Aspergers Syndrome

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Aspergers Syndrome, bullying, LGBT

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued soon!

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Aspergers Syndrome

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

“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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Aspergers Syndrome

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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Aspergers Syndrome

“Why Are You So Negative?”


I am going to talk about another one of those irritating questions people often ask me. The question is along the lines of “Why Are You So Negative”? I was asked this question throughout my years in school, and I couldn’t really come up with any other answer than just “I don’t know”. I would mainly hear this from neurotypicals (people with “normal” minds). Each one had their own unique way of asking the question. Ms. Stuckley, one of my teachers in junior high would ask “Whats wrong Derek, you seem depressed”. One of the slackers in my TV production class at the Freeport Area Senior High School would say “Why are you so unhappy all the time? You’re just like a serial killer”. I would simply avoid even speaking to the ones who asked me that question because they just don’t understand. It really wouldn’t be worth telling them I was Autistic, because most of them don’t know what it is and they wouldn’t care if I told them.

Negativity is a common characteristic teenagers with Asperger’s Syndrome often show. There are many reasons why this is true, the most common one is because they don’t “fit in with the crowd” at school. While most of the students at school talk about going to the football game on Friday night, a student diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome will most likely spend the evening playing computer or video games, or research information about their favorite topic on the internet. When you live in a place like Freeport, football is probably the most popular high school sport. It is often said that “everybody who’s anybody” comes to see the football game. The problem with that statement was, I was the complete opposite of “anybody”. Freeport is a very cliquish school, and I didn’t fit in with any “group”. As described in my entry “Why Are You So Quiet”, I would try to interact with people, but they would either ignore me, tell me to leave or spread rumors about me. I became so frustrated with the fact the people didn’t want to get to know me, I just walked over to an empty table and sat by myself. The cafeteria was always extremely loud, and I just couldn’t wait for the bell to ring so I could get out of the cafeteria.

Aside from social issues in high school, there is also quite a bit of negativity coming from the media about Asperger’s Syndrome and other Autistic Spectrum Disorders. The morning news is always full of negative stories to talk about. Some of those include murders, car accidents, house fires and political rallies. Autism is often discussed on news stations as well. They only read information from clinical reports and believe that people with an Autistic Spectrum Diagnosis (ASD) are completely hopeless. Clinical reports don’t show the benefits of having an ASD. My mother would always become extremely depressed when she would read clinical reports and see news stories about it. Social skills groups and therapists often enjoyed overstimulating me, which made me even more unhappy with myself. The staff members from Wesley Wonder Kids would say “you are not doing enough” or “you need to try harder”. I was trying as hard as I could, and on top of that I was trying to figure out who I was as a person. This was one of the reasons I was very happy at the Computing Workshop. They let me learn things at my own pace and they were patient with me.

One should be very thankful for people like Temple Grandin and John Elder Robison because they helped people realize there is hope and I am capable of getting through this. In my most recent post before this one I talked about the Temple Grandin film starring Claire Danes. I emphasized how important it is for a person (Autistic or not) to have somebody they have things in common with, can look up to, who likes them for who they are and whom they want to be like when they grow up. I talked about my friend Aaron and how he eventually changed my attitude because he was the first person who was actually excited to see me. We all need that one person in our lives who we enjoy being around. If you were to invite them to your birthday party, you consider their “presence as a gift”. After meeting Aaron, I realized that quality of friends is better than quantity.

There are many kids with Asperger’s Syndrome who have it worse than I did in the past. Some of them have parents who are not willing to provide for their children, others have worse experiences in school, and some have an even more severe diagnosis. Some of those people have commented on my blog and thanked me for sharing my experiences. Many of them are from out of Pennsylvania and some of them are even from out of the United States. Reading John Elder Robison’s “Look Me In The Eye” has made me realize that everybody experiences feelings of not belonging. Some of those experiences even occur after high school. However, I still do experience difficulties in school. I am a senior in high school, and I am extremely nervous about college. The closer I get to graduation, the more nervous and excited I get. Getting used to the fact that I am graduating this year, along with getting my work finished is an extremely stressful combination of tasks.

The thing about negativity that kids with Asperger’s Syndrome should remember is that negative thoughts can eventually lead to negative consequences. When you say negative things about yourself, people will notice it and it will draw them away from you. That could eventually make you even more unhappy. Positivity is the best approach when you encounter frustrating situations with people, and it can be very difficult. With this advice, you will hopefully find friends who will accept you or who you are.

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Aspergers Syndrome

“No More Talking About Fans!”


Obsessions are one of the most noticeable traits in a child with Asperger’s Syndrome. It is the most difficult thing for a parent to deal with, mainly because the child doesn’t know how to initiate a normal conversation that is not about that particular topic. Teachers can quickly become frustrated because obsessive compulsive topics and behaviors can prevent the child from learning at school. Before I discuss this topic, I want to emphasize that it is important to refrain from the idea of eliminating the topic from their daily routine. However, it is possible to help your child or teenager understand how and why these obsessions can affect their ability to interact with other people and function at school or work. It is something that takes tons of practice and cooperation.

