds. With special devices like the dynavox, many people with neurological disorders have become very successful individuals in society. Teachers often have the incorrect assumption that people with neurological disorders like low functioning Autism are not capable of doing anything in life. These devices have helped prove those people wrong. There are several YouTube videos that show children and adults using these special devices. Look on the bottom of the page to find a link to one of those videos.
On the other hand, most students with high functioning Autism demonstrate an above average IQ. Asperger’s Syndrome is usually considered a form of high functioning Autism. Diagnosing such disorders can be very difficult because every Aspergian has different abilities and weaknesses. One may be gifted at music, while the other may be gifted in mathematics or science. I don’t need to do much explaining about high functioning Autism, because you have read about them in my past blogs. Many Aspies have been through the experiences that I have been through. Every single person in the world has experienced feelings of not belonging and not being understood in some point in their life. When you are around somebody who doesn’t understand you, it can be extremely difficult to tell them why you do the things you do. In Luke Jackson’s book, it describes how telling somebody you have Asperger’s Syndrome is like “coming out of the closet”, which is the term used when a person tells you they are homosexual. Both Aspies and members of the homosexual community feel like they don’t belong and nobody understands them. I wanted to give you some steps and tips on how to tell somebody you have Asperger’s Syndrome.
1.) Find A Person You Trust:
- When you are meeting a new person, it is best to keep your diagnosis a secret until you develop some trust in the person. As I have said before, friendships take time to develop. Spend some time getting to know the person, and make sure they show interest in being around you. Because people don’t know what Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism really are, they can be very judgmental and make incorrect assumptions about you. Be sure to look them in the eye! By personal experience, I know it is extremely awkward to look at somebody in the eye. Doing so will make you seem like you are not afraid to stand up for yourself when somebody tries to disrespect you.
2.) Think About How You Are Going To Tell Them:
- Take a few minutes to give the person a general description of what the disorder is about. Tell them some of the typical symptoms of your diagnosis (lack of empathy, difficulty making and keeping friendships, difficulty understanding sarcasm and humor, etc). Also, be sure to tell them how the disorder affects you personally. My many blog entries I have written provide some examples of my personal stories. Sometimes it helps to practice what you are going to say to the person by saying it into the mirror or writing it down, it may seem awkward at first but it can help get rid of the anxiety when you are actually talking to the person. Also remember not to keep the conversation too long.
3.) Choose A Location To Meet:
- Like I said, every Aspergian is different. Some are more private about their diagnosis than others. When you are in a crowded place like a restaurant or cafe, people are sitting pretty close together and you can usually hear what people are saying at the table next to you. When I am trying to talk to a friend about something personal, I may choose to sit at my picnic table in the back yard, or a park where there are not people nearby that can hear your conversation. I would not recommend talking about this at your own house or apartment, because there can be interruptions by your room mates, parents or family members. To me, it is also extremely awkward when I am at a friend’s house and there is nobody home. Again, I strongly recommend a public place that is large and not extremely crowded, and that does not have people nearby that can interrupt you or hear your conversation.
4.) Be Respectful and Honest:
- Always remember to be honest and open about your feelings. Chances are, you will run into people that will try to disrespect you. I say the best thing to do is ignore them. If this person really wants to be your friend, than you should be as honest and open as you possibly can. You should also give your friend a chance to ask questions they may have about your diagnosis. If you still want to learn more about Autism, try to do some research online or at your local library. Also, try looking in your local bookstore for books about Autism. Many people with Asperger’s have written books about their experiences growing up with the “disorder”. Reading these books has helped me understand both myself and others.
I was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was in the second grade. Even though my psychologist tried to helped me understand what it was, I still didn’t understand. I did not know why noise bothered me so much, I didn’t know why teachers would lose their patience with me because I couldn’t concentrate on my work, I didn’t know tons of things about myself. In fact, I still have yet to learn many things about myself! When I look back and think about my past experiences in school, I realize that my teachers wanted to help me, but sometimes they didn’t really understand my behavior. My memoir is going to cover many of those experiences.
If you go back and look at my blog titled “Do They Really Think of Me As A Friend”, I mentioned the old Nickelodeon show “As Told By Ginger”. Another episode I really enjoyed was one titled “About Face”. Dodie Bishop’s mother got a job at Lucky Junior High as a Home Economics teacher. Joanne Bishop is Dodie’s mother, and she is a very unhappy person that was not fit to be around kids. Dodie had the tendency to be very self centered person, and she was worried that her mother would embarrass her in-front of her friends. Dodie looked at her mother’s junior high school yearbook, and she discovered that she was voted “Missed Popularity”. She was very worried about fitting in with the popular crowd, and she would occasionally do things that were not very respectful. Joanne tried to fit in with the popular girls when she started teaching at Lucky Junior High, and she acted very disrespectful towards Dodie. The popular girls did not enjoy having Dodie’s mother in their company. I have enclosed a link to the episode on YouTube, watch it to find out how Dodie resolves this situation.
To wrap things up, I understand how it feels when people don’t understand your behavior. I have been through times in my life where I have pretended to be somebody else. Remember, “It’s Better To Be Hated For Who You Are Than To Be Loved For Who You’re Not”. I have been disrespected by people countless times, and I was afraid to stand up for myself. I hope that after reading this blog, you have been given some pointers on helping people understand who you are. Remember, the people who disrespected you in high school will mean nothing to you after you graduate.
As Told By Ginger “About Face”