Home > In Their Own Words > In Their Own Words – Letter to My Younger Self

In Their Own Words – Letter to My Younger Self

I once received an e-mail from a woman, a reader of my blog, wanting to know what sort of advice I could give to her nine-year-old daughter recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. She gave me a very thoughtful suggestion, which was to write a blog entry in the form of a letter to my younger self, which could then also serve as advice for current parents of children with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

I was not diagnosed until age 10, but I remember very clearly the loneliness, confusion, and frustration that came to define my life at that time. I remember how I had no one to turn to back then, no one who could tell me that everything was going to be okay. A simple truth of pre-teenhood and adolescence is that we never believe adults or anyone who tells us that everything is going to be all right. This is not due of a lack of trust or innate cynicism – after all, it takes at least a few years to build up to that – but because when we are going through all of this, it’s just impossible to think that anyone could understand.

Now, as a young woman in my 20s, I am someone who does understand. I know that I can’t save that girl, the younger me of long ago, but there are many things I would want to say to myself if I had the chance. By doing that, perhaps I can help a girl not unlike my younger self; a girl who, right now, feels she has no one to turn to and feels very alone in the world. It is for this reason – for that girl, her parents, peers, educators and clinicians who can all use a better understanding of what it’s really like inside, that I have written a Letter to My Younger Self.

Dear Amy,

I know you’re feeling pretty bad right now. The other kids make fun of you a lot, and you don’t know why. You’re trying really hard to be friends with them – doing all of the things you think they want you to do, and it’s just not working. But there is one thing you should know: It’s not your fault. Other people might say that, and you won’t be able to listen to them; but I am hoping that you will if it’s coming from me. It’s not your fault. Say it over and over in your head when you feel the worst, because that’s when you’ll need it most.

It’s not your fault. How can it not be your fault? you’ll say to yourself as the next few years go by. Everyone else can do this, can make friends, and be normal. Why can’t you? That’s just one of the many questions I know you have, questions you don’t know how or are afraid to ask. They make you feel overwhelmed, like sitting in Mrs. St. Pierre’s classroom every day, fidgeting nervously in your seat. You always get up during class to sharpen your pencil, and I know it’s because you enjoy the smell when they’re freshly-sharpened – it calms you down. So don’t feel bad if the other kids snicker or laugh when you smell your pencil. They just don’t understand.

You care a lot about what the other kids think of you. I know you hate going to Pool every week because you have to change in the locker room, and the girls make fun of your feet. This will cause you not to feel comfortable wearing flip-flops for many years, and you won’t be okay with wearing them again until you’re much older. It’ll be like that with a lot of things people say to you in school – their exact words will fade from memory, but the effects they have on you will last a long time. But don’t worry – one day you’re going to make friends with someone who really loves your feet and will call your little toe, the one that didn’t grow in right, your “Lucky Toe.”

That’s something you feel like you could use a lot of right now – luck. You keep hoping things will get better, but they never do. I have some good news, though; you won’t lose that hope. No matter what happens, you’ll still be optimistic – foolishly, maybe, but when you’re older, people will tell you how wonderful it is that you are that way.

But I have to be honest with you: things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. You’ll be in junior high school soon, and you don’t know it, but seventh and eighth grades will be two of the worst years of your life. Once again: it’s not your fault.

You like to look at things outside the window – the trees and blue sky make you feel calm. One day you will be in study hall, and you’ll go right up to the window and stick your head out of it. That’s when someone will tell you to jump. Other voices will join in, and even after the teacher finally tells everyone to be quiet and calms things down, you’ll hear them in your head for a long time to come. Every day, someone will make you feel less. Not human. Unwanted. And you’ll keep your head down and take it, because no one’s going to tell you anything different.

But I will. You’re not less, Amy. You’re more. More because you have to work twice as hard as everyone else to make your voice heard. You don’t know how to fight right now, except for when you lash out after not being able to handle the pain anymore, and then it’s you who gets into trouble, rather than your tormentors. They know how not to be seen, to avoid detection. You don’t. Even as an adult, you won’t quite fully master the art of subtlety, but right now, you’re bared to the world. Completely vulnerable. And your classmates are taking full advantage of that fact. They know how to hurt you in the worst ways, so they can get their jollies from your reactions. You can’t understand what they’re doing, and you just play straight into their hands, every time. Once more: It’s not your fault.

These days, your classmates call you names – ugly, freak, psycho, loser. Retard. They call you these things because they don’t know you, don’t care to and/or don’t want to. You’re trying so hard to force yourself into their world, with little to no success. But you will have friends one day, Amy. Better still, you won’t have to fight for their friendship – they will come to you. I know how unbelievable that seems, especially since you feel like no one wants to be around you at all, not even your parents. But you are loved, even if you don’t realize it. You just have to learn how to love yourself.

