“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 Wrongplanet.net 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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“You Need To Stand Up For Yourself More” (Handling A Patronizer)


We know the bullying issue is prevalent in high schools across America. Both my peers and my high school teachers are guilty of it. During my two years at the Freeport Area Senior High school, my teachers pressured me into becoming a people pleaser. Do you remember the one who tried to convince me into believing there was a mandatory fee to attend Lenape Tech? She was also the same one who tried to come up with the story the state of Pennsylvania was going to eliminate cyber school from the curriculum next year. It was her last ditch effort to prevent the school board from paying dollars for students to attend the full day vocational technical school that has been serving Armstrong county since 1965. I started my first week of classes at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The Electro Optics program at the Northpointe regional campus provides students with employment opportunities in a wide variety of technological skills. An Associates Degree in this growing field can pay about a $30,000 annual starting salary, while a Bachelors degree can pay an approximate $60,00.00 starting salary.

The burning question is “how do I stand up to people who speak to me like that?” Well, this is not an easy question for many Asperger’s type teenagers to answer. This could possibly have something to do with the differences in the Asperger’s brain. Every person’s brain is equipped with equipped with cell’s called neurons. They are located in the premotor cortex. These cells “fire” both when you perform an action and when you watch somebody else do the same thing. This article from science daily.com explained the theory behind how these neurons do not work properly in the Autistic mind. It was believed that dysfunctional neurons were the culprit behind the difficulty understanding the actions of others and the lack of empathy. However, another Science Daily article was published in the year 2010. It argued the mirror neuron systems function normally in the Autistic brain. So, if it isn’t weak neurons, what is it?

I want you to take a look at this clip from the Kathie Lee Gifford show. Every week they do a contest called “Everyone Has A Story.” This particular segment was about a high school senior named Zach Hirsch and his younger friend Gram Jackson. Zach was a high school athlete. He was attractive and popular. One day when Gram was a freshman, he was sitting in the cafeteria by himself. Zach noticed it and he decided to sit with Gram and talk to him. As time went on, they initiated a friendship and started getting together after school. The friendship had a very positive effect on Gram, and so his mother wrote a letter to Kathie Lee about it. The letter basically described everything I just said. At first I was very happy to hear about this story. I was happy to hear that somebody like Zach would step out of his comfort zone and go out of his way to help somebody who was “different.” His (Zach’s) mother stated how this friendship caused him to gain the confidence to reach out to other people. However, my mood changed from a happy to furious at about six minutes into the video

This “thing” that happened actually caused an outrage in the Autism community. Opera singer Kate Baldwin sang a song about their story on national television. The song was titled “All Alone”. Just by reading the title, you can tell why this song makes me angry. This song was written by Kathie Lee! 

We see them everyday, but to 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. 

If you thought the song was bad, just wait until you see the next part of the video. I transcribed what happened next.

Kathie Lee: You know, we’ve been doing this now since October of last year, and I was wondering if we were every time I say to myself “gee, are we ever gonna be able to capture it you know?” But, I looked over and there was Gram and you had tears in your eyes buddy did you like your song? 

Gram: Well, it was a little to sad. 

(Everyone in the room laughs, including Zach’s and Gram’s family)  

Kathie Lee reminds me of the annoying “drill Sargent” therapist who thought forcing the Asperger’s out of me would make me a “brand new person”. Here is a little glimpse on how our sessions would begin. Obvious question after obvious question, irritable answer after irritable answer.

(The therapist pulls into our driveway. Penny, our dog starts barking and whining, letting us know someone is here. We wait a few seconds until he comes up to the door. My mother or I open the door to let him in.) 

Therapist: So Derek, are you happy to see me? 

Me: (Irritably) No? 

Therapist: Why not? Penny is happy to see me.

(about a 5 second pause.)

Therapist: One of these days, I expect you to give me a big hug! What would you do if I gave you a big hug? 

Me: (Irritably) Push you away?

Therapist: Why not? I’m only trying to help you. Don’t you want that special friend who you trust? 

Howard Stern gave a hilarious reaction to Kathie Lee’s actions on his radio show.  (Don’t watch if you are offended by coarse language!) He said how Kathie Lee made “different” kids look like “angels disguised as monsters.” Also, when they laughed at him for saying the song was “too sad”, he was speaking the honest truth. He was trying to emphasize how his life doesn’t revolve around being this “angel disguised as a monster.” Gram is not the only one I feel bad for in this video, I feel bad for Zach. She made him look like a complete idiot by rewarding him with all of these sporting goods while all Gram get’s is their two tickets to a Chicago Cubs Game. She made him look like he came on TV to brag about how great of a guy he is. He should have denied the TV interview! He only did this because he wanted to step out of his comfort zone and make a difference in Gram’s life. I still do believe there should be more teens who are willing to step out of their comfort zone. 

There is a word that describes what Kathie Lee Gifford did to this Autistic boy, and it is called patronizing. It simply means behaving in an undignified, superior and/or offensive way towards a person. Patronizers often convince others they are trying to be kind. Some are bullies who want to see an angry reaction, while others don’t have an intent to offend you. Either way they are really frustrating to be around. It seemed to me that teacher who discouraged me from going to Lenape Tech wanted to get a reaction out of me. She wanted me to get into trouble then rub into my face how much of a dismal failure I would be if I went to Lenape, the “school with the terrible P.S.S.A test scores.”

