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

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

“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 Wrongplanet.net 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 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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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 greatschools.org 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

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


I am about to do something that truly scares me to death every time I think about it. Never in my life have I been through an experience where I literally felt scared for my life. I encountered one of those situations about two months ago. It all happened so quickly, it is hard to describe exactly what happened. This experience was the motivation behind the important things I am about to say in this blog post. 

I got up out of bed, ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast and then get ready for my personal training session at our local gym. My mother rode in the passenger side. The drive to the gym was uneventful, but the trip back home was something I will never forget. I put my car in reverse and made sure I cleared the SUV parked beside me and the pickup parked behind me.

I then activated my left turn signal and looked both ways a few times. I didn’t see anything coming in either direction, so I committed to pulling out. Before I managed to cross the solid double yellow line, my mother yelled “watch out!” Not knowing what she was talking about, I turned and looked to my left. The sight was a large Peterbilt tractor-trailer barreling right towards us. Before I had enough time to get away, the truck t-boned right into our Ford Taurus. Shards of glass and debris flew all over the place. The impact violently tossed us around in our seats and knocked the wind out of both of us.

I finally managed to catch my breath. The Ford Taurus was completely totaled. The roof looked as if it was close to caving in on top of us. The next thing I remember was a good Samaritan walked over to the front passenger door and spoke to my mother. She checked to make sure my mother was conscious, then turned towards the onlookers and instructed them to call an ambulance. “I’m an ER nurse. I think we can get you out of this car. I’m going to open the door and I want you to grab my hand. We’re going to take it slowly.” Once they managed to help my mother out of the car, one of the local business owners grabbed a chair for my mother to sit in. Meanwhile, I was still trapped in the car. The grill of the massive Peterbilt was about two or three feet from my face. I then heard the sirens of the police, ambulance and fire department approaching from the distance. The only thing I wanted was to get out of that car.

The fire department used the jaws of life and the EMS staff extricated me from the car. They had to cut off the roof and the passenger doors to safely get to me. I was then transported by ambulance to the trauma unit at UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh. The police had to close Route 356 for almost an hour to clean up the scene. That 30-35 minute ride felt like an eternity. I burst into tears when we arrived at the hospital because I was so ashamed about the whole situation. I was hit by a semi truck because I failed to notice it in the oncoming lane and ended up totaling the car. I was given a CT scan and it turned out I had no internal injuries. At first, it seemed like the my mother didn’t sustain any injuries and the hospital staff permitted us to leave. We were driving out of Oakland when my mother received a call from the hospital. It was the doctor saying they needed us to come back. They found some minor fractures in her rib cage and her back.

A car accident is a memory that fades away as time goes on. I can guarantee this accident will make me a more careful driver. After all, my mother and I are lucky to be here talking about it. However, I am still having flashbacks. About a week after the accident, I went behind the wheel again. I was incredibly scared when I drove for the first time after this accident. My mind instantly flashes back to the accident every time I see a tractor-trailer. This is especially true when I drive on Route 28, a heavily traveled expressway that runs from Kittanning to Pittsburgh. I want my driver’s license so I can go to the store on my own time, visit friends who I don’t get to see very often, commute to and from school. This will give me a feeling of independence. However, it’s going to frustrate me and it’s going to scare me. I must do it if I want to gain my independence. 

To be continued next week… 

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Aspergers Syndrome

“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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Aspergers Syndrome

Punished For Being Autistic? (Autism/Asperger’s and the Police)


My last blog post talked about Hiding My Asperger’s Quirks.  It talked about how difficult it is for people like me to “fit in” with a world that is mainly designed for neurotypical thinkers. Back in May, I graduated from high school. While I do really look forward to experiencing college life, there are many worries I have when it comes to being a young adult with an Autistic Spectrum Diagnosis. Every parent fears for their child, and the story I am going to describe in this post fully explains why I fear for my safety and mental health.