There are some things that you are good at, Amy. Like writing. You just started writing some poems, and were happy when you saw them published in the local paper (your mom and dad sent them in for you, just in case you were wondering how that happened). I have three words of advice for you: Keep doing it. Right now, you write because it’s an escape from the world around you, and you don’t care about being “good” at it. You’ll get a bit of a competitive streak in eighth grade – when you’ll come in second place in the Charles Dickens poetry contest, and will be angry at yourself for not winning – but writing will become an important part of your life after that. In fact, one day you won’t just be writing for yourself – you’ll be writing to help other people. And your writing will help people, even when you don’t realize it. So you’ve got to keep at it.

It’s hard to think that you’re good at anything when people are constantly telling you that everything you do and are is wrong. In middle and high school, your fellow classmates will tell you to your face to kill yourself, and that no one wants you around, or would care if you were gone. Don’t listen to them. I know it’s difficult, and their words will go right into you, but they aren’t worth it. You are a good person, a person worth having around, and you’d make so many people sad if you were gone.

The world is going to need you when you grow up, Amy, so you have to get there. You have to make it through these dark days, because you’re going to make a difference in the future. Someday, people will want to hear what you have to say, and you won’t believe it, at first. But it will be meaningful, and wonderful. You’re going to have to take a lot of crap and go through a lot of pain to get there, but I promise you, it will be worth it.

My time with you is now growing short, young Amy. I hope that some of the things I’ve said have brought you comfort, or at least given you assurance that there is, indeed, light at the end of this tunnel. In short: things will get better. A lot of people will say that to you, and you’ll think that they’re crazy or just trying to make you feel better, but it’s really, honestly, true. You’re an incredibly special, talented girl, and right now you’re toiling in obscurity (as so many great artists do), but someday the world is going to see how amazing you are, and all you’ll think is, “Where were you people when I was younger?”

The future seems far away, almost impossible to think about, but don’t be afraid to think about it. You’re not even sure if you’re going to have one, but you will. You will. And I will say to you now three words that you don’t hear very often (even when your mother says them to you). Three words that you’ll be desperate to hear when you get older, especially from an aesthetically gifted member of the opposite sex, but that seem very off in the distance right now: I love you. I love you, my younger, high-strung, spastic, uniquely wonderful self. And I’ll be here waiting for you. See you in fifteen years!

Love and Many, Many Hugs,

Your 26-year-old Self

This “In Their Own Words” essay is written by Amy Gravino of Montclair, N.J. Amy is a certified college coach for individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, and is also diagnosed as having ASD. She is a member of the Self-Advocate Advisory Board for the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation. Amy is currently working to complete her Masters degree in Applied Behavior Analysis at Caldwell College, where she is doing her thesis study on teaching adults with Asperger’s Syndrome to ask someone out on a date. Amy has been speaking at autism conferences across the country since age 14, as well as at professional development workshops, support group meetings, and school assemblies. She is presently authoring, “The Naughty Autie,” a dating and sexuality book for young adults and adults on the autism spectrum.  Articles Amy has written have appeared in numerous publications, including Autism Spectrum Quarterly, the Autism Asperger Publishing Company newsletter, the Daniel Jordan Fiddle Foundation annual newsletter, and more. She was also an interview subject in the documentaries “Normal People Scare Me” and “ARTS,” and will be featured in the upcoming documentary, “Desire.” Amy is currently offering private services as an Asperger’s Syndrome college coach and hopes to work on a college or university campus helping students with AS to thrive and succeed both academically and socially in a higher education setting. In addition to her advocacy work, writing, and public speaking, Amy is an avid cooking enthusiast and self-proclaimed gourmand.

If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

  1. April 16, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Is it possible to contact Amy Gravino? I have a 17 year old son with this condition and I need some help.

    • Chrissy Konczeski
      April 16, 2010 at 4:14 pm

      I have the same question as Ina. My son is going to be 17 this summer and it has been a horrible 4 months. I think the pushing and directing they do to the Juniors is overwhelming him and strengthening fears of the future.
      Girls and Boys have different challenges in High School, but I could really use some advice!

  2. Faith McGinnis
    April 16, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Not only is this an excellent piece for an asd but also for any teen! I was moved by this writing and can identify as I too have aspergers. Thank you for sharing this!