I remember my mother emailed the school about how she did not appreciate them bullying me into making the decision to go forward with what they wanted me to do. It was great to know that my mother wanted to support me, but the title of this post is absolutely true. If you want to prevent your emotions from interfering with your job,  here are some tips I hope you found helpful.

1.) You must “nip it in the bud” before it becomes a serious issue. Rehearse what you are going to say to the person by speaking into a mirror. You will find out why later on. (Try to remember the situation in as much detail as possible.) 1.) What did the person do or say to make you upset? 2.) What tone of voice and body language did they use? 3.) Why did their actions upset you? 4.) From your perspective, did they or did they not intend to offend you?

2.) Refrain from being emotional. Expressing sadness or anger will cause others to think you are weak, therefore they will not take you seriously. However, you must be firm and make it clear that you don’t appreciate whatever they may be doing to make you feel bad. Being firm with somebody means that you should be polite. Politeness is something that shows you are a mature person that is capable of handling any type of conflict that may ensue, regardless of whether it is at work, school or in your own family life. This is why you should rehearse what you are going to say.

Never use foul language, slurs and by all means do not even think about putting your hands on the person! Many schools and employment organizations have zero tolerance policies towards verbal and/or physical abuse towards anyone! In the long run, this worth much more than being fired or even having assault charges filed against you.

3.) If the patronizing behavior continues, it should be discussed with whoever is in charge of the administration of the organization. Like I said, patronizers who continue to make a person upset are bullies! This is really the only time where I think it would be appropriate to discuss the issue via email. When you do so, be sure to keep in mind everything I said from the previous steps. (Stop it before it becomes a big issue, be polite but firm) Reiterate their actions, the steps you took to resolve the situation and the results. 

It should not be difficult for an administrator to understand why the person’s actions are offending you. Administrators who do not address disrespectful behavior in the workplace are not skilled enough to enforce rules of conduct for all employees. If this becomes the case, then I would consider looking for another job and resigning from the organization (while following their resignation procedure. See this article “How to Resign Gracefully”). 

(This tip can also be helpful for handling situations with your friends and family. After you have asked the person to stop, and they do not listen and understand why you are offended it is best to walk away from the situation.)

My former therapists approach which I described above was not the appropriate method towards helping me deal with issues in school, however I do believe that he wanted to help me. After all, he could tell that I didn’t want to participate in the sessions and he knew I didn’t like being asked question after question. He wanted me to step out of my comfort zone and stand up for myself. The truth was, it made me even more anxious and more uncomfortable. Going back to the Kathie Lee Gifford clip, I wonder how the friendship between Zach and Gram is going now. If that were me, I would definitely have some choice words for Ms. Kathie Lee after that hideous song. The refreshing thing about college has been that I have experienced no bullying situations yet. It is great to know that people are generally more mature and know that such disrespect is not acceptable.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post! Thank you for reading!

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“Always Be Yourself” (Hiding My Asperger’s Quirks)


You probably know that I am just about to enter a brand new chapter of my life. We are now entering the month of August, and my classes start at the very end of the month. I used to be a firm believer that it is “better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you’re not.” High school was the time of my life where I pretended to be who I wasn’t. I look back now and think about my freshman and sophomore year and regret myself for trying to “fit in” with the “cool” crowd. I have one month of summer vacation left, and there are very many thoughts that cross my mind when I think about what IUP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) is going to hold in store for me. My course load for my first semester of freshman year is thirteen credits. It is very true the Electro Optics program at the Northpointe campus has quite a bit to offer academically. Academic wise, the math is going to take practice! I have to be

However, there is another side of college life that makes me extremely nervous when I think about it.To some degree, I still do believe in the phrase “it’s better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you’re not”. However, there are a few exceptions to it. The social life in high school took many turns, and it got worse each one. Freshman year at the Freeport Area Senior High School started out with realizing I was “different” and that people either didn’t know I existed or showed how they didn’t care by harassing and taunting me. I then was put under the false impression that I was beginning to fit in with people from the “popular” crowd. (The kids who played sports, had lots of friends and “hung out” outside of school.) I created a Myspace account and I pretended to like the things every “cool” kid does. I wrote about the “cool” music, the “cool” activities such as sports and dating. I began chatting with these kids online and they didn’t seem to mind, for a while at least. Unknown to me, they started to become annoyed with me each day I would start a conversation with them.

The “poor wiring” in my Aspie brain makes it difficult for me to understand social interaction. The Wesley Wonder Kids club used role-playing and art projects as a “teaching tool” for this topic. I remember one session our topic was personal hygiene, we would be instructed to perform a short role play about how people could potentially react to a person who does not shower or brush their teeth. Long story short, one group member lifts their arms up and the person’s offensive body odor causes everybody to fall on the ground and express their disgust. The art project would consist of cutting pictures of people practicing good hygiene habits out of a magazine and pasting them onto a big sheet of paper. It honestly felt like kindergarten all over again!. Personal hygiene was never a problem for me, but it was for a few of the kids who I can remember.

