Home > Family Services > Locked Inside: A View into the World of Autism

Locked Inside: A View into the World of Autism

This is a guest post by Michael Nunnelee, a 23-year-old with high functioning autism. Michael is a college student, currently working on a double major in Marketing and Management.

Imagine being locked away in a prison that you cannot see or touch. Imagine hearing people talk to you, but not truly being able to listen. Think about the daily comforts of routine you take for granted and imagine it being an obsession, think of how frightening it is to hear words like change, different, and out of order. You are on the inside looking outward at those trying to free you from this seemingly inescapable prison of the mind, and in order to break the invisible shackles and dissolve the hidden bars, you have to learn to rely on those you can’t communicate with.

My name is Michael Nunnelee, I am 23 years old, I have a certificate in audio engineering and I am currently working a double major in Marketing and Management. I have been in 2 bands and played successful concerts and booked a concert for a Seattle band in Spokane. I have been in advanced leadership roles throughout my high school career and also a camp counselor for a leadership camp. I seem to lead a somewhat normal life, but here is the catch: I was diagnosed with classic infantile autism when I was 2 years old. My mother was told by a specialist at a Children’s Hospital in Seattle that I would probably never speak much and might end up in a group home setting. My diagnosis was later changed to high functioning autism when I was about 7 years of age.

As a child I was a prisoner of my own mind. My siblings and parents would try and communicate with me and I wouldn’t be able to communicate back. I wanted to so badly say what I was feeling, doing, and wanting to do. No matter how hard I tried and how much I desired, I could not. I was not supposed to carry out a normal life. Despite those who didn’t think I could do it, I overcame my prison and broke out many years ago.

I couldn’t have done it without my wonderful siblings who did their best to work with me, my mom who never gave up on me even when all seemed lost, and my teachers. Without their guidance and knowledge of my condition and how to improvise, I would have been lost to the depths of a bitter darkness that has no name, face, or feeling. This is in no way a means to communicate a hopeless tone or to hold my own accomplishments above anyone, this is a message of hope. I managed to overcome multiple trials and tribulations because of early intervention and undiminished will.

In some instances, it is possible to help your loved ones overcome this trial. I do not look at what I went through as a curse, but rather a blessing. A blessing that taught me that perseverance, drive, and the will to never give up are virtues that will guide me through this life. Dealing with autism has prepared me for many of life’s struggles. Even though I will face many more, I will hold my head up high and not be afraid because I have overcome a great challenge and I am willing to face many more.

Remember, autism is not exactly like what you see in popular film; there are many different forms. Some of it can be debilitating, while others have symptoms that can easily go unnoticed in daily life, and many are able to live normal lives. If you have a loved one going through autism, it is never too late to help them. The best way you can do that, besides special instructors or adaptations to learning styles, is to reassure them that you love them with all of your heart and soul.  After all love is something that everybody needs regardless of physical, mental, or emotional limitations.

Family Services provides resources and information. If you have a question, contact the Autism Response Team today. If you’re concerned that your child may be affected with autism or if you’ve received a diagnosis, browse the Tools for Families section, where you’ll find our 100 Day Kit, and the Autism Video Glossary. If you’d like to do a quick search for service providers near you, select Find a Local Resource and browse the Resource Guide.

  1. Dave Beukers
    December 9, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Epic, good sir. May you find great success!

  2. Deborah Knowles
    December 9, 2010 at 4:53 pm


  3. Janet Clark
    December 9, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    I have a son who is 25 and diagnosed PDD (Pervasive Developmental Delay – On the Autistic Spectrum). I think it is wonderful that you share your experiences with others. It sounds like you have a wonderful family. You must have worked very hard to overcome many aspects of this disability. Blessings to you and your family, Janet Clark

  4. Tania Nethercote
    December 9, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Thankyou. As a Mother of a child living with Autism, I really need to know that I can make a difference.