As I grew from a child to a young adult, my obsessions changed. I obsessed about something for about five years, then I outgrew it and became obsessed with something else. Many of the therapists and teachers I have worked were like the people I emphasized in the first paragraph. They seemed to think I would “magically outgrow” my obsessions by screaming at me and forcing me to act “normal”. In one of my previous blogs I touched on obsessions a bit. When I was around three or four years old, I became obsessed with fans, the mechanical devices with blades that spin and keep you cool in the summer. Anytime I would see a fan, I would stare at it and immediately become mesmerized by the blades spinning around. My parents were totally puzzled. They kept asking themselves “Why is our son so fascinated by a simple old fan? There are millions of other things out there to talk about”. My parents tried to convince me into changing the subject, but it only worked for a few minutes. I would pretend to listen to my mother, then I would go right back to talking about fans again.

My mother told me that the main reason I was obsessed with fans was simply because they spin. In my memoir that I hope to someday have published described an unusual talent I possessed when I around five or six months old. I would crawl into a cabinet that was closer to the ground, and I would take out the lids for the pots and pans used on the stove. I would pick my favorite ones and lay them with the handle touching the floor and spin them around. I was in my own little world, and I had no idea what was going on around me. My mother said this was the first Autistic characteristic I exhibited. When I look back and think about this obsession, I try to think about possible reasons why I was so obsessed with something as simple as a fan. The subtle movement of a fan spinning is very mesmerizing. Just staring at a fan for a few seconds could cause some people to go into instantly go into a trance like state. Also, there are many Autistic kids who enjoy something called “white noise”. The sound of a ceiling fan blowing is usually noticeable when it is on it’s high or medium setting. It is a very calming noise. I purchased a ceiling fan for my bedroom a few years ago, and the sound of it blowing over my bed is very relaxing. During the warm months, I have noticed it helps me get to sleep faster.

I didn’t really notice my obsessions affected the way I interacted with people until I was in the fourth grade. After they remodeled and expanded my school, there was one thing I became obsessed with fire drills. This was not like my fascination with fans when I was younger, it was something I was afraid of because of the loud noise. Along with updating the entire school, they updated the buildings fire alarm system. I was in third grade the very first time I heard that horrible, shrill noise. The class was lining up to go to lunch, and the fire alarm went off by a mistake. It sounded like a cricket screaming through a megaphone, and it was also equipped with flashing strobe lights. I covered my ears, and we walked out of the building like we were supposed to. When we were instructed to walk back into the building, I made the commented to the person standing in front of me “that fire alarm sounded like a cricket screaming through a megaphone”. My teacher heard me and said “that’s an interesting observation, Derek”. During lunch, I kept bringing up the alarm and nervously making jokes about it. I would obsessively bring the topic of the fire alarm into conversations, it lasted until I was in sixth grade, my last year in elementary school. One day I brought it up to my friend Jason, and a boy named Connor said “You are obsessed with fire drills. Why is that?” I ignored him, and sat there quietly.

My classmates didn’t understand how that noise really hurt my ears when I heard it. Fire drills always happened when we least expected them to, and it really startled me. I didn’t really understand how to verbalize the sound bothered me. My mother talked to my teachers and the principal about it, and they put in my IEP  “teachers must inform me about scheduled fire drills in advance.” That seemed to help, because I noticed I didn’t bring them up as often as I used to.

When I made the transition from elementary to junior high, I outgrew my obsession with fire drills because the alarm at the junior high wasn’t as loud and shrill. Seventh and eighth grade was the time I really started having problems fitting in. There was a boy named Eric, who was in my grade. He also went to the same gym I received personal training at, and we would occasionally strike up a general conversation with each other. I told my mother about him one day, and she told me I should ask for his IM screen-name and see if he wanted to chat. I really wanted to get to know him until one day I noticed something peculiar about him. I noticed he would say mean things about me behind my back, then look over at me and see if I could hear what he was saying. He made comments like “Derek is such a f***tard. I shared it with my mother when I came home that day. She told me he could still be interested in becoming friends with me. Sometimes people gossip about you because they want to become friends with you. I thought about that, but decided to keep my distance. This behavior continued into high school, until I finally realized he did not have friendship in mind.

High school was the time I started obsessing about people who made my life miserable. Every day I would talk to my mother about how I hated that I didn’t have any buddies in school, or how people would always make fun of me. I am not going into detail about bullying situations in this blog entry, but I am going to talk about how it affected my interaction with people. I described in my blogs about Lenape where people would pretend to be friends with me, then turn around and say or do something disrespectful. I experienced that so much I would have this generalization that every single person was trying to be mean to me. Anytime my mother would ask if I tried to socialize with somebody at lunch, I would say “Why do you care? Eric didn’t want to interact with me, why would anybody else want to?” I would go on and on about the things he said about me and how much I hated him and his friends. My mother would then say “Why do you keep bringing him up? He is not worth it. You need to move on”.

When I look back, I am glad my peers brought up the fact they were annoyed with me talking about fire drills. The unwritten social rule from Temple Grandin’s book is “Know When You Are Turning People Off”. Situations like that helped me realize that one-sided conversations and negativity can really draw people away from me. I never really understood this from role playing or talking about feelings with a therapist. I am glad I had the opportunity to put my social skills to the test when I would spend time with Aaron. Making one friend was the perfect remedy to help me forget about the negative experiences with Eric from school.