  3. deborah kramer
    April 16, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I just read your letter and was quite moved by it. Amy, you have such a wonderful gift for words. My soon to be 13 year old son has Aspergers and is now a 7th grader struggling with many of the same issues as you did in your middle school years. He desperately wants to have friends but is unable to make or sustain a friendship. I know it makes him quite sad and as his mother, am so very concerned for his already fragile ego.
    I will have him read your letter and hopefully he will realize that he is not alone; that in time things will get better. Like you, my son is an artist; yours is writing, his is playing the violin. My son loves music, especially sheet music which he reads like most do a novel. I imagine it calms him down. I love him as he is. My hope and prayer is that someday he learns to love and accept himself as a special talented person who is not only bright and gifted but also so much fun to be around and has so much to offer.
    Thank you for your encouragement.

  4. April 16, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I don’t have autism (though maybe some traits, and the genes, b/c my 13 year-old son is ASD), but I could identify with much of this letter for myself. Jr. High was generally the most miserable place/time in the world for me. I was/am a writer too, and you’ve encouraged ME to keep writing. I will show this to my son, as well, though I don’t think his life is quite so miserable because we homeschool him. Still, he will likely identify with some of this. Thanks!!!

  5. marianne
    April 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    WHAT A BEAUTIFUL LETTER! mY DAUGHTER IS 17 WITH ASPERGERS. wHEN SHE GETS A BIT MORE MATURE i CAN LET HER READ THE LETTER. sHE DOESNT KNOW WHAT ASPERGER SYNDROME IS. i DONT KNOW IF SHES AWARE THAT SHE’S DIFFERENT. Do i really need to let her know that she has a syndrome or should i let her figure it out on her own? She knows she’s Bipolar. She learns alot from her friends in school. Please help.

    • Tonya
      April 16, 2010 at 3:02 pm

      marianne, I have a son who is 16 and just felt compelled to comment on your post. Yes you should let your daughter know. We struggled with telling our son (he was diagnosed at 7)however, it has given him the ability to understand why things are so hard for him and helped him in many many ways. If you would like to contact me please feel free

      • marianne
        April 16, 2010 at 6:34 pm

        Hi! Thank you for your wisdom. I’m still afraid to tell her. Afraid that I’m going to hurt her feelings. How do i tell her? She’s still so innocent and naive but she does know she is Bipolar. It didnt seem hard telling her because she knows that my mom,brother and myself are Bipolar. I’m from Putnam county NY. Please tell your son thanks sooooooo much!!!! Is there anything else i need to know about my daughter Janine?

      • cadence
        April 17, 2010 at 1:37 am

        I too told my son last year when he was six and I’m glad. I want him to love who he is and understand himself, I didn’t have the understanding or support growing up so I’m going do everything possible to make him proud of himself!

      • Karleigh
        April 18, 2010 at 9:41 pm

        My son was diagnosed at 15 and I told him as soon as we found out.I felt that he had a right to know. I’m glad I did because he told me that he’d always known that he was different but didn’t know why. Once he found out, he started reading about it and now he knows why he does what he does and can deal with it. Counseling has helped tremendously.

        Although he participates in many activities in and out of school, he still doesn’t have many friends which makes me really sad sometimes. Hopefully this will change for him as he gets a little older.

    • Tonya
      April 20, 2010 at 6:01 am

      Hurting her feelings is not something you should worry about. She will suffer far greater not knowing and the hurt feelings will seem minimal in comparison to what she is/will endure.
      Her knowing what is innately part of who she is cannot hurt her but only help her navigate her way through the world, where everyone expects certain behaviors,and things from her.
      I hope you find the courage to tell her and again feel free to contact me anytime.

  6. Nancy Kenny
    April 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    This is so true, my son now 21 years went through the same thing. Still very much alone. Friends don’t seem to happen.

  7. Victoria
    April 16, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    This is the first time that I have read your blog. I am truly blessed by your words. I am a mother of a 7 year old son with Asperger’s Syndrome. Your blog brought to reality all of the deep fears I have for him. Teasing, bullying, not having friends, that deep ache and hurt in his heart, shame and blame may very well be part of his life. I wish with everything I am that I could make that all go away and he would not have to deal with any of this, but I know I can’t. I also know that my words will not be as powerful as his classmates during this time. It won’t be until he is older that he will be able to reflect back on our discussions.
    Thank you for the hope that you give with your story. Even with all the torment you went through you are alive and fighting. Not only that but you are helping others. Thank you for sharing with us.

  8. Julie DePaolo
    April 16, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Thank you for writing this Amy! I have an almost 10yr old son who struggles everyday for acceptance with his peers. He is teased/bullied on a daily basis in subtle ways and then when he can nolonger hold back, he gets into trouble and the kids who set him off are seldom (if ever) held responsible. It breakes my heart that any child should go through this. Thanks to your letter I know he’s not alone. I would urge you to send copies of your letter to educators every where. Perhaps your insight will open the eyes and hearts of our children’s teachers.

