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The Truth About Me

January 5, 2012 24 comments

This post is by Ryan Lord.

“To dream anything that you want to dream. That’s the beauty of the human mind.  To do anything that you want to do.  That is the strength of the human will.  To trust yourself to test your limits.  That is the courage to succeed.” – Bernard Edmonds.   “The Truth About Me” was realized a few years ago when my parents told me what a special part of me is…autistic; specifically, Aspergers Syndrome a type of high functioning autism. Accepting change and letting go of things dear to me are daily challenges of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome.   Making friends and learning the social cues necessary to sustain friendships is the hardest part of being autistic.  Despite everything that comes with being diagnosed with autism, some of these very challenges have shaped me, and pushed me to my academic best by giving me a true sense of who I am.

When I have a dear attachment to something even if I am finished with it I can never let it go.  A few days before I wrote this essay, my mom asked me to give my old Pokemon games to my little brother, because she thought I was too old for them. Even though I stopped playing it, I still had some attachment to those games because for me when I put such hard work into something and letting it go is very difficult. Even though most people would much more easily give up their bonds, I for one do not let them go so easily. This has made me a kind and gentle person and I am able to appreciate what I have and not take it for granted.   Another example of this is when I was in elementary school I knew a little girl named Kira.  Kira and I were the best of friends. Kira was very tomboyish and I was different.  We made the perfect outsiders that found each other’s friendship.  However, one day she moved away and I was down in the dumps. I was really sad when she moved away. It was really hard to let her go, I wished I could see her again. Most six year olds, would have easily found a new friend and moved on, but for me, it was devastating.  Aspergers allows me to appreciate and care for all things in my life. Everything is precious to me, from my little brother to all my best memories of the people who helped me in my life. This makes me grateful for what God has given to me.  So even though it is sometimes hard, I find what is good about this part of me and I continue to try and understand and appreciate it.

Over the course of my life I have been passionately interested in many different subjects. Trains, airplanes, and dinosaurs, are among the many subjects which I have come to study. I have a bountiful amount of knowledge in my head that I can recall at a moment’s notice.  I perseverate on these subjects so much, that sometimes it distracts me from my school work -  much to my parents chagrin. I learned about many different types of airplanes how they were designed why they were made. I went to air shows, watched videos on them, collected books and I learned so much about them. This passion of airplanes has steered in the direction of possibly considering majoring in aerospace engineering.

Ryan and his best friend Austin

Making friends has always been the hardest part of my diagnosis. I prefer my own company and I would consider myself a very shy person. I am the type that likes to have a few close friends rather than have a whole bunch of friends. I was never really good at making friends. But I have acquired some skills that allow me to interact with people. It took a class of “Learning to Make and Keep Friends” to help me in this department.  A part of this class was to invite a new person to your home and not play any video games.  It was a homework that was hard for me and even harder because electronics is such a big part of modern day socializing.  I got the courage to ask a boy in my neighborhood for a playmate.  This class and this play date was a life changing event.  My best friend turned out to be a friend I met from a homework assignment.  As I said before, I don’t need a bunch of friends, all I need, is one good friend and his name is Austin.

The truth about me is no different from anyone else’s truth. We all have things to overcome; we all have to have the courage and will to succeed. My diagnosis makes me no different from anyone else, I choose to think, it sets me apart makes me strong. “Anyone can give up; it’s the easiest thing in the world to do.  But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.” – Ella Fitzgerald. This is a quote I believe in.  My journey has never been easy but along my way, I have looked at my gifts I have and marveled at them.  I have looked at all the things that would have surely hindered my progression but instead, they have served me very well.  My diagnosis as it turned out gave me my best friend, it provided me with honors in an early college prep program and has helped shaped the caring, passionate, gentle person I am today.  Aspergers has given me a strong sense of who I am and and incredibly strong sense of determination and self esteem.  There will always be things that I am good at; there will always be things I will never be good at.  I take those in stride and try not to miss a beat, or the boat to life, or the boat to life’s next big adventure or challenge.

Donating in honor of a friend

December 21, 2011 8 comments

Owen

This blog post is by Owen, with the help of his mom for the big words.

This past July, I started taking hockey lessons from a new coach at our hockey rink. One of the students he had skating with me was seven year old Cody Smith. Sometimes I did not understand why he would play good on some days and then have a bad day at practice (crying, leaving the ice, not listening to coach). His parents told my mom that Cody was a “special” person. He had something called Aspergers. (To a five year old it was just another big word.)  We became friends and started to do fun things together. To me he was not any different from me or any of my other friends, he had good moods and bad moods too just like we did. He played with the same kind of toys, went to normal school, and even played hockey like I did.