I used personal hygiene as an example because (as I said earlier) people will notice whether or not you practice it. It is just one of the many things that will cause an Aspie like me to become self conscious about themselves. While hygiene was not one of my major problems, there were many “flaws” regarding my social life that caused me to feel bad about myself. Pretending to “fit in” with the “cool” and “popular” crowd was something that actually did more harm than good for my social life. I can remember back in fifth grade when people would become angry with me in Physical Education class because I lacked the coordination, concentration and confidence to participate in team sports activities. Therapists and teachers thought of it as a “flaw” that needed to be forced out of me immediately. My peers used the “power of sarcasm” to try to convince me into believing they were trying to be nice. After gym class was over, they would turn around and say “Derek, you did such a great job in gym class today. You should try out for little league sports.” Many children and adolescents with Asperger’s Syndrome lack the language skills to effectively use a “comeback” to stand up for themselves.  So, I would tell them “quit making fun of me.” That obviously didn’t convince them to stop. Teachers were no help because they simply believed I was being a “tattle tale.” They were really trying to say “People will make fun of you if you walk, talk, act and look that way.”

Earlier in this post I talked about pretending that I “fit in” with the “cool” crowd in high school. People began to notice that I was pretending to be the kind of person I really wanted to be during that time. I wanted to be the kid with lots of friends, a girlfriend and who loved all the “cool” music. My therapist wanted to “force the Asperger’s” out of me and make me that perfect socialite who everybody loved. The truth was, it didn’t work. I tried to “come out of my shell” but people ignored and made fun of me even more. In fact, I’ve written other posts about a kid who actually told me he “didn’t want to be friends with me.” I then made a bunch of rude remarks towards him, but that fueled the fire even more.

Social networking websites are a great tool to stay connected with people. However, many Aspies are not aware of the potential dangers of online communication. Face to face interaction is something that takes a lot of practice to master, and it does not happen overnight. Later on, I plan to write a more detailed review of Jesse Saperstein’s memoir “Atypical: My Life With Asperger’s in 20 1/3 chapters.” There was one chapter in his memoir that described a cyber bullying before such a term even existed. Here is a quote from the chapter about online versus face to face communication.

It is no small wonder many Asperger’s individuals fall in love with their virtual universes and are more comfortable typing into an electronic box to a faceless individual. The internet is the only technological medium that allows us to talk to a woman without worrying about our monotone voices destroying an already fragile first impression.

Jesse Started an online relationship with a woman named “Elizabeth West.” It all started when he recieved a “sweet and flattering email”  that read “My name is Liz. I have seen you around school and think you are a nice person! I was always too shy to come up to you and say ‘hello,’ but maybe you would like to email me back and tell me about yourself.” They started regularly communicating. To Jesse, Liz was a person who struck him as an “unusually empathetic person who could accept him and even appreciate his Asperger’s quirks.”  Jesse was involved in the buddies program at school, which was a program that let him be a role model to a mentally handicapped student. “Elizabeth” called him on the phone and talked about her ambitious dream to become a special education teacher and stated how impressed she was with Jesse’s involvement in the Buddies program. She said “It is really nice to meet someone like you. Someone who gives something back.” They lost touch for a few weeks because Elizabeth was attending “an arts camp in Maine.” She ignored Jesse, whilst he was still sending her constant emails. A quote directly from this particular chapter read the reason behind this.

(Warning: May be sensitive for some readers!) 

While at the Maine arts camp, Liz and a few of her platonic male friends went camping in the woods. They had toted along some alcoholic beverages, and she trusted the guy who handed her the beer spiked with the date-rape drug. Liz was repeatedly violated by one of her friends before her naked body was discarded in the woods like a slimy plastic bag. She was left alone, unconscious, and exposed all night long. When Liz finally squinted against the July sunshine. . . the memory literally throbbed inside her.

Long story short, she decided to get an abortion. The shocking truth came out a few days before a school dance which Elizabeth invited him to attend.

A few days before the dance, I learned a traumatic lesson about the dark side of computers. Online predators are not restricted to pedophiles and amoral scam artists. About six months into our friendship, I finally discovered that Liz and her circle of friends were not real.

My cyber bullying stories were short lived and they did not plan their attacks as carefully as the heartless teens who came up with “Elizabeth West.” However, their motives and intentions were the same. While they probably didn’t know what Asperger’s was, they knew I had trouble making friends. They wanted to trick me into being friendly then turn around and back-stab me by sending inappropriate pictures of themselves from their cellphone. I turned them into the principal, and all they got was a “don’t do that again” lecture.

To wrap up, I still do believe that it is good for an Aspie to be proud of who they are. People can try to “force the Autism” out of me, but I never will give up the many strengths that make me who I am. Organizations like Wesley Wonder Kids focused on my “social skills” by overstimulating and making my weaknesses feel like a character flaw that should be “forced out for my own good.” I am hopeful college will teach me more practical skills that I can use to pursue a successful career. I also hope it will help me discover more of my hidden strengths that I can use to build on my weaknesses. So, here is the answer to the a question you might be asking after reading this.