  9. katherine k
    April 16, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    you are wonderful…wow!!

  10. Dianne Krol
    April 16, 2010 at 3:09 pm


    I was moved by your essay. I have a 7 year old with ASD and have touched on all the things I am afraid will happen to him. Just knowing that you can communicate your feelings (very well) is a glimmer of hope for my son. I don’t know if he knows he is different yet, but I will keep encouraging him and showing him how special he really is. Thank you for writing this!

    • Karen Ricci
      April 16, 2010 at 6:58 pm

      Start teaching your son RIGHT NOW to learn to appreciate his differences! God has made each one of us in our own unique way, that should be embraced not fought against! I lived a childhood quite similar to that of Amy. I also had a daughter who had Autism, She has since gone on to be with the Lord due to a tragic accident 4 1/2 yrs ago. One thing Lydia taught me was that God makes each of us in our own way because He has given each of us a unique calling! Lydia made a hugh impact in her short 6 1/2 yrs here on earth!! She had a lot more friends than I thought she did! While their friendships aren’t necessarily the same as those of other children, they are very special people!! I love these children more than anything in this world!! The best advice that I can give you not only as a parent, but also as someone who has live that life, is DON’T put your son in a AS box so to speak! Let him try his hand at anything he wants to try, if he doesn’t succeed pick him up, brush him off and say lets try again/ or lets try something else! Whatever he wants to try his hand at. My own mother says her biggest mistake with me was that she tried to hard to protect me from failure, and as a result I never learned how to deal with adversity in a healthy way. I also grew up thinking that the world would treat me special just like my mom did. Boy what a rude awakening that was!! When I finally realized that real world was much harder than the shelter in which I had grown up! I decided when I found out my daughter had epilepsy/autism that I would try to give her the most typical childhood that I could. I put her in a Brownie Troop at her school w/ typical peers while at the same time having her in Challenger Baseball through Little League. She really enjoyed these things and they really seemed to help her in the area of her social skills. Keep up the good work Dianne and never quit believing in your son!! I hope this has been helpful to you and that I didn’t come across the wrong way! I often worry about that! From one “Spectrum Parent” to another…God bless you and your son and may you always see the beauty in the wonderful person God has made your son to be!!
      God Bless! Sincerely,
      Karen Ricci

      • April 24, 2010 at 4:28 am

        Karen and Daanne
        I am so moved by your letter and response. I cannot imagine losing one of my children. My autistic daughter and son are the world to me. We adopted 5 years ago and you are right, let them do whatever they want to do. live life to its fullest. We are only here for a short time. Your children are both blessed to have parents who care enough to research and never give up. I know as a spectrum parent to another life can be so challenging and frustrating for everyone. The blessing is to us having these children in our life. You make yoru dreams come true and your child will follow. Make a difference in your life and that makes one in theirs. GOD Bless you both. I am working on a support group in the San Diego area for special children like ours. I have worked with so many different children on spectrums like our children have and I feel so blessed to have given to them. They put a smile on my face. I also have 3 autistic grandchildren who are blessed to have parents like you who care so much. Education and advocating for these children are what we need to do. I spend my summers and free time taking children like ours out in the world to experiance life as it should be and to give them a dream come true. I hope that I have not been to forward. Never give up is what we must say.

  11. Michelle C.
    April 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    I am a middle school teacher of some students living with Autism and some with Aspergers. I see them struggle everyday with peers and general questions of their differences. I appreciate your straighforwardness and insight to being a middle school student. Your letter has given me more of an idea of what my students go through internally. It’s important for teachers to educate the entire class on character education and (dis)ABILITIES! Life is precious no matter who you are, because we all have so much to give to this world… we just need to find our talents and strengths and NEVER GIVE UP!!!
    Thank you for a wonderful letter to yourself and all people who have ever felt less!

  12. April 16, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I’m sitting here with tears and a breath that is stuck in my throat. My Daughter age 11 has aspergers and I see her struggle everyday with her classmates. She comes home and tells me how they call her weird. It breaks my heart to see such pain.

    She goes to middle school next year and I see nothing but problems coming up. There is not much understanding in our small town for autism and aspergers, in fact they just fired most of the special ed teachers due to budget constraints, but kept the coaches…. kind of tells me where their hearts lie.

    I am going today to check the BOCES program, because I want her to go to school and be happy, not to feel weird and out of place. She knows she is different, is told it many times a day… my heart breaks thinking of how many other children are feeling the same pain….