The story is about a young man named Reginald “Neli” Latson from the small town of Statford, Virginia. The story begins on the morning of Monday, May 24, 2010. Neli was sitting in the grass outside the local library, waiting for it to open for the day. A nearby school crossing guard called the police, and reported a “suspicious black male who may have a gun.” Neli became tired of waiting for the library to open, so he decided to leave the library. He was then approached by a school resources officer, Deputy Thomas Calvary, and he was immediately searched for the suspected gun. Absolutely no weapons of any kind were found in his possession.  The officer then asked Neli for his name, but he refused to give it to him. This was because he perceived the officer was trying to harass him. So, he refused and tried to get away and stated he committed no crime. Deputy Calvary then grabbed him from behind and tried to arrest him without reading his Miranda rights or calling for backup. Neli resisted arrest and both he and the officer were “subsequently injured”.

Neli was held for 11 days without bail at the Rappahonack Reigonal Jail. The police allowed his school counselor to relay messages to Lisa Alexander (his mother). Ms. Alexander was only allowed one visit during that time period. During that particular visit, Neli was “in a catatonic state.” He was unable to speak! Later on, police interrogaters reported he was “nonresponsive” and “disturbed”. The judge ordered him to be transferred into a mental institution for 30 days of treatment.

Following the 30 days, Neli was then sent back to prison for another year. For eight months he has spent time in torturous isolation. 

Here is a YouTube video where Neli himself describes the harassment he received during interrogation.

Here is a YouTube video where a woman described the incident, the racial harassment and similar cases of injustice that have occurred at the same prison

The trial for the incident lasted three days, and Neli was found guilty of assaulting a law enforcement officer. The judge tried to push for him to serve 10 and 1/2 years in prison. His sentence was lowered. The judge decided to give Neli two years in prison instead of 10 1/2. Neli’s only defense was the he was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, the same diagnosis which I have lived with for my entire life. I have no desire to explain what Asperger’s is because I have already done so in my past 78 blog posts.

So, what are the thoughts that have gone through your mind after hearing about this story? I am going to say this right now, my blood boils every time I hear about it. I am a firm believer that law enforcement officials nationwide need to be informed about Autism and Asperger’s. Until I heard about the situation with Neli, I never had any idea this lack of knowledge was becoming a problem. I want to challenge my point of view with another story about Autism. This story is very different from Neli’s.

In order for a law enforcement officer to understand Autistic, there is one thing they must address first and foremost. Dr. Temple Granin pointed out in her TED lecture that Autism is a continuum of traits. You have the “severely Autistic” non verbal types, the geeky/nerdy kids who have lots of Asperger’s quirks, the kids who can’t function without assistance and the kids who are incredibly gifted. This story dates back to the year 2008. Adam Race was thirteen years old, weighed over 235 pounds and diagnosed with severe Autism. He and his family resided in Bertha Minesota and attended a Roman Catholic church named The Church of Saint Joseph. The church filed a restraining order which banned the family from attending Sunday Mass. Despite being ordered not to attend, they showed up anyway. The reason for the restraining order was because he demonstrated behavior that caused a “growing concern for the safety of parishioners.” 

Now, you may be asking me a big question.  “What has Adam possibly done to cause this restraining order?”  The reports from The Rev. Daniel Walz stated he would hastily bolt out of his pew and nearly knock over elderly parishioners in the process. He has struck children in mass. He sometimes spat and urinated. His family tries to restrain him, but it causes him to fight it. He assaulted a girl and pulled her onto his lap. On top of this, he ran into the parking lot, went inside two vehicles and revved their engines during Easter Mass. Walz also stated he would demonstrate self injurious behaviors, such as hitting himself in the head. 

A controversy immediately ensued when mother Carol Race decided to get the press involved. Some people say the church’s actions were too harsh, while others say they should have gone with the restraining order. I happen to be in the second vote, because it seems to me that Carol was the problem. The liturgy of the Roman Catholic church is very orderly. However, unexpected situations still can occur that can cause the child to become upset. Here are some quotes from the press release. 

Most of the time, Adam can walk through a crowd of people in a patient and gentle way. And because our family leaves the church service early, there should not be anyone during these times to “bolt through.” 

The worst of Adam’s behaviors resulted from lack of accommadations or cooperative discussions. Case in point: The car-revving incident. Normally our family left church before the closing song, which would allow three minutes before the congregation left. During Lent, Fr. Walz ommited the closing song and failed to ask the congregation to wait to leave until our family had left first. 