  5. Katherine
    December 9, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Its so beautiful to read that you are so happy Micheal!! My son is 4 and has been diagnosed with Autism and this is the life I wish for him to have. I want him to be happy and content in himself. As a parent I have never wished for my son to be different, to not have autism. I see him as that’s how he is and he is special in his own way.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, it means a lot!

  6. paula
    December 9, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Thank you for sharing this with us. As a mom of a 7 year old boy with high-functioning autism (in Ireland – and he amazes us every day) your words are truely a message of hope. Thanks! And good luck with the double major

  7. kathy
    December 9, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Thank you Michael for giving me hope for my son. He is almost 4 now and is not speaking yet. As hard as we try to have hope, some days the struggles overcome us and we loose the hope. Just just reminded me never to do that again and keep on fighting.

  8. Suzanne
    December 9, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    I have a high-functioning autistic son, and have wondered what goes on inside his precious mind and how to bring out that genius I see in his brilliant baby blue eyes. This is an amazing insight, and offers hope to boot. Many blessings to Michael Nunnelee

  9. audra
    December 9, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    I am a middle aged mother with a 7 year old non verbal daughter with autism. My life has been a journey. I have a 19 year old in college. I am blessed to have the both of them. At times I get discouraged and wonder what will happen to my daughter if I were no longer to be on this earth? I am a single parent and have no support other than my parents whom are going through there own issues with health.
    I see my daughter looking out a window, where she wants to talk to me but there is no voice. I am blessed to say that she can run, jump, dance and play like any other child but has her days and she is labled as high functioning autistic. My heart aches at the fact that I can not understand her when things are wrong. She cries and pouts and I dont have the answer to why she is going through what ever it is that she is going through. I take it one day at a time, but here lately one day at a time has been rough on me. She sees me crying and I cant explain to her that mommy is crying because she wants so bad to give her a voice to communicate. I know I am not the only parent going through this but I need comfort in knowing that there is some type of way to have her communicate back to me where I can understand. She is a blessing from god and I wouldnt change things for the world.

    • December 10, 2010 at 9:00 am

      Oh Audra, I know how you feel! I feel exactly how you do!!!! It is horrible, isnt it? Please email me or facebook me!! we can chat honey!! Its so nice to hear other moms

    • ileana morales
      December 11, 2010 at 9:33 pm

      Hi Audra!,It is so good to know that I am not alone, I have a 17 year old high functioning…now,but up to the age of 11 he only said 6 words, and I spent countless nights worried about what would happen to him, when I die….now he talks non stop, and I was amazed when he told me a lot of things that happenned when he was little, when I tought he didn’t understand what I was telling him…He remembers almost everything!!!!so, when you think she doesn’t understands you…she does!!!….and you are so right, we have to take it one day at a time.Now…I have different problems, he wants a girlfriend, he gets frustrated…is very hard and is for the rest of our lives…my email is ileanamorales5@hotmail.com

    • December 14, 2010 at 11:03 pm

      Hi Audra, when I read your story about your daughter it just brings back memories. My daughter was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 2 yrs old, she was non verbal and just screamed and pointed her finger at what she wanted. She’s now 13 yrs old and talks all the time now. She started out saying 1-2 words per sentence, then 3-4 words per sentence. Now, she’s talking in a complete sentence. I would love to talk to you about your daughter and maybe I can help with some suggestions, email me at traumanewell@live.com.

  10. Josh Henson
    December 9, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    A very inspiring and encouraging message Michael, thank you.

  11. Cammy R., California
    December 10, 2010 at 3:16 am

    Thank you so much Michael for giving this mommy hope and courage with your words. I really like this, very much. So much that I’ve decided to print out and seal this blog in an envelope for my five year-old high-functioning autistic son to read before he starts college, or at least at that age even if college does not happen.

  12. Stephanie
    December 10, 2010 at 8:26 am

    This brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing.