    • Becky
      April 16, 2010 at 6:19 pm

      Robin, I am with you–tears wetting everything.
      Amy, is there any way to copy this and edit it for a boy? My son is 11 (this week)with moderate autism. So far he hasn’t had much bullying that I know of because I am in the school and talking with teachers, language pathologist, and principal all the time. He has a wonderful group of educators who watch for this. However, I know that as he progresses in school there will be a new group of teachers and his “peers” will be maturing ‘normally’ and probably leave him behind. He’s already voicing shame at still loving and playing with his Thomas trains, even though we tell him that’s just fine. His friends say they are for babies, and here we go!
      Your letter gave such wonderful insights to “those voices” us “normals” hear too but ignore during puberty and jr high, turning them on to people who can’t defend themselves with taunting. I’m afraid though that Matthew would read your story and say it’s for a girl, not him. So if it is ok, I would like to replace the female parts with male ones in your letter and make it for him. Thank you for thinking about those younger than you and for all your advocating on their behalf.

      • Amy Gravino
        April 19, 2010 at 6:40 am

        Absolutely, Becky! I had written the letter originally for younger girls diagnosed with AS, but of course I want to be able to reach anyone who might benefit from it. Feel free to change the female pronouns and such to male for your son (though you can also remind him that even though it is written for a girl, it can really apply to anyone!). Thanks for commenting. :)

  13. Jessica
    April 16, 2010 at 3:33 pm

    This is very eye-opening. My daughter was diagnosed at 10, last year. We are going through the school issues right as we speak. Kids are making fun of her, so much so that I’ve been up at the school soo many times I can’t count. This letter is soooo similar to my daughters current life, it’s scary. She’s been pushed to the point of wanting to harm herself. As a parent, you should never have to hear your child utter those words. You just want to make things better, and no matter how many times you tell her it’s not important what the other kids say or do..it doesn’t matter if we move, go to a different school, there’s always going to be kids that act that way. I’m going print this out, and let her keep this in her bag, so that when she feels like she’s loosing control, pull this letter out and read it. Maybe she will then understand, or hear…the words of reason. Thank you so very much for sharing this letter of yours..

  14. Rhonda E
    April 16, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    I agree with Julie D, you should send this to teachers. Her letter could have been written by me. I have a 9 yr old son with AS who struggles daily with bullying and wanting so desperately to have friends. You have brought me somehope and inspiration, Thank you.

  15. April 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Wow ! That is a wonderful letter Amy. I agree that it would be great for kids on the spectrum as well as others. I think Jr. High / High School years are hard for all kids, but especially for those with Autism or Asperger’s because of the social problems. My son has Autism and is non-verbal and it breaks my heart when other kids laugh and tease him. Thanks for sharing this beautiful letter to your younger self 1

  16. Val
    April 16, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this! I am in tears as I write this because this is our daily life. My son is 13 with an ASD and 7th grade is kicking his rear. I usually drive and chaperone any and all field trips for school, but recently, I declined and told the teacher he/we wouldn’t be going because of the way the other kids treated him in our own car. They weren’t outright mean, but when he tries to enter the conversation or be part of the group you could hear crickets. They ignored him or just smiled and moved on and it broke my heart every time. I consider the car an extension of the home and somewhere where he can be free from ridicule and be himself, so he’s not going sailing, but hopefully he’ll be happy for the day.

  17. Sarah
    April 16, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Dear Amy,

    Your letter to yourself will prove to be more useful than you know. Your continued dedication through writing in educating parents/teachers and those diagnosed, will help to bring more acceptance and understanding to the community of people who are on the spectrum and for those who love someone on the spectrum.

    My son, Tyler, who was just diagnosed with PDDNOS is a wonderful little boy who yes, has challenges, and yes, is a bit “quirky,” but he has so many wonderful gifts. I often worry about his future and how other children will respond to him/treat him/etc…however, when thoughtful people like yourself write things like your “letter” it only helps to eventually make things easier for those younger than you, like Tyler, my beautiful son.

    You are a trailblazer.
    Thank you and God bless.
    Sarah Schwarz

  18. LeeAnn Winebrenner
    April 16, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    My 6 yr. old son has asperger’s, and my mom swears I have it too. If I would have had something like that to look at when I was a teenager, maybe I wouldn’t have felt so alone in my own world. My son has a better chance than I did though. I caught on to the ASD when he was 2 and have been trying to figure out different ways to help him myself. Every dr. I have taken him to (especially the DAN-Defeat Autism Now-Dr.) wanted to put him in a program where they just throw pills at the autistic children to see which one “fixes it”… I have kept him away from most doctors for this very reason and worked with him dilligetnly for 4 yrs. and still counting. He would likely benefit from something like this letter. He has a lot of stresses for a 6 yr. old, but he takes it all in stride. It will eventually be more frustrating than he can handle, but this type of moral support is just what he needs.

