Would You Date Someone on The Autism Spectrum?


I subscribed to a subreddit called “Ask Gay Bros.” It is a subreddit where gay and bisexual men can discuss the ins and outs of life. (Incase you have not realized, yes, I am gay!) Life with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome) has made it incredibly hard to meet other people. There is no way to summarize how this condition affects my mind in just a few sentences. I took that into account when I decided to submit my first post on “Ask Gay Bros.” The post went as follows.

I was curious about what men would think about the idea of dating someone who experiences similar struggles to me. I was pleasantly surprised when most of them said yes. However, there were a few users who said no. One of them happened to have an Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

I tend to agree with this user. My mom and dad insisted on enrolling me in social skills groups like Wesley Wonder Kids during my teenage years. However, I look back, and I realize learned some valuable lessons. These lessons came from both the staff and my peers in the program. I have always agreed that age appropriate social skills are essential for success in academic, professional and personal social situations. There are plenty of things about myself that people may find enjoyable. For example, I am intelligent, and I like to share that through my writing. People have said that my writing does resonate with them. However, I also have my fair share of quirks that people may describe as anything from frustrating to annoying.

I learned that valuable lesson at one Wonder Kids group meeting. It was time for each member to share any news from their lives that may have developed in the previous week. I rolled my eyes when it became time for one particular person to speak. Let’s just say that he was someone who could not seem to grasp the meaning behind “enough is enough.” We will call him “Gregory Grossout.”  His superior speaking vocabulary, dirty clothing and body odor quickly became the least of the traits that made me feel socially restricted around him. Here is the gist of his lovely news story. 

Gregory Grossout: I had an ingrown toenail! It was gargantuan! It grew back after I had it removed. I had to go to the pediatrist a second time. It started spewing yellow substance called pus. (Everyone begins to cringe and express disgust for his graphic revelation. He then continues, oblivious to their discomfort.) It hurt so bad! The doctor said it was the most puss and blood he has ever seen!  

(The staff leader finally interupts him by addressing the entire group and correcting his behavior. He is also trying to keep his composure.) 

Staff Leader: Okay, you can stop right there! By a show of hands, how many of you are cringing right now? How many of you did not want to hear about the details of his surgery? (He quickly pauses and turns to Gregory.) 

Staff Leader: Gregory, everyone raised their hand. You could have been much more general about it. “I had a minor surgery last week. It had some complications and I had to go back to get them fixed” would have been far less cringeworthy. 

(He still could not grasp the repulsed expressions of everyone in the room. He continued with an attempt to claim that revealing every single detail was absolutely necessary.) 

I agree that to assume this person is lesser of a human being would be far too hasty and judgmental. Nonetheless, that was my default assumption anytime I encountered such a situation. I did that while simultaneously being oblivious to my tendencies which made people believe I was socially inept. I now know that I must control those tendencies if I want to be successful in the dating world. Admitting that I am on the Autism Spectrum is bound to decrease the already limited gay dating pool. I hate to go all cliche, but, that is how the cookie crumbles. I cannot force someone to be attracted to me. I most certainly cannot force someone to love me. 

I answered “no” to my own question because Asperger’s Syndrome is a very individualized disorder. Grey’s Anatomy failed to realize that when they wrote the portrayal of Dr. Virginia Dixon. I experience difficulty “reading” other people. But, that is the only thing I have in common with most people who have this condition. That does not make me any less aware of the challenges most people with “high functioning” Autistic Spectrum Disorder experience in adulthood. Most importantly, I know that I am more than capable of loving someone. That is all that truly matters! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Warning: May be sensitive for some readers!) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“Normals” Not Taking Me Seriously:

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

Feeling Lost Around My Own Kind:

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

Me Not Taking My Own Kind Seriously:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trying To Understand My Own Kind:

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

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

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

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

Matthew 7 vs 1-5

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

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

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


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

Matthew 7 vs 1-5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you enjoyed reading!

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“Scary Stories From the Real World” (Engage and Teach, Don’t Preach!)


I am often shocked at how little some of my former teachers have actually taught me about the real world, going to college and getting a job. This was not the case with all of my teachers, but it was true with most of them. Typical public high schools are only designed to prepare students to graduate from high school, not be a success in the real world. As a follow-up to “You’re Not Even Trying”, I am going to talk about some things related to the “real world” many of my teachers and counselors used to preach to me all the time. Instead of “teaching” and “counseling” me about the real world, they mainly would tell me all kinds of horror stories about how terrible of a place it is.