Should I tell somebody I explain “why I am who I am”?

The answer is that it’s my choice whether or not to tell. It all depends on my relationship with the person. I have to realize that I do not know how they will react to me “bringing my Asperger’s out of the closet.”  

I hope you found this helpful! I will be back to write soon!

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“They’re Such A Pain To Talk To” (Relating To other Aspies)


You know that throughout my life, I have experienced feelings of not “fitting in” with the rest of the crowd. My life as a freshman and sophomore at the Freeport Area Senior High School felt like a number. It felt like the unhappy nurses assistant calling patients out of the waiting room and escorting them to the doctor’s office. Instead of addressing the patients by name, they assign everybody in the crowded room a number. The assistant calls everyone’s names in a monotonous manner. My frequent visits to the guidance counselor felt like this. I remember one visit I was upset about a student who harassed me in the hallway. He would purposely invade my personal space and ask me why I never talked to people, then he would rudely tell me to “get some friends.” The thing is, I couldn’t connect with anybody in school. The typical students were too involved in their own social group to include a new person and I didn’t feel like I could function with many of the students in the learning support program. The guidance counselor was horrible at listening to my problems. During my frequent visits to his office, I would tell him I had problems “fitting in”, and he would say “we’re gonna work on it” or the same “advice” I would hear from everybody “you need to come out of your shell and talk to people more.” This obviously didn’t help that much.

“Normals” Not Taking Me Seriously:

Every learning support student in the United States is entitled to an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). My mother felt it was appropriate to add a social into my plan for my freshman year. My goal was to “initiate spontaneous social communication among peers without prompting.” The truth is it is not easy for a person on the Autistic Spectrum to meet this goal. This was simply because “neurotypcials” (people not diagnosed with a form of Autism) didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them. Halfway into my freshman year my “drill Sargent” therapist wanted me to practice conversations with my peers in school. He wanted me to start working on this during my learning support class period. The teacher would ask a student to come over and we would pretend we saw each other in public. The other student would say the greeting, and I was to continue the conversation. However, this student decided to pull a “Mr. Clown” act. He talked to me in the same tone of voice of which a person would speak when giving attention to a baby or a cute puppy or kitten. “Hello! How are you doin today little freshman?” he said. I then heard the teacher say “don’t be silly.” I was obviously not the least bit amused by his attempt to entertain everybody in the classroom. I became aggravated, so I reluctantly said “uh, hi?” It was amazing how my teacher couldn’t figure out how my eyes getting big and the irritated look on my face showed that I did not have the desire to interact with this “comic genius”. After all, it was obvious he really didn’t have the desire to interact with me. I don’t socialize with people who treat me like I am stupid.

Feeling Lost Around My Own Kind:

This post is about something I have mentioned in my other posts before, but I never really thought about building on this topic until I read a post from somebody on Wrongplanet.net, a forum website for people on the Autistic Spectrum. This person complained about how he felt his Aspie peers were a “pain to talk to.” This post caught my eye because I experienced similar emotions myself. The Wesley Wonder Kids club really tried to push social interaction on me, but I also felt the group members were a “pain to talk to.” They were infatuated with topics that I felt were extremely “weird.” They varied from video games, Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokémon. We had others who loved television cartoons and comic books, and another would always talk about gardening, reptiles and history. There was another group member who seemed to have a new cut or bruise on his arms or legs every single day the group met. At the beginning of each session, all group members were given the opportunity to share news in their lives. They would enthusiastically share stories about their new Game Boy, Xbox or Playstation games. The student who loved reptiles and gardening would share stories about his lizard and the vegetables he picked from his garden in the summer time. The clumsy kid would share stories about the new cuts and bruises he would get from horsing around with his friends at home. They expected the group members to ask questions about the news which came from the particular group member.

Me Not Taking My Own Kind Seriously:

Depending on the nature of the news, they would either ask questions right away or the staff members would have to prompt them. I would very rarely ask questions right away because most of the things they shared were about their “obsession”. There were also occasions where the staff members would put me on the spot and prompt me to ask with the whole group looking at me. They would say “Derek, we haven’t heard from you yet. Why don’t you ask ________ a question about his garden?” This was the thing which I loathed the most, because after all I knew very little about video games, cartoons, comic books, gardening and reptiles. High school was the time in which I loathed myself and other people. Why? It was because they didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them. Here were the many thoughts that went through my mind when the other group members shared their introductory news stories:

“Oh my god, what is this kid, five? Who the f*** watches cartoons in high school? He needs to watch normal, age appropriate TV shows!”

“Does he ever talk about anything besides video games? No wonder this kid is unemployed and has no friends in school!”

“What kind of a teenager wants to plant a garden in their spare time? That sounds really stupid!”

“Something is wrong with a teenager who likes history. It happened hundreds of years ago, who cares about it now?”

I never blurted my opinions to those people, but they could probably tell I didn’t really have much of an interest to sit and listen to their “weird obsession.” In fact, I remember one time at the end of the session I put my headphones in my ears so I could ignore “Mr. Dirt Worshiping Treehugger History Geek” and his stories about the ancient something others and homegrown zucchini.

