If I had a son….

If I had a son, he would most likely have Asperger’s Syndrome like me. This is what I would tell him when he asks how to live in a non-autistic world:

“Living with Asperger’s Syndrome is difficult. It can be frustrating not knowing if people like you because they use body language to convey their thoughts instead of just saying what they feel. This also makes it worse when people lie. It comes easily to non-autistics to lie and cheat and take advantage of autistics and non-autistics alike. Most people who are not autistic are cowards. They chastise and mock anyone who dares to be different. It is hard for them to accept you because they can’t accept themselves. The ones that do dare to be your friends are special because they are brave. They are brave enough to be different. They are brave enough to accept your differences despite what people will say. I say to you ignore the nay sayers and the doubters. You are capable of achieving your goals. It may take you longer but you will get there. Why rush? Life is wonderful. Enjoy it. Let people hate you. They are just jealous of what you can do. They are just jealous of the way you look at the world. If people think you are incapable of being useful and productive. Don’t let them deter you. People with Asperger’s have to adjust to a world that refuses to adjust to you. It is how you deal with this selfish injustice that defines who you are. I would rather have Asperger’s than not have it. Be proud of who you are.”

I just wish my parents had said this to me.

Autism Reporting: Know the basic facts.

Autism reporting: Know the basic facts

By Robert Moran

In December 2012, a young man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and killed 26 people, 20 of them children. We later learned that he’d killed his mother before going to the school.

His many issues relating to social isolation came out in the following months, including the fact that he had Asperger’s syndrome, which is an autism spectrum disorder.

As an autistic person, those subsequent headlines startled me, and not just because innocent people were killed. I talked to some people online after the shooting, and this was the first time some of them had ever heard of Asperger’s syndrome. They first heard about it as a result of a mass shooting at an elementary school.

To read more click here:  http://www.spj.org/quill_issue.asp?ref=2110

In Memoriam: A Eulogy for My Mom

My mom died March 1. I gave the eulogy at her memorial.

When I was first asked to write this I found myself asking how do you write a eulogy for your mother? How do you say goodbye? The answer is you don’t. You say I’ll see you later.
Still I found myself at a loss as to where to begin so I decided to do what any good journalist would do and start with the facts.
My mom was born Deborah Elizabeth Stortz on (date of birth) in (place of birth) and Died as Jennifer Deborah Elizabeth Stortz Andres on March 1 at her home in Arizona.
My mom loved to go camping and fishing, traveling. Some of my fondest memories where of the trips my mom and my sister and I would take to Calico, camping in the mountains and skiing at Lake Isabella.
That skiing trip I still remember clearly. I must have been about 6 years old and my sister tricked me into wearing these heavy ski boots. They must have been made it to of lead. I mean seriously I mean seriously these boots were the kinds of that mafiosos made their enemies wear when they were about to dump them in the Hudson River.
I walked out into the snow and down I went. I literally could not get up the boots were so heavy. I lay there screaming and crying for what seemed like hours but when you are young everything seems larger than it is so it may have just been hours. I remember this story because it was my mom who came to rescue me from the snow. She took me back to the ski lodge and gave me a cup of warm cocoa, some slippers, and made sure I got warmed up. See that’s just who my mom was. She loved her family and most especially you and me Michelle (my sister). All we needed to do was just ask and she would be there for us.
My mom loved giving and gave us lots of love. She also gave us material items. She gave us our first color television. Do you remember that Michelle? I only think of that because it took her dying for me to realize the impact that she had on my life. If she had not given us that TV I would never have been introduced to TV news.
It’s funny how much our lives are interconnected. When she was a child she once met Walt Disney and because of her gift I now work for his company.
I am a firm believer in God and I know that my mom is in Heaven. And when it’s my turn to die I know that she will be waiting in front of the pearly white gates with a big smile and open arms. So I love you mom, but as I said earlier this is not goodbye this is I will see you later.

Autism in the Media: Asperger’s Syndrome, Adam Lanza and the (Dis)association with Violence

Part one of a series looking at the ways the media represents autistic people.
Continue reading “Autism in the Media: Asperger’s Syndrome, Adam Lanza and the (Dis)association with Violence”

Meeting Myself for the First Time

Today I went to my first meetup for autistic people. It was both eye opening and interesting, I honestly had never spent much time with other autistic people. In fact I have never met any other autistic people in real life before. All of my friends and coworkers are neurotypical. So it was like meeting me for the first time. The last time I had ever spent any time with an autistic person was when I met Temple Grandin at an autism conference at UCLA 20 years-ago. Yes that Temple Grandin and yes 20 YEARS AGO.

The group was fairly diverse in ethnicity and age. As I looked around the room I saw myself being reflected back at me. That was not something I could ever experience with my neurotypical friends and coworkers. I sometimes felt that they did not understand me. That was probably because they are not like me at all and could not identify with me. Humans tend to socialize in groups with people that are like them. We call those similarities culture, religion and so on so forth. I guess there is some sort of autistic culture with its own body language and behaviors and the manner in which we perceive the world. I never noticed that until tonight. When I walked into the room I knew that I was in a room full of autistic people just like when I know when I am in a room full of neurotypical people. There was no criticism just acceptance and the freedom to be who we were without the need to conform to neurotypical norms. It was perfectly appropriate for one attendee to wear headphones to protect himself from noises. Some autistics are sensitive to noise. There was no pressure to act normal we could just be ourselves.

When I am with neurotypicals there is this pressure to conform to societal standards and to peer pressure which was the topic of discussion for tonight. When asked if anyone had an experience as to whether or not a neurotypical person had all pressured us into doing something we didn’t want to do, or try and take advantage of us or bully us, we all had a story to tell. It reminded that we all have had to struggle as a result of our autism. That commonality binds all autistics together in a way that I can’t with my neurotypical friends and coworkers. I think it is because no matter how well-meaning they are they don’t realize that they are part of the problem. They don’t understand us and we know and they don’t always know that we know it.

I believe that neurotypical people should take classes in how to behave like an autistic person and then act like one of us for a day and see what people say to them or how they are treated.

Either way being able to spend time with a group of people with whom I could identify with in manner. With this group it was perfectly acceptable to be socially awkard and miss social cues and not make eye contact with each other if we didn’t feel comfortable doing so. In fact, it seems we were expected to be that way, It was both freeing and fulfilling. It was a type of freedom that neurotypical people could not comprehend. I was free. I was just me.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 1,900 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Understood

Too often people confuse personality with disability. I’m a person. I am not a disability. Autism is as much a part of me as my love of writing. I can do things much like everyone else. It’s sad that I have to say those things to people. It’s not enough to be aware of Autism. You must understand it. You must understand it affects all of those who are autistic differently. To be understood is something that every person on the planet wants. I want to be understood.  I for one enjoy being around other people.  Other autistics prefer to work in solitude. We are all different as the colors of the rainbow. We are not like Xeroxes where we all look alike or think alike. Humans are all different. And human is what we are.

 

I am me.

Being honest and telling people that you are autistic is a lot like coming out of the closet. Its not an easy thing to do. People don’t always know what to make of it. It’s funny how when you do tell people some of them who you thought you were there friends shun you out of ignorance. Then there are the people who treat you as if you have a disease and claim they want to cure you. They don’t accept you for who you are. 
I have to choose how and when and if I tell a person that I am autistic merely out of self-preservation than by a desire to be understood. The truth is telling people is never easy and I never know how they’re going to react. Sometimes I get the oh my friend/child/neighbor has it response. When that happens I feel a lot more comfortable. Even those people may not understand Autism. I don’t expect them to understand it. I expect them to understand me. We are all different. I am not like your friend/son/neighbor who is autistic. I am me.

Thoughts

One of the things I love about TV news is the team aspect to it. I love the ability that it gives me to interact and work with people.  We are all human beings and on some level we all want to be a part of a group. Even autistics gather together in a group that we call the Autism Community. It doesn’t mean we don’t have our disagreements, but that is part of being human and of working and socializing with others… humans are not designed to work alone.  Why would anyone assume that because I am autistic I want to work alone? I am a human being. We all want to be social in some way.  Autism is just a part of me but it is not all of me.

We Must Rise Above

As a disability rights advocate I have come to a simple conclusion…we must rise above. What I mean by that is simple…we must rise above the rudeness. We must rise above the personal attacks. We must rise above the mudslinging. Our job is not to act in the scurrilous and often disreputable manner that many people behave like towards us. We must always be better people. The lens of society is always scrutinizing our behavior just looking for any reason to disqualify us from the assumption that we are all capable human beings and we must use that to our advantage.
We must lead by the example we we set. We cannot let those who do not understand or those who do not know or those who fear us get to us with the often mean and degrading things people will say. Our job is to be better and to inform people about our particular conditions in a manner that is polite and we civil. We must rise above the muck and live our lives with both class and dignity. How can we ask for respect if some of is cannot show it? We must rise above the need to bully and treat with scorn people in our own community those who are more severely affected than us. Are they not our brethren? Do they not want the things that we want in life?
We must rise above the ignorance that we face day in and day out and not return people’s ignorant s scornful remarks with equally scornful remarks. We must return fear and hate and ignorance with compassion, love and knowledge. Knowledge is our ally. Knowledge and the ability to spread it is how we can spread our wings and fly.  If we don’t do that all the time we will crash and burn and all our work will be for nothing. We must rise above.