    • Julia Colson
      April 20, 2010 at 4:46 pm

      LeeAnn, my older sister has Asperger’s Sydrome as well. It took my family along time to diagnose her correctly because the people we went to diagnosed her with ADHD and put her on Ridalin which is a very harmful medicine and it nearly killed her. We finally got some help from an institute called Menegers. Its a clinic geared towards specifically treating those with mental disabilities like Asperger’s ADHD Autism and other mental disabilities. The people there are wonderful. They not only show the individuals with the disability how to cope with it and the struggles they face but they also teach the families how to cope with it. They helped her so much and she’s a different person because of it. She still struggles a little bit with everything and will continue to struggle with it a little but she’s a lot better than what she was. I strongly urge you to check into Menegers. It may be under a different name now but if there’s a branch of it anywhere near you I would recommend for you to at least check into it. It can’t hurt. I hope this helps. I understand what you’re going through cause I’ve been going through the same thing with my sister for a long time. Its tough but you’ve just got to stand by him and let him know that there is someone who loves him and cares about him. He’s not alone nor will he ever be alone. Good Luck and I hope things get better. You already have one thing on your side, you were able to diagnose him at a young age so with the correct medicine and help he should be able to lead a normal life and cope with it successfully. Again good luck, I wish you all the best.


      Julia Colson

  19. Laura
    April 16, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    Thank you Amy for your honesty. I have an 8 year old with Autism and life is hard every day. But I will always be there for him and continue to raise awareness at the schools he attends and the community in which we live.

  20. TB
    April 16, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Wow, my son was diagnosed at age 11 with Asperger’s, I wish there had been someone to say these things to him then. This was awesome to read and, heartbreakingly, right on target.
    He is 20 now and an awesome person. Too bad those junior and high school years were pure hell for him becuase of cruel peers, and yes, ignorant teachers who refused to accept and help even when they found out what the issues were.

  21. Karen Ricci
    April 16, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Amy, I am a 45 yr old woman who has never been diagnosed w/Aspergers but I had a daughter who was Autistic. While learning about Autism/AS I often have felt that there is a distinct possibility that I may be AS!! I was just recently diagnosed w/ADHD which I understand is often a mis-diagnosis for AS. After reading your letter to your younger self, it was as though you were reading from my childhood memories!! It was frightening how much alike our stories are! I am currently pursuing a degree in special education, when Iam done w/ my BS I want to get my Masters Degree in Autism. I found your words of encouragement to be very uplifting and I wish you could be my coach! I still have trouble in certain areas socially, but like you said, I do have friends who like me, for the most part, for who I am.
    Are you going to be in the Louisville, Kentucky/Southern Indiana area anytime soon? I would really like to meet you and to get to talk to you! Keep up the awesome work of helping others to believe in themselves!! I hope to hear from you! Many Blessings to You Amy!!! Karen Ricci

  22. Jennifer Wilson
    April 16, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    It touched my heart. My son was diagnosed at 2yrs old (now 6 1/2) with golbal delay, PDD. It has been a strugle for him and us to get and give him the help that he needs. Even with all his (dis)Abilities we would not have it anyother way. He is a blessing in our lives. Thank you for giving a voice to children and adults with Autism, ADS, PPD and others a like. Bless you.

  23. Joe
    April 16, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Thanks Amy. I have a 5yr old grandson with Autism and I know he works hard every day just to do stuff that his younger brother does without effort. Thanks to a lot of good therapy and a loving family he has made a lot of progress but he is starting to feel the stress of being different and we will need to remind him often that this is not his fault.

  24. Elaine
    April 16, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    This is heart-wrenching. I can’t stop crying. I hear this stuff everyday from my son. Everyone should have to read this…ESPECIALLY the parents of the “normal” (yet cruel) kids. My son tells me stories from school, and cries. I hold him and cry with him and tell him I love him more than anything, and to ignore the mean people. Thank you Amy for writing it. I wish I could shout it out to the world so everyone could undestand.

  25. Donna
    April 16, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    I am so moved by this letter. My daughter is 13, in middle school, and this is exactly what she is going through. I can’t wait to share this letter with her! Perhaps it will give her the hope that I don’t appear to be able to provide right now. You are a Godsend, Amy. Please keep communicating with our kids…they will listen to you better than to us right now. You are an inspiration.

  26. Adria
    April 16, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Thank your for sharing your story with all of us. We cannot even imagine what you went through and the issues you continue to struggle with. My son, Diego, was diagnosed with ASD almost two years ago. My heart broke at that point. I remembered all the struggles I went through-and I was neurotypical! I thought, for the briefest moment, that my son was forever changed. What I learned was that its not him that has changed-it was me. I was so sorry I even let the thoughts arise that I cried for days. Even now, its hard to imagine what my beautiful, loving and sweet little boy will face. Thank you for being you. Thank you for having the courage to be a voice for the voiceless. Thank you for your honesty and beautiful words. Thank God you are exactly who you are.