My experiences with the school system at Freeport and many of the therapists I have worked with were not beneficial in the least bit, especially when it came to preparing me for life after high school. I honestly felt that most of the work I was expected to do at Freeport was worthless busy work. I had a driver’s education class in tenth grade, and the teacher was absolutely horrible. He would give us worksheets, and we would watch videos the entire period. Anytime I had a question about something, he would just tell me “read the book and figure it out”. Driving is a real world skill, and I had this incompetent person “teaching” it. My dad tried to teach me some basic driving skills in the parking lot of the high school, and even the most simple parts of driving a car seemed like gibberish to me. Driving is something that almost any teenager becomes excited about in high school. Because of that, I decided to wait until I turned eighteen years old to obtain my driver’s license.

I have always experienced trouble with math, and I had an awful math teacher. Because of her grouchy personality and her negative attitude towards everybody, I refused to pay any attention to her. I couldn’t understand any of the material we were covering in class, and she was absolutely no help when I asked her for it. The math concept I struggled with the most were multi step fractions. Anytime I would ask her for help on my fractions, she would rudely respond by saying something that basically sounded like “Derek, you do this, this and this. I want it done by tomorrow, I want all work shown and I want it done correctly”. I refused to do it because I had no idea how to do it. On the rare occasions I actually did my homework, she would put me on the spot and make me right my answer on the board. The class would become very impatient with the fact that I didn’t know how to do it after we have gone over it for the past two weeks. The teacher would become so impatient that she would resort to berating me not because I didn’t do my work, but because I didn’t understand how to do it. The students would just sit there and stare at me while I wrote down random answers to the problem.

I was in the learning support class when I was at Freeport, and it basically was a “babysitting version” of a study hall. You were either required to work on homework or study for a test that was coming up. I wanted to opt out of it, but my parents wouldn’t let me. The teachers and aides in that class spent most of the time nagging me about getting work done, or reprimanding me for my negative attitude about high school in general. When they would try to “help” me study for a test, I would stare off into space and guess random answers. I would often stand there and ask “What is the point of learning this”? The aides would then respond “you have a chapter test coming up, it’s going to be on the P.S.S.A (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) test and you have to take it to graduate”. I would roll my eyes and say “It’s still pointless. I won’t need to know any of this after I graduate and the P.S.S.A test won’t mean a thing ten years from now”. I would then expect to hear “Derek, in the real world you have to do things you don’t want to do”. I still wasn’t very convinced.

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

A few weeks later, I made the decision to stop attending Wonder Kids. After all, I was going to make a new start at Lenape and try to overcome the obstacles I faced at Freeport and at Wonder Kids. If you look at what I wrote in parentheses beside the title it says “engage and teach, don’t preach”. I received strength based therapy for about a year, and I remember it was the only type of therapy that actually benefited me. They tried to use my strengths and make me use my talents to make friends and connect with people. The therapists were actually allowed to take me out into the real world and practice social skills. At Wesley Wonder kids, the group had to stay in the building for the entire group session. They overstimulated me and reprimanded me for going into sensory overload. A teacher can’t convince students into believing why a certain class is important for their success in the real world unless they actually show real world examples. A student will not become interested in the material unless you make the effort to engage them.

To wrap up, the message I am trying to teach is that one should never let a bad teacher or counselor determine their success in the real world.  Many people with Asperger’s have expressed their belief that some of the disrespectful neurotypicals (“normal” people) are the ones with disorders. While it is important to be proud of who you are, you should not let it define you. Asperger’s is no excuse for disrespectful and/or illegal behavior. It’s not about their opinion, it is about what you want. I hope you will always remember that in the future.

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“You’re Not Even Trying”


Throughout the many experiences I have been through in my life with Asperger’s Syndrome, one of the things I would expect to hear from people was “you’re not even trying”. I would hear this from teachers, therapists, my parents, other kids parents and even my peers at school. I would either ignore people when they would say this, or I would react by shrugging my shoulders, rolling my eyes or by simply stating “I don’t care”. I worked with a therapist who was extremely demanding and pushy, and he made coping with my diagnosis even worse.

I attended the Wesley Wonder Kids program in Gibsonia, PA for a few years, and I noticed several behaviors coming from the staff members that I thought were pretty unprofessional for qualified and trained counselors. When we had a group member that was difficult to deal with, I noticed some of the staff members would whisper about them and laugh at them while they were not looking. That was something that really bothered me, because I really knew how it felt to be teased and whispered about. I thought about telling the coördinator about it, but I figured I should only tell them if I knew they were whispering and laughing at me. While gossip is something you can’t stop, this kind of behavior is the reason I believe that counselors need to be evaluated on how they demonstrate the “social skills” they constantly preach to their clients.

From the many behaviors I noticed in these “qualified counselors”, one made me decide it was time to quit Wesley Wonder Kids. There was a social activity we had each week called coffee talk. Each group member was assigned a date to pick a topic and bring a snack to share with the group. They had to choose a topic that would keep a conversation going for the entire duration of the activity. One night, a group member chose plans after high school. The girl sitting beside me stated she wanted to attend CCAC (Community College of Allegheny County). Just then, a kid sitting across the table blurted out “CCAC is where all the retards go to school”. The only thing the staff members ever did was reprimand him. I thought that was pretty unfair, because the staff members treated me in a way that made me feel like I was being singled out.

I was in the older teen group for about four or five months, and I became frustrated at how I was always put on the spot during the “coffee talk” social activity. The coordinator called the staff members on the phone and wanted them to speak with me about this issue. They explained to me that I was “not being verbal enough” during group and that I needed to “stop making noises”. She told me that if I didn’t start being more verbal and stop making noises the coordinator was going to demote me to the younger group. Difficulty with verbal communication and noise making is a common characteristic in kids with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism. In other words, they threatened to demote me to the younger group for being Autistic. My mom talked to her a few days later, and we both finally decided it was time to quit Wesley Wonder Kids. I am pretty happy that I made the immediate decision to do so, because I don’t need anybody telling me to stop being who I am.

I always hated doing role plays with therapists because they didn’t really seem to help me improve my social skills. The reasons why I am so against role-playing is because you can’t really predict how people will react when you try to initiate a “real world” conversation. My social goal at the Wonder Kids club was to “initiate spontaneous social communication with peers”. There was one thing about role plays that most therapists don’t know about, and it is they are not spontaneous. I wanted real interaction with people besides a therapist or my parents. It seemed like everybody in my school had it all and I had nothing. Everybody else had friends to hang out with at the football games, friends to take to the mall and who they can trust. I felt like I was worthless.

I quit Wesley Wonder Kids at the beginning of the summer before my junior year in high school. Lenape Tech gave me plenty of social opportunities because I was not around the same people I have known since kindergarten. I have lived in the Freeport Area School district my whole life, and I have heard many of the gossip and rumors that were constantly spread about me. If you remember my last blog about negativity, people used to say I would end up becoming a serial killer when I grew up. I later came to realize that I should either ignore those kinds of comments or just laugh at them. I have realized that people do it to make themselves look cooler, when most of the people who were friends with the people who bullied me either ignored them or tried to change the subject.

I have noticed that some of the problems in education are the reason why we have kids that really aren’t trying in school. I have noticed that most public high schools are shoving standardized tests and numbers down their throats. In my blogs about Lenape, I have emphasized the fact that schools need to start teaching their students that algebra, geometry and trigonometry don’t go away after you graduate from high school. There are tons of career fields out there who use these skills in their typical work day. When students complain about these classes, the teacher usually says it’s a graduation requirement or it’s going to be on the P.S.S.A tests. Most typical high school teachers are only required to teach students how these skills will benefit them on a test, and they forget about it after the test is over with. I was one of the kids that wasn’t challenged at Freeport, and I was put in the basic math class. It was pretty much a repeat of everything I learned in elementary school. The teacher absolutely hated her job, and the kids didn’t take the class seriously.

To sum things up, the point I am trying to make in this blog is something that anybody should be able to understand. Attitude is something that makes a difference in a teenager’s success in high school, college and the real world. I hope that is something people consider when they see somebody who may have a bad attitude about schoolwork or have trouble making friends. I started to wonder if comments like the “future serial killer” would become reality for me after I graduated. I have learned that you should either brush it off, or go the extra mile and prove them wrong. That is the message I hope people get after reading this.

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My experiences with mobile therapy


As you have read in my previous entries, social skills groups really didn’t help me learn the social skills I needed to know for life. The staff members tended to focus on the negative things about me, such as the minor noise making, and not being “verbal”.  I talked about situations where I’ve tried to be verbal, but they prevent me from doing it by telling me not to talk to them. One thing that irritated me about this group was that they complained to me about a small noise when the other members were displaying worse behaviors, such as making insulting comments to the other group members. When I was in the younger group, I had some troubles with depression because I wasn’t fitting in. It seemed like no matter where I went, I didn’t fit in with anybody. The director of Wesley thought it would be appropriate to hire a mobile therapist for me. She seemed to think that it would help improve my confidence in socializing with my peers.