Trying To Understand My Own Kind:

My bitterness in high school really took a toll on my social life outside of school. The main reason I felt I couldn’t relate to the other kids in the group was that I felt they couldn’t function in the real world as well as I could. Therefore, I resorted to making snide comments about them behind their backs. I happen to know this emotion is common among many groups of people. Take the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) community for an example. They are a unique group of people among themselves. They all have different shapes, sizes, hobbies, interests, ethnicities and personalities. The main reason I brought them up is because very many of them know how it feels to not “fit in” and be harassed by people. They hate the many stereotypes they receive from the heterosexual community, just as we hate the stereotypes that come from the neurotypical (Non Autistic) community. Far to often you hear a gay man making fun of another gay man because he is too feminine. You hear about an Aspie making fun of another because they exhibit repetitive hand motions.

I completely agree with the statement that it is unacceptable to make fun of somebody, however it is understandable to feel disconnected from somebody in your own group because they fit the negative stereotypes that are given from society. When the staff members caught me making comments about the other students from Wesley, they would just say “We don’t talk about people like that!” or “That’s innapropriate!” One of the general reasons people may decide to make fun of another person is simply because they don’t understand. Just because you have Asperger’s doesn’t always mean you understand somebody else who may have it. The Wesley staff members could have helped me develop social skills by helping me understand my Aspie peers.

It’s been almost three years since I left that program. I know that many Aspies use their “obsession” as an outlet for the pain of not “fitting in.” I remember my obsession with fans when I was little, and back then I knew nothing about Autism and Asperger’s. I know how it felt to have people pressure me into becoming the illusion known as “normal.” I knew no other way than to ignore and make fun of other Aspies during high school because I wanted to eliminate my bitterness somehow. Writing has become my own outlet because it helps members of the “neurotypical” community understand me, and it hopefully helps kids who have previously experienced or may be experiencing many of these same emotions now.

I am not a huge “bible thumper” as many people call it, but I quoted a bible verse that I put in a previous post titled “Teachers, Counselors and Parents: Practice What You Preach!” because it relates to the topic I am covering today.

Matthew 7 vs 1-5

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged and the measure you give will be judged, and the measure you get is the measure you get. Why do you seek the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbors eye.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, feel free to leave a comment!

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Teachers, Counselors and Parents: “Practice What You Preach”!


I was looking online for a quote based on the idiom “Practice What You Preach”. Out of all the quotes I came across, the one I am about to share is probably my favorite one I have come across in a long time. The quote read “It is always easier to fight for your principals than to live up to them”. The term for people who don’t “practice what they preach” is a hypocrite. Here is one of my favorite bible verses about hypocrisy.

Matthew 7 vs 1-5

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged and the measure you give will be judged, and the measure you get is the measure you get. Why do you seek the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbors eye.

I don’t normally bring discussion about the bible into my blogs, but this perfectly describes the many experiences I have been through with therapists, teachers and other adults who have preached “social skills” to me. I want to start with describing a teacher I had during my sophomore year at the Freeport Area Senior High School. For those of you who know me and/or who are frequent readers of my blog know that I have attended the Lenape Technical School for my junior and senior year. Freeport put me in the learning support classes since I was in the fifth grade. I was in the support room at the high school, and we were handed a scheduling paper for our junior year. My most recent blog post before this one described a math class with this teacher. I saw the optical electronics program at Lenape, and I was so bitter about the whole experience at Freeport that I knew there was only one way to make me feel better about school. I had to get out of there.

The teacher asked me what classes I wanted to take and I said “I don’t know”. She told me “You better decide quickly because if you don’t, you will have to take what we picked for you.” I responded “Then I’ll just go into cyber school if I don’t get accepted into Lenape”. The teacher obnoxiously responded “Derek, the state of Pennsylvania is eliminating cyber school next year. Also, there is now a fee to attend Lenape. Your parents are now required to pay half. You will not be admitted into the school if your parents don’t pay before the end of this school year”. That evening, I brought it up to my parents. My mother told me not to worry, because both of those ignorant statements were not true. Lenape is the comprehensive vocational technical school for Armstrong county. The school district pays the money for students to attend. What baffled me about this situation was how the teacher would try to convince me into believing her even though she knew her statements were false. She always reprimanded me for not interacting “appropriately”, while she bullied me into making the decision to stay at Freeport and be educated to become a janitor. I obviously did not let her bully me into what Freeport wanted me to do, so I went to Lenape and for the most part I feel happier and more fulfilled.

I have described my experiences with traditional “social skills” groups. Wesley Wonder Kids didn’t really work for me because it was mainly focused on teaching kids appropriate ways to interact with people. They used several teaching materials such as role plays and social stories. Before I go into more detail, I know there are many kids who would benefit from this program. I wasn’t very fond of it because it was the same routine every session. At the beginning of the session, each group member was asked to share news stories from their week. They would all talk about their favorite video games, movies, music and activities they participated in throughout the week. When my turn came, I didn’t really know what to share. I hated school, so I didn’t want to talk about that. I am not an avid movie fan. I was and still am a weightlifter, but they already knew that. They were not particularly interested in exercising, so I figured I shouldn’t talk about that. I didn’t do much else besides going to school and going to the gym. I would take my dog on occasional walks and go on errands with my parents on occasions but that was it.

The staff members would put me on the spot and pressure me into sharing something. I remember one sessions somebody asked “what did you have for lunch today?” I reluctantly responded “pizza”. Let’s go back to another post that described a situation during an activity during coffee talk.

Each group member was assigned a date on the calendar, and on that specific date you were supposed to bring a desert type snack and choose a topic the group can easily discuss for fifteen minutes. On one particular day, it was another group member’s turn to choose a topic. When it came time for coffee talk, he didn’t have his topic chosen like he was supposed to. It took him five minutes to finally choose one, and he finally chose “pop culture”. Everybody had their favorite movie, band or television show to talk about and I had absolutely no idea what to say. All of the group members would talk over each other, and the parents could hear them in the lobby next door over the air conditioning vent. Because coffee talk was the last activity of the night, I was only focused on going home and going to bed. Then a voice from one of the staff members rang out “Derek, we haven’t heard from you yet. What do you have to contribute to this discussion?” I responded by saying “I don’t know”. The group members turned around and started pressuring me to say something, similar to most of my peers in school when they would ask me things like “Why Are You So Quiet”? When it finally became time to leave, I muttered in disgust “I hate being put on the spot”. Another staff member heard my remark and said “You have to suck it up, you are going to be put on the spot for the rest of your life”.

I would have been much happier at Wesley Wonder Kids if the staff members would have listened to me and tried to understand how I was personally effected by Asperger’s. A true person with “social skills” will listen to them and do whatever they can to help them get through a problem. I was a very reserved person at Freeport. Wesley told me I should not be judgmental, when made comments towards me regarding how much of a failure I would be if I didn’t make friends “immediately”.

I am going to be graduating from high school in six weeks. I know college is going to be different from high school in many ways, but I still have no idea what it is really going to have in store for me. I am going to try my hardest not to let judgmental people bring me down, because I know I may encounter them. I think the only “therapy” I need is to learn about Electro Optics, a career field with many different job opportunities. Another “therapy” will be to publish a book about my life. I hope I will “shed some more light” about Asperger’s. We need to teach people that every kids with Asperger’s is different, and we should encourage them to use their gifts in order to build on their weaknesses.

I hope you enjoyed reading!

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Four Misconceptions About Asperger’s Syndrome (Written By An Aspie Teen)


Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism will never be fully understood. We will never know what causes it. I highly doubt there will be a cure, and I most certainly do not believe there will be a need for one. However, I do believe writing about ones experiences and emotions will  make people become more aware about my diagnosis. I am absolutely through with therapists trying to “fix” me, and trying to “fit in” and be “like everybody else”. I’ve written blogs in the past about stereotypes, which are common beliefs about groups of people or certain types of individuals.

Stereotypes are the reason people don’t give us Aspies the respect and understanding we deserve. I am going to cover some of the most common misconceptions about Asperger’s Syndrome.

1.) “Teenagers with Asperger’s Syndrome prefer to be alone”

There is a movie out that I haven’t had the opportunity to see yet, but it’s called “If You Could Say It In Words”. I recently viewed an Autism Talk TV interview with Alex plank (founder of Wrong Planet) Nicholas Gray (director), Alvin Keith (actor) and Marin Ireland (actress). The movie is a love story about two undiagnosed Aspies. Alex made a comment during this interview that completely explains why Asperger’s is not understood. He explained that in many movies about people with Asperger’s, they look up a list of symptoms and only talk about how to portray them to show they have Asperger’s. They developed the relationships between the two characters instead of only focusing on the symptoms.

People can’t get the idea that we Aspies want social interaction with people just as much as anyone else does. We want friends who are understanding, loyal and trustworthy of us. I recently viewed a film named “Billy The Kid”, a documentary about Billy, a teenage boy with Asperger’s. The only thing this documentary really focused on was the fact that he has trouble interacting with people. It didn’t focus on the positive sides of Asperger’s Syndrome. There was one scene at the beginning of the documentary that showed Billy waking to the school cafeteria, constantly scanning the hallway for trouble. He was scared somebody might try to harass him. This scene brought back my memories of being a student at the Freeport Area Senior High School. I desperately wanted friends, but people were too rude and judgmental to even let me sit at their lunch table. Everybody had their own clique of friends, and they had no room for anyone new. I couldn’t bare to watch the rest of the documentary because it seemed to me the film directors would drag Billy into social situations. I was fed up with this documentary because it focused on all of the things we Aspies have so much trouble with in life. With that being said, Billy did seem like a very intelligent person. This documentary showed the painful aspects of having Asperger’s Syndrome, as a result I was offended. I am not going to go into detail about the whole film, but there was one scene that made me go back to the bad memories of my high school years. He described how he dated a girl, then she dumped him in front of a bunch of people in school. When I heard about this, I immediately flashed back to my memories of freshman and sophomore year at Freeport. It brought back memories of people setting me up, convincing me into believing they were trying to be my friend, then turning around and behaving in a way that completely humiliated me. Because of this, I would probably give “Billy The Kid” two out of five stars. The film director should have focused on the benefits of having Asperger’s Syndrome instead of the fact that he has trouble connecting with people and dealing with change.

2.) “Children and teens with Asperger’s are rebellious”

We can thank the morning news and society in general for this stereotype. When you get the chance, I encourage you to watch this YouTube video. It’s talks about Indiana State teacher Kristen Woodward who called five year old student Gabriel Ross “pathetic” in class. The student brought a tape recorder into the classroom, and recorded his verbal beating in front of the whole class. Her comments went as follows.

Ten people in this building you have tormented and tortured for 149 days, I’m done! You’ve been ignorant, selfish, self absorbed, the whole thing! I’m done!

The teacher then went as far as addressing the entire class,

He has made every wrong choice possible, and he has had more help to make the right choices and he has chose not to. So, you guys think, is that somebody in class you want to be with?

Class: Nooo.

See, your friends don’t even want to be with you now.

Woodward was suspended with pay. While I don’t know the entire story, it seemed to me the teacher did not communicate with the parents about Gabriel’s “talking problem” in class. After all, the mother said it kept happening for 149 days. The teacher should have either called or sat down with the parents to talk possible ways to handle the “talking problem”. Instead, she wrote negative comments on his behavior log. Some of them read “talked non stop interrupting the teachers”, “terrible day” and “talked non stop today”.

Since the very first summer I started at the Computing Workshop, I’ve heard many reports from parents about teachers treating their children like this. The coordinator told me about a bad encounter with teachers and administrators at an I.E.P meeting. This student wanted to attend our summer program a few years back, and they had to attend the meeting to decide whether or not the school was going to pay for his tuition in the program. The entire meeting, the teachers and administrators at this school kept berating him about how “annoying” he was. They were trying to threaten him and make him feel like he was a “terrible child”. This child obviously didn’t seem like a major trouble maker. Again, the teachers should have communicated with the parents in private if they thought his “annoying” behavior was such a problem.

3.) “Children and teenagers with Asperger’s are violent”.

This is another one of the stereotypes that we can thank the media and Hollywood for. Do you remember the kid in my TV production class who told me I looked “just like a serial killer”. This was due to the fact that I didn’t talk to anybody. I ignored him after he made this comment because he was purposely trying to get an angry reaction from me. I remember John Elder Robison’s book “Look Me In The Eye”, the very first chapter described how people would say the same things to him. People threatened him with the military and jail. they often called him a “sociopath” and a “psychopath” One quote from the book said “I’ve read about people like you. They have no expression because they have no feeling. Some of the worst murders in history were sociopaths”.

My sister was a senior when I was a freshman at Freeport. This was the time I worked with that pushy therapist who wanted to “fix” me. She often commented how I would walk around the hallway with a scowl on my face. One of the key characteristics of Autism is awkward facial expressions. My pushy therapist got a kick out of the habit that I couldn’t control. He would imitate my facial expressions and try to get me to laugh about it. As I stated in my last blog “You Need To Laugh More”, he finally gave up on me after year. Hurting somebody was not on my mind, but I was pretty angry because of all the prejudices I received from people. Aspies tend to become aware of their quirks as they grow older. It does not always take somebody demanding them to change in order to fix their habits.

4.) “Teens With Asperger’s Syndrome Can’t Express Empathy”

This is probably the most ridiculous stereotype out of the five I am going to cover today. Scroll back to the quote from John Elder Robison’s book. I have began to realize that kids with Asperger’s Syndrome are far more empathetic than most average high school students. People should not confuse the word empathy with sympathy. If the were to be a death in your friends family, you would feel sorry for them. Therefore, you might send them a card or a gift expressing your sympathy. However, empathy a little bit different. My blogs help me express my empathy towards people on the Autistic Spectrum or people who are different in general because they show they are not alone. I know how it feels to be misconceived and misused.

While I am not a fan of reality TV, I am a fan of the show “World’s Strictest Parents”. The show focuses on changing the lives of rebellious teenagers who’s lives revolve around things like drugs, sex, partying and violence. Two teenagers are sent away to live with another family and experience “strict parenting”. The family has strict rules, but they are used to teach them about responsibilities in life. However, they try their hardest to do it with compassion, love and understanding. This particular clip shows British teenagers Sevda and Andrew. They were sent to San Antonio, Texas. They lived with the Frazee family for a week. Randy is a pastor at a mega church and Rosanne, his wife is a “stay at home” mom. My favorite part of this episode was part four. The second half of the clip showed them going to the local Boys and Girls club. While the group members were hanging out during break, Sevda stayed inside. The classmate Carlton walked over and talked to her. Sevda was drawing on a piece of paper when he walked over. Here is what he said.

Carlton: You like art, you’re very stylish, you have a lot going for you! I wanna ask you something. Do you like to party? A lot?

Sevda: Yes.

Carlton: You wanna know where I just got back from? I just got done five months in jail!

Sevda: Really?