  13. December 10, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Michael, I can’t say enough what that means to me. I have a son, Ryan 3 years old, diagnosed with Autism, ayear and a half ago. If I had one wish, it would be to be able to go inside his mind, and feel what he feels or thinks. I cant communicate with him, and it is heart wrenching. Thank you so much, I am so proud of you!<3

  14. December 10, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Thank you! I have Aspergers (not quite as sever as autism) and am 48. Autism and Aspergers weren’t truly recognized until I was long out of public education. Your opening paragraph was the best description I have ever read. The rest of what you wrote also rings so true. My family has been my anchor, life line and guiding light. Without them I don’t know where I would be today.

    I don’t know why but an explanation / definition to those around me has become a bit of an obsession. I’ve not known how to put it into words. My kids get tired of it which reminds me I’m obsessing and need to back off (lol). A as with any obsession, I have trouble doing that. So you’ve put into a quick paragraph what I’ve been trying to express for the last 35 years.

    I’m going to send this to my mom with a thank you. I’m going to keep this for myself because you’ve given me some resolution. Okay now I’m crying. A bit sappy I know but thank you!

    I wish you all the best of luck and continuing support for those around you.

  15. Skillful Squad Seraphs
    December 11, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Thank you for sharing your story, it definitely opens ones eyes to the world of autism. The last sentence you wrote is so important & true…”After all love is something that everybody needs regardless of physical, mental, or emotional limitations.” I wish you all the best and keep up the awareness.


  16. Amy
    December 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story! I was also diagnosed with autism when I was 2 and was able to overcome it due to intervention and especially a loving family who never gave up on me. I am now 27 and have graduated from law school and passed the bar. It’s nice to know that there are others who have had the same experiences and faced the same challenges.

  17. chris
    December 12, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    this was an amazing story, very inspiring!

  18. Alexandra Johnson
    December 12, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    This story was very touching because there is a boy that I go to school with who is diagnosed with Autism. Being able to read your article has helped me understand what it is like to be a person diagnosed with autism and the challenges that people with this have to face everyday. Thank you for sharing your story and I hope that you continue to share it with many other people.

    • December 14, 2010 at 12:52 am

      @Alexandra Johnson, that is so wonderful of you to read this article and now you understand more about people with Autism. It would be great if people would try to be more like you, and take the time to just understand about Autism.

  19. Mary Cassiano
    December 13, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    I have a son with Autism and everything that you said sounds like my little guy (10yrs). Thank you so much for your encourging words. I often think of what his future will look like. Your words made me cry, but out of hope and joy. He has been a blessing to me and is dearly loved, especially for his way of thinking. I always say ‘he may not be book smart but he is very street smart’. And I have hope in him in whatever he decides to do.

  20. December 14, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Michael Nunnelee, gives us all hope for our children for the future.

  21. Deborah Knowles
    December 14, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    There’s nothing I want more than to be able to understand my best friend who is 21 and has Aspergers. At the moment our biggest problem is coping with the immense stress he is having to cope with, after an incident that has left him traumtised. To be honest most people might have worried for an hour or two and then forgotten about it but he isn’t most people. I feel blessed that he turns to me but don’t know what to say to reassure him; every insight into his mind is a step foward.

    God bless my friend and Michael Nunnelee for their courage and inspiration.

  22. Michael Nunnelee
    December 16, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I have been reading your responses off and on for a couple days and I feel deeply honored that so many of you have shared your experiences with me. Your feedback and love is truly humbling. Thank you all!


  23. Gladys
    December 20, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    I have twin grandsons who are turning five in January. They have been diagnosed with pervasive development disorder on the autism spectrum. They received early intervention at age 2 and have made remarkable progress. They have wonderful therapists and are attending pre-school. My daughter and her husband are such great parents and do everything they can to help their sons. Your message, Michael, gives us so much hope, because these two little guys are so smart. I’m sure with all the help they are receiving, they will be very successful in life no matter what they do.

  24. Rachel
    January 7, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Thank you for writing this to inspire us parents and help us remember that unconditional love is the most important thing. Blessings to you and your family.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,105 other followers

%d bloggers like this: