I am going to talk about another one of those irritating questions people often ask me. The question is along the lines of “Why Are You So Negative”? I was asked this question throughout my years in school, and I couldn’t really come up with any other answer than just “I don’t know”. I would mainly hear this from neurotypicals (people with “normal” minds). Each one had their own unique way of asking the question. Ms. Stuckley, one of my teachers in junior high would ask “Whats wrong Derek, you seem depressed”. One of the slackers in my TV production class at the Freeport Area Senior High School would say “Why are you so unhappy all the time? You’re just like a serial killer”. I would simply avoid even speaking to the ones who asked me that question because they just don’t understand. It really wouldn’t be worth telling them I was Autistic, because most of them don’t know what it is and they wouldn’t care if I told them.
Negativity is a common characteristic teenagers with Asperger’s Syndrome often show. There are many reasons why this is true, the most common one is because they don’t “fit in with the crowd” at school. While most of the students at school talk about going to the football game on Friday night, a student diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome will most likely spend the evening playing computer or video games, or research information about their favorite topic on the internet. When you live in a place like Freeport, football is probably the most popular high school sport. It is often said that “everybody who’s anybody” comes to see the football game. The problem with that statement was, I was the complete opposite of “anybody”. Freeport is a very cliquish school, and I didn’t fit in with any “group”. As described in my entry “Why Are You So Quiet”, I would try to interact with people, but they would either ignore me, tell me to leave or spread rumors about me. I became so frustrated with the fact the people didn’t want to get to know me, I just walked over to an empty table and sat by myself. The cafeteria was always extremely loud, and I just couldn’t wait for the bell to ring so I could get out of the cafeteria.
Aside from social issues in high school, there is also quite a bit of negativity coming from the media about Asperger’s Syndrome and other Autistic Spectrum Disorders. The morning news is always full of negative stories to talk about. Some of those include murders, car accidents, house fires and political rallies. Autism is often discussed on news stations as well. They only read information from clinical reports and believe that people with an Autistic Spectrum Diagnosis (ASD) are completely hopeless. Clinical reports don’t show the benefits of having an ASD. My mother would always become extremely depressed when she would read clinical reports and see news stories about it. Social skills groups and therapists often enjoyed overstimulating me, which made me even more unhappy with myself. The staff members from Wesley Wonder Kids would say “you are not doing enough” or “you need to try harder”. I was trying as hard as I could, and on top of that I was trying to figure out who I was as a person. This was one of the reasons I was very happy at the Computing Workshop. They let me learn things at my own pace and they were patient with me.
One should be very thankful for people like Temple Grandin and John Elder Robison because they helped people realize there is hope and I am capable of getting through this. In my most recent post before this one I talked about the Temple Grandin film starring Claire Danes. I emphasized how important it is for a person (Autistic or not) to have somebody they have things in common with, can look up to, who likes them for who they are and whom they want to be like when they grow up. I talked about my friend Aaron and how he eventually changed my attitude because he was the first person who was actually excited to see me. We all need that one person in our lives who we enjoy being around. If you were to invite them to your birthday party, you consider their “presence as a gift”. After meeting Aaron, I realized that quality of friends is better than quantity.
There are many kids with Asperger’s Syndrome who have it worse than I did in the past. Some of them have parents who are not willing to provide for their children, others have worse experiences in school, and some have an even more severe diagnosis. Some of those people have commented on my blog and thanked me for sharing my experiences. Many of them are from out of Pennsylvania and some of them are even from out of the United States. Reading John Elder Robison’s “Look Me In The Eye” has made me realize that everybody experiences feelings of not belonging. Some of those experiences even occur after high school. However, I still do experience difficulties in school. I am a senior in high school, and I am extremely nervous about college. The closer I get to graduation, the more nervous and excited I get. Getting used to the fact that I am graduating this year, along with getting my work finished is an extremely stressful combination of tasks.
The thing about negativity that kids with Asperger’s Syndrome should remember is that negative thoughts can eventually lead to negative consequences. When you say negative things about yourself, people will notice it and it will draw them away from you. That could eventually make you even more unhappy. Positivity is the best approach when you encounter frustrating situations with people, and it can be very difficult. With this advice, you will hopefully find friends who will accept you or who you are.