Carol said they would normally sit in the back of the church or in the crying room, therefore it would be easy for them to get up and leave the church before the recessional hymn. For any church leader, there is a lot to remember when it comes to preparing for worship. It is next to impossible for the priest to do everything by himself. While that is what acolytes and lay readers are for, what happens if they don’t show up for mass? The worship leader must perform tasks that acolytes and lay readers are assigned (lighting candles, opening the leaders book to the correct page, reciting scripture readings, setting up communion, leading communion, greeting parishioners before and after mass.)

The church has offered for the family to sit in the crying room and watch mass on a television feed. They also offered meditation through a local Protestant minister. Because Carol refused these options, so they decided to go through with the restraining order which banned him from mass. It seems to me that Carol is a “my way or the highway” kind of a parent, the kind I really can’t stand. None of her statements in the press release are about the safety and welfare of the other parishioners. Every parent needs to teach their child limits, whether they are Autistic or not. Here are some “what if” questions I have if Adam actually did injure or kill somebody. 

What if the police actually were called to have him restrained, and the officer had a “chip on his shoulder” and decided to use a taser to restrain him? (This actually did happen to one Autistic child. Read the article!

I must say that both the church and Carol could and should have handled the situation in a much more civil manner. While I don’t know this whole story, I think the church most certainly should have communicated with the family more. They should have tried to figure out ways to “enter his mind”, similar to how Elaine Hall did with her son Neal. I also believe the national news outlets should not have been contacted. Carol was just trying to grab attention to herself because the situation was not going her way.

So, the burning question is “How can we inform law enforcement about Autism and Asperger’s?” This is still a difficult question to answer, because the stories I shared about Neli and Adam are different. If you have a child with Asperger’s, I recommend the parent/guardian contacts all local emergency services (police, fire, ambulance) and use these questions as a guideline.

Where do you live? (Make sure you provide your street address and directions to your house. If you live in an apartment, be sure to provide the name of the apartment and room number as well.)

What does your child look like? (Provide a copy of photo identification.)

How can they reach you? (work phone, home phone, cell phone, email address, street address, pager)

Does your child have health issues? (sensory, medical and dietary restrictions) 

Where does your child like to “hang out” in their spare time? (Provide specific information. For example, if they like to hang out at Best Buy and buy video games, make sure you say the gaming department.) 

Does your child drive? (Provide specific description of the vehicle(s), license plate number and drivers license number.) 

What unusual behaviors does my child exhibit? Why might it cause authorities to think it is suspicious? 

What are your child’s favorite things? (Toys, objects, foods or discussion topics.) 

How does my child interact with others? (Sign langue, picture boards, written words)

What potentially dangerous places are in your community? “Enter their mind” and think about why they would be interested in being there. (Be sure to describe what the danger is. Examples: water/electrical/gas sources, elevated areas.) 

Make sure you provide some this information to neighbors and friends who you trust. Now, here are some pointers for your Asperger’s child if they are approached by a law enforcement officer.

1.) Do not attempt to flee the scene. Most police encounters happen unexpectedly, this might cause you to feel uncomfortable. This will cause the officer to think you committed a crime. 

2.) Refrain from making sudden movements. This will also cause the officer to think you are suspicious. 

3.) Let the officer know you are Autistic. (If nonverbal, use sign simple language)

4.) Ask for permission before you go into a glove compartment, pants or coat pocket. Tell the officer what you are getting out, then show it to them. (This will ensure the officer you are not attempting to grab a weapon.) 

5.) Always carry an Autism information card anytime you go out in public. 

6.) If your child is arrested, make sure they appeal for confirmation of the Miranda warning.  

7.) Carry contact information of an advocacy group, trusted friend or trusted neighbor anytime you go out in public. 

I truly hope you enjoyed reading my blog post. I encourage you to visit the website avoiceforneli.com and sign the petition to release him from prison. This is one thing that will help raise awareness about Asperger’s and Autism.

Have a great week!

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Aspergers Syndrome

“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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Aspergers Syndrome

“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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