Carlton: Yeah, my mom’s an alcoholic, my dad.. I don’t know where he is. I’ve been in every school in this town because of moving. I’ve been through rough times.

Sevda: I just hate doing this.

Carlton: You don’t want to do this?

Sevda: I just don’t like school.

Carlton: I say you go for it.

Even though Carlton’s advice didn’t encourage Sevda to participate with the group, it was a great example of showing empathy to a person. He calmly walker over and tried to start a conversation with her.  He encouraged her by explaining he has been through similar experiences in his own life. I didn’t understand myself during my freshman and sophomore years at Freeport. Coming to Lenape has helped me become more open about my differences. Since then, I have received many comments from people thanking me. Therefore, we most certainly can express empathy! There are still many things I don’t know about Asperger’s. It just takes time for us to understand ourselves while we try understand other people at the same time.

I used this entry to go the extra mile. I have tried to prove my “favorites” of the many Asperger’s stereotypes wrong.

Whether or not you are an Aspie or just a person who is not understood, I encourage you to comment and write about misconceptions people have about you. Try your best to prove them wrong!

Thank you for reading!

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“The Angry WordPress Troll” (Trolls vs. Cyber-bullies)


Somebody posted a comment on my blog that actually amused me, because it shows the lack of knowledge in many people in America and throughout the world. My account is purposely set not to put comments on my blog until they are approved by me. I logged on WordPress, marked it as spam and deleted it as soon as I received the notification email. The comment read “All Autistic people are out of control animals who should be euthanized”. I immediately deleted it. I’ve unapproved comments that have been written by people before, but nothing downright ignorant like this. I think it is very important to not only address this issue, but to be insightful about why people “troll” on internet forums.

I want to start off by explaining what a troll is. A troll is a person who posts provocative comments on a message board just for the sole purpose of making people angry.  Trolls mainly post on forum websites where people express their opinions about controversial issues. For example, If a gay or lesbian person person talks about their life, they post derogatory words like “fagot” or “dyke”. They judgmentally quote bible verses and tell them how much they feel the person’s life is an “abomination”. Every single troll is different. There are some who are very smart and others are not so smart. Very many of them use their personal experiences as an excuse to disrespect other people’s opinions on an issue. I look back and think about the person who posted the comment on my blog, and they may have experienced problems with a sibling or family member on the severe side of the spectrum. I’ve stated before that kids on the severe side of the Autistic Spectrum can be very difficult to deal with, especially when they are part of the family. Kids on the severe end of the Autistic Spectrum don’t know how to speak, therefore they don’t know how to express their emotions. They resort to screaming, yelling and throwing objects because they don’t know how express what is bothering them. I wrote a post a few weeks ago that talked about a controversial video by Autism Speaks. It was titled “Autism Every Day”. One of the mothers told a story about how her son ran out to the middle of a busy city street without a shirt or shoes on. She actually had to call the police to look for him. With that being said, I most certainly am not trying to claim that issues with an Autistic family member is a good excuse. It will only make the person look worse.

Now, I want to explain why I made the decision to delete the comment. Trolls are like bullies in some ways, but you really can’t confront them because they are on the internet. I’ve had discussions with many people who may think it is rude to delete a troll comment, because they feel the person is entitled to their own opinion. That statement may be true, but the comment is going to be read by a lot of people and it will definitely make other people angry. Don’t understand? I am going to use an off topic example to help you. You are at a family member’s birthday party, and you grab a box of matches for the candles. You get the match lit when all of a sudden you bump into something, then the match falls out of your hand and catches the curtains on fire. You would be surprised how many people would try to fight the fire instead of getting out of the house. A troll wants to see you “start a fire” by saying something disrespectful back to them.

There is one thing a person should also keep in mind before you delete a troll from your blog or forum page. Most of them usually go away after a few days, but there are a few who will keep making disrespectful comments until the person can’t take it anymore. They are definitely what I consider a cyber bully. I never received any more thoughtless comments from this person or anybody else. This is really the only time they should be reported to an administrator of the website you are using. These types of trolls are cyber bullies. Most of the forums and social networking sites I use have policies against this, and people who violate them should have their account permanently deactivated. You should not only keep tabs of what the person said, but you should also keep tabs of the date and time it was written. If reporting the user to an administrator does not work, then local law enforcement should be contacted. This is especially true if the comments are of a threatening nature. Even if it is something as simple as “I’ll kick your butt!” Every computer is equipped with something called an IP (Internet Protocol) address. Law enforcement can track it and find exactly where the person accesses internet from, but they do not have the automatic capability to find out who they are. Internet threats should never be taken lightly, regardless of whether or not you know the person.

Trolls and cyber bullies are different in some ways, but similar in others. When I encounter trolls, I have learned that I should just shrug my shoulders and not respond to them. I have to realize that I am a better person than they will ever be, and I know they are taking their bitterness about an issue by disrespecting the person. Like I said at the beginning, there are some trolls who actually amuse me. They may be intelligent, but they write comments that make them sound like the complete opposite. With this in mind, hopefully you have have better understanding of trolls. Please pass this advice onto any person you know who may experience this.

Thank you for reading, and I will be back next week.

 

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