In conclusion, I hope you realize that just telling your child to stop talking about their obsession will not work. You have to take time and help them understand why it can affect their ability to interact with people.

Aspergers Syndrome

Re: Temple Grandin: “The World Needs All Kinds of Minds” (TED.com)


You have heard of my horrible experiences when I was a student at Freeport. My freshman and sophomore year were full of bullying and disrespect from people who didn’t understand that I was different from everybody else. I felt like they spoke an unknown foreign language. People didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them. Asperger’s and Autism didn’t become a well-known disorder until the twenty-first century. When my parents were in high school they did not have learning support programs, social workers and social skills groups for these kids to learn they skills they needed for life. I must say that we have come a long way, but we still have a lot to work on. While Autism will never be fully understood, there are many things about society that need to change.

Temple Grandin recorded a fascinating lecture on Ted.com that described how her mind works. I must say it was one of the most fascinating online speeches I have ever listened to in my entire life. She stated that her mind works like Google Images. Words coming from another person instantly become movies in her head, equipped with sound. In her TED lecture, she described a scene in the movie. Her mother said the word “shoe” and images of shoes popped up in her head. During the 1950s, people had the common misconception that people with Autism would not amount to anything in life. Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders were usually sent to mental institutions. They had no idea about the continuum of traits from Autism. Anytime they would hear the word “Autistic” they would think they are non verbal and psychologists would recommend they go to a mental institution.

When I was a student at Freeport, I absolutely hated math and science classes because it mainly involved reading books and taking notes. I looked around and noticed that students falling asleep and looking out the window. That obviously meant they were not the least bit interested in the material we were going over. During 10th grade I had physical science during eighth period, the last class of the day. This speech directly relates to another topic I have posted several blogs about.

To reiterate my Lenape blogs, I talked about how Freeport tried to make a standardized test score out of me and not the best person I could be after I graduated from high school. Every day I had a structured learning support period. The learning support class is pretty much a structured study hall. It pretty much consisted of completing homework you didn’t do at home, or reviewing for upcoming tests. Every day I would complain about how much I hated that particular test I was studying for and I would say the material was pointless. My teachers would then respond “Derek, you can complain all you want but this material will be on the P.S.S.A tests and you need to take the class to graduate”. I then decided to keep my mouth shut because arguing would result in a trip to the office. After that, I would think “so what, I will never use this crap after I graduate so why should I care about this class?”

This is directly related to another point Temple made during her speech. There are many teachers out there who are not certified to teach but have a degree in science fields like biology, chemistry, physics or music. Any person in this country can get the certification to become a teacher, but the question I would ask my self if I were hiring a new teacher would be “are they willing and able to show how this particular class can apply to the real world”? I admire the fact that it is part of the curriculum at Lenape. They prove to you that they don’t make you learn algebra, trigonometry or geometry just because it is a graduation requirement or it is on the P.S.S.A tests. In our Technical Communications (English) class, we are required to write an essay about a career related to our chosen technical field. It has to be five paragraphs long, and you are required to put citations from your research sources at the end of each paragraph. After the essay is thoroughly edited and completed, you are then required to give a ten minute speech about the career.

Freeport requires juniors to give a ten minute speech about a career you wanted to pursue in the future. You are randomly assigned a teacher to grade you on the speech, who most likely doesn’t know enough about their chosen career. I had to give a five-minute graduation speech during tenth grade about a chosen career field, and I chose an Electronics Engineer. My English teacher obviously knew nothing about the career, so she gave me a 100% for the effort, because I only knew general information about the career field. The graduation requirement for your senior year at Lenape is more hands on. You are required to present a twenty-minute demonstration of a hands on task related to your technical area. It has to be ten minutes long and you must use correct terminology when identifying any of the equipment you are using. I am in the electronics program, and I will have to do this project for my senior year. You will have to explain how each component specifically functions in the circuit.

There is one more thing I will have to keep in mind about my job skills project. It will be graded by somebody that is in the industry. Simply put, it will be graded by somebody who works in a profession related to my chosen technical area. I will have to make sure I not only know what I am talking about, but that I am dressed appropriately and practicing proper safety techniques. A twenty minute long presentation is a lot to prepare for, especially when it is a graduation requirement. The best thing to do is think of this presentation as a learning experience. In the future, you never know when you will have to demonstrate something.

Temple Grandin is the reason many people on the Autistic Spectrum have gone to college and obtained successful careers. Usually, the so called “obsession” these individuals have when they are kids could have their children obtain a successful career in something related to it. I completely agree that schools need to stop teaching abstract skills. I never functioned well in classes like that, especially abstract math. If you can prove to me why I need this in real life, I will do well in the class. Lenape changed my opinion about school, and I think there need to be more full day technical and academic schools with a similar curriculum as Lenape. Education as a whole needs to become less abstract and more specific and related to the real world. If that changes, I feel we will have less students falling asleep in class and looking out the window and not being interested.

Click Here To Watch Temple’s Lecture: