Love life and be gentle: Megan goes to college. And oh yeah, she rocks her extra chromosome.

This girl Megan is an inspiration. She has Down’s Syndrome and Type 1 Diabetes and attends Kent State University