  27. Pam Seda
    April 16, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Powerful, riveting, truthfullness

    My son also endured the types of struggles you so eloquently outline in your letter, he is a bright articulate young man who has faced numerous challenges in his life and has struggled to make friends and “fit in.” As a parent I cannot begin to imagine what he must feel so I want to thank you for your truth it gives me insight into his world.

    Thank you

  28. Dr. Patricia Harf
    April 16, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    I am a specialist in autism and the autism spectrum. I work with parents in helping them help their child. These are the kinds of problems I hear and see in my clinic. My advice is to see if you can’t start a support group for parents of autisic children. The parents need help just if not more as the child. Kids are cruel. It is so hard to be different. Go to the website Autism speaks and look for local groups and they can help with establishing contacts with other parents. Don’t wait the soon you get help the soon you will be of help.

  29. April 16, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Thanks for your courage to share the blessing that you are with the world. I am touched by your letter. I discovered my life purpose last year after teaching a yoga class to families with children on the autism spectrum…I witnessed miracles happen in that 45 minutes and knew that this was what I was meant to do. Shortly after that I created The Infinite U, LLC to provide yoga and a body, mind, and spirit approach for kids with autism and their families. Your letter is such validation for me about just how important this safe space where they are free to be and express themselves, to rejoice in who they are, and to be celebrated is. I see the beautiful shining light in each child that I work with and help them to see it too. Your letter reminds me how important it is that I am doing this work-even without having asperger’s myself, I am extraordinarily hard on myself and am so quick to say “I’m not doing enough or I’m doing it wrong.” Thank you for helping me to see that I am having a far greater impact than I realize.
    You are such a blessing. With gratitude,
    Nicole Calvano

  30. Sharon
    April 16, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Thank you, Amy. I work with children who have ASD and Asperger’s. This heartfelt revelation has given me insight into the feelings of those with whom I work. I hope to share this.

  31. Jennifer P.
    April 16, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Amy, what you wrote rings true of my younger existence as a girl with Aspergers Syndrome. I will share this with my son, who is also is identified as having it. Keep doing what you are doing!

  32. Kate P
    April 17, 2010 at 1:24 am

    Dear Amy,

    Your letter was really touching and I am hoping that my 16-year old daughter will read it. She has Asperger’s and ADHD which causes all of the social struggles that others are relating to. She has such a problem articulating her feelings and is very hesitant to share them with anyone. Her private pain makes it even more difficult for those that care about her. We are not walking in her shoes but would like to comfort and guide her if she was only willing. While my heart is breaking for what she is going through I have to tell you how much I appreciate your insight into what her life must be like. You renew my hope on a day I was feeling rather hopeless. Thank you, thank you!

  33. Amy Gravino
    April 17, 2010 at 1:29 am

    Hi, everyone! Amy speaking. I just wanted to thank you all so much for your incredibly kind words–I was utterly struck speechless as I read your comments and even began tearing up! I’m so happy that my Letter was able to help so many of you. I would just like to say that I have read this at the start of several of my public speaking appearances and it always goes over like gangbusters (I managed to wow the toughest crowd of all–6th and 8th graders!).

    If you are interested in having me come speak at your school, either to your students or faculty, or at your support group meeting or organization, I am more than happy to do so. Due to my current graduate school obligations, I can’t really travel out of the tri-state area, but I may be able to make an exception depending on the situation. You can feel free to contact me directly via e-mail (AGrav3230@aol.com), or via my business manager, Nicole Turon-Diaz, at learningbydesign@verizon.net. Thanks again! :)

  34. Susanne Hansen
    April 17, 2010 at 3:32 am

    Thank you Amy for sharing this letter and by that sharing your story. My son is 13 with Asperger’s. He was diagnosed when he was 10. He too stuggles with other kids picking on him, but because they know how to go undetected it is he who gets in trouble when he lashes out because he can’t take it anymore. My son has come home from school and had complete meltdowns, cry uncontrolably saying he wanted to “do suicide” as he calls it. Other kids and even teachers have upset him to the point that he has carved in his arm with his pencil. We have had so many meetings at the school I can’t even count. Many teachers treat him as if he IS the problem rather than that he HAS a problem. I even do my own research on-line and bring information to school to try to get them to understand and to help them to find things that work for my son. They don’t respond very possitivily. At one point this school year (7th grade) he was failing everyone of his classes but no one called, e-mailed, or even sent a note home. But when his behavior is the issue they call my cell, my work, leave messages on my answer machine at home, send referrals home etc. What is wrong with this picture? It is so frustrating for me that sometimes I just want to sit and cry or scream. I can’t even imagine what my son feels inside because he doesn’t express himself very often until “the dam breaks” so to speak. Why do educators make it so difficult? They treat him and me as if he is just undisciplined and that he is socially inappropriate on purpose. I wish they could spend just one day in the shoes of a child with Aspergers. Please keep spreading the word and educating people what it’s like to have Aspergers. I am currently getting my BA in psychology and hope to work in advocacy for children like my son. Thanks again! -Susanne