The person she recommended for me was a man named Mike. One thing that concerned me from the start was that the director of Wesley never told me about this person. I dreaded having these sessions with him because of his very pushy and “in your face” type of personality. During his sessions with me, I tended to resist everything he wanted me to do. People on the Autistic spectrum tend to take longer to process information than neurotypical peers do, and when Mike would ask me a question, it took me a while to process an answer. An example of this would be if an autistic child falls and bruises their ankle, it takes them a few seconds longer to verbalize “ouch, that hurts”. A typical peer would be able to verbalize it as soon as it happens. In my case with Mike, when I was trying to process a response to his question, he would ask another question. He seemed to think that I was trying to avoid answering him altogether. It overwhelmed me so much that I dreaded having sessions with him. Another thing Mike did to overwhelm me was that he met with me two days a week instead of just one. His reason for that was because I wasn’t being “verbal and open enough”. He did that during the summer, and he pushed me even more then. During our summer sessions, he would have me do things like yard work outside, which was something I absolutely hated doing, and still is now. He thought that making me do something I hated doing was going to magically make me “come out of my shell”. He would also put me in social situations which made me feel very uncomfortable. One of which was when he came to observe me at my Computing Workshop summer camp. One situation which made me real uncomfortable was that he tried to get me to introduce him to four people at the computing workshop. The one thing I didn’t want the students and staff at Computing Workshop to know was that he was my therapist. He wanted me to tell them that he was my “friend”. I could either just tell them that he was my therapist, or tell them that he was my “friend”. I didn’t want him to get to know me, so why would I want my friends at Computing Workshop to know him. I refused to do it because I was angry at him about pushing me to the limit until I refused to cooperate with him at all. I felt that Mike was trying to punish me by putting me in social situations where I felt very uncomfortable. Therapy is supposed to be something that you enjoy, and that helps you with whatever your problems are. This obviously wasn’t the case with Mike. Because of this, I think that pushiness is uncalled for in social services. The more a client is pushed, the more they are going to resist what the therapist wants them to do. Mike’s therapy didn’t improve my confidence making friends, it made it even worse.

To me, Mike’s style of counseling was to make the client feel therapy was supposed to be a punishment, and not something that would help you. How is someone going to learn social skills when they are overwhelmed by the person that is supposed to be helping them? That’s just like a teacher berating student for not paying attention to their lesson when they barely know how to teach the material themselves, I’ve been through that many times. Going back to social skills groups, I’m also appalled by when they try very hard to teach social skills, when they demonstrate behaviors that show a lack of social skills. (Look at my blog about social skills groups to find out what I mean by that). I am hopeful that when parents try to find someone to counsel their kids, that they find out more information about the person. Find other therapists that may know the person, and have them give you their thoughts about the person. I am a person who likes to know information about something before it happens, and I knew nothing about Mike before he started working with me. And yes, I do understand that sometimes things don’t go as they were supposed to be planned. Only one person gave us information about him, and they only thing they said was that he was “highly recommended”. I wish I could have gotten other peoples opinions about him beforehand. Spontaneity leads to disaster.

In November 2008, my parents finally decided to discharge with him, and to find another therapist to work with. I was obviously hopeful that this person was going to be a lot less pushy and “in your face” than Mike was. He recommended a different organization. The organization Mike worked with was not allowed to drive their client to places, and he recommended another organization where the therapist was allowed to take the client places around the community.  If I Mike wanted to meet in public with me, my mother would have to provide transportation for me. My mom wanted to me to learn social skills so that I needed in order to make friends. When you have a friend, they will offer to go places with you. Like I said, I was pushed to the limit with Mike and it made it very difficult to learn social skills because I was too overwhelmed.  The person they recommended for me was named Darren. Darren is a more low key, and laid back kind of person, sort of like how Aaron was. Instead of sitting around at home talking about feelings, weaknesses and all of the other negative things about me, we go out in the real world and practice social skills. I am still trying to get used to him, but I’m doing it a lot better than I did when I was with Mike. I’ve said before that therapy is supposed to be an enjoyable experience, and something that helps you. I however am glad that I have the people in my life to teach me social skills that I need to know, without them I wouldn’t have the confidence to reach out to people like Aaron. Darren actually did get a chance to meet Aaron, and I was glad about that. He mentioned to me that Aaron made a compliment about how he enjoys reading my emails, and how I put a lot of thought into writing them. I am hopeful that Aaron and I will be able to get together throughout the year, and I am hopeful that he will reach out to other people that may need help, whatever problem the person may be having. I myself am going to try that when I go to Lenape Vo Tech. I am not going to let my Aspergers Syndrome prevent me from being the person I want to be in life, which is the kind of person I was when I went to Freeport. I am going to forget about those people that tried to bring me down and make fun of me. It makes no use to worry about a bully who is insecure about themselves, whatever the reason may be. I hope that people will use that the next time they feel down about themselves.