In October, we started planning my 6th birthday party. And even though I was excited that presents were going to be coming, I knew that there was something else better. I have all the toys I want, so I wanted to help Cody and kids that were like him. I told my mom and dad that I wanted to help raise money for Cody. I asked my friends who were invited to bring money to help Autism Speaks to the birthday party instead of presents.

A few weeks ago, I had my birthday party. Everyone had fun bouncing around, eating pizza, having cake and ice cream. Many of my first grade classmates and my hockey team attended. They brought presents for me (even though they did not have to) and also money to donate to Autism Speaks. When mom and dad finished counting all of the money, I had raised seven hundred dollars. My parents tell me they are proud of me for helping out someone else. Cody’s mom and dad told me that I was special for helping out a good cause. I just know that I was helping my friend.

Cody

Love and Autism: My Progression in Relationships

August 25, 2010 9 comments

This guest post is by Autism Speaks staffer Kerry Magro.  Kerry, an adult who has autism, is a rising senior at Seton Hall University, majoring in Sports Management. He started an Autism Speaks U Chapter: Student Disability Awareness on campus to help spread awareness and raise funds for those affected by autism. Autism Speaks U is a program designed for college students who host awareness, advocacy and fundraising events, while supporting their local autism communities.

Ohhh relationships. At the age of 22, I’ve had several relationships throughout my life. I’ve also had several breakups. When I talk to families with children on the spectrum this is usually one of the big subjects, but also one of the most sensitive. How does a child on the spectrum even go about having a relationship while many neurotypicals today, cannot? It’s a difficult road with no clear answer.

Looking back at my experiences, some of my main problems in relationships have been due to “social awkwardness.” This social awkwardness could be attributed to many factors, but for me it was always based on “small talk” and “mind blindness.” With small talk, many times (especially when I was younger) I couldn’t hold a conversation, making any type of interaction awkward in the sense of the silence and long pauses involved. The only way I would be able to keep a conversation going was to change the subject randomly to something that was of interest to me (such as basketball).  This was hard because while I did have friends who play and like basketball, for instance, it’s not something you want to hear about 24/7. How do you make strides without having the capabilities of conversation?

Confidence, as well, became an underlying issue because of these tendencies. These moments, where I wouldn’t have anything to say made people think I was a shy person who wanted to be left by myself (which was never the case). Could you imagine a scenario where you wanted to be talked to, in many cases even loved, and you just didn’t know how to acknowledge it?

Mind blindness, which is typically known as the inability to develop an awareness of what another person is thinking, made for some difficult scenarios for me. The inability to do this, to “put myself in the shoes of another,” limited my understanding of others, and made it difficult to develop anything but basic friendships/relationships. People  in today’s society are are very complex and reading them, not only by a relationship standpoint but to advance in life, whether its through school, employment, etc. is a necessary skill.

At nine, my doctor recommended against mainstreaming me in a public school because she said I would have never understand social cues and worried about me getting beat up.  Granted, I survived those days, a testament to having developed coping mechanisms, splinter skills and/or growing up. The one thing I wish though, looking back, was that I found someone who understood what it was like. Whether it was an intimate relationship or just a friendship, someone who, on the spectrum knows exactly what I’m going through. It’s not the same case as others, where maybe you relate with someone because you both came out of the same background, for example. Being on the spectrum, no one case is the same. Every case is different which means that you would always find something close but not exactly to what you are looking for. Especially on the college level, many students on the spectrum don’t go to college. This is where some of the difficulties lie for those on the spectrum who are having trouble with relationships in college. How do you approach it when you are the minority filled by a majority that may or may not be accepting of who you are?

I leave these questions up for debate but my standpoint on relationships is pretty simple. Whether you are on the spectrum or not, all relationships are hard work. Whether it is within the relationship or not, the best thing you can do for yourself is be who you are and to negate all the negative energy that may come your way. Yes, there is definitely a need to branch out and find what interests you have which can expand the pool of who you may be interested in. Ultimately, we all know the expression; there are many fish in the sea (but not quite as many if you are not looking). This is where relationships begin.

(This is one of my Autism Speaks U related blog posts. If you would like to contact me directly about questions/comments related to to this post I can be reached at kerry.magro@autismspeaks.org. Thanks everyone!)

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