  35. Kristann
    April 17, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    As the older sister of a 24 year old brother with Aspergers & a 4 year niece with autism, I have been exposed to the type of cruelty my brother would experience growing up. I was always the revenge seeker. The anger it gave me made me see red and I spent many years chasing mean kids around the neighborhood or making threatening phone calls to kids who would hurt my brother. Its so hard to understand why someone would hurt someone who is defensless and CLEARLY not seeking negativity but people are brought up in households where parents laugh at the use of the word “retard” on tv and likely use it themselves around their families.
    Teach your children sensitivity now or else it will hurt them in life later. There will always be someone to protect the person you are making fun of….

  36. melodie
    April 18, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    I have a 12 yr old son with aspergers. He gets bullyied at school because people dont understand. This includes staff. I wish people would just learn about this disorder. Out of all the people who deal with my son on a daily basis only one person has taken his own time to learn about why he is the way he is. The school police chief. He has had way to many calls to come and deal with my son. Sometimes things as dumb as he has left the class and wont return. When he found out that he has asperger he took his own free time to learn all he could. He has told me that he has stacks of papers he printed off at his home about aspergers. That to me is a man who is going above and beyond to show that he cares. There are thousands of kids in our school and he used his time to learn about one. I am grateful. Now when he sees my son he knows how to talk to him and deal with any situation that is about. I just wish more people would take the time to learn then the kids and adults out there with aspergers wouldnt feel alone or like they are freaks.

  37. Jennifer Faircloth
    April 19, 2010 at 12:29 am

    Enjoyed this story, thankyou for sharing and helping others!!!

  38. April 20, 2010 at 12:08 am

    My heart aches for the children. They allow the world to determine what is right and normal. I wish the schools would teach of all of the many leaders, scientists, artistic geniuses, and historical figures who were autistic/asperger. Teach the children to hold their head high, and others the value of people who may look at the world differently.

  39. April 20, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    Thank you Craig Reynolds.
    And to Deborah just now: You are so right! And I would add: The world needs so much from people like our sons and daughters to look at the whole world differently! And to act on it, too!

  40. Kelly Anthony
    April 21, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Thank you Amy! My daughter is 11 and has Aspergers. She is going through similar things you have described in your letter to yourself. I plan to have her read it. I have sent a link to your letter to her therapist and some others close to me. I plan to post a link to it on my facebook too. :) Understanding as much about how the person with Aspergers sees the world and why they need what they need is so vital to knowing how to receive them and interact with them. Thanks again!!!

  41. Natalie
    April 28, 2010 at 1:47 am

    Thank you for the great story. Good idea..writing a letter to your younger self. I don’t have Aspergers but have always been very, very shy. Maybe that is why I can sympathize with others who have difficulties, or disabilties. But thanks for the letter.

  42. Deborah Jennings
    June 2, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    Amy, I am originally from Montclair New Jersey, currently living in Virginia. My youngest son, born in New Jersey, has Asperger’s. Your story is wonderful and I have passed it on to him. Currently he is 19 years old, will be 20 in September, in his 3rd year at the local university majoring in Accounting (on the Dean’s list), and struggling with the social skills. Can you help with social network sites for someone his age? Any and all help is appreciated. Thanks

  43. Karen Ricci
    June 4, 2010 at 11:59 am

    You said you can’t travel out of the tri-state area…I don’t know which three states you are refering to. LOL
    I would be interestedin hearing youspeak some time!!
    Blessings To You!!!
    Karen Ricci

    • Amy
      June 4, 2010 at 1:46 pm

      Hi Karen,

      My apologies! By the “tri-state area” I was referring to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut (though I’ll also add Pennsylvania in there). I’m currently based in New Jersey where I am in graduate school working on my Masters thesis. If you are interested in hearing me speak, please feel free to contact me privately at AGrav230@aol.com or contact my business manager, Nicole Turon-Diaz, at learningbydesign@verizon.net. Thank you!


    • Amy
      June 4, 2010 at 2:01 pm

      CORRECTION: My email address is incorrect in the comment I left. It should be AGrav3230@aol.com.

  1. April 17, 2010 at 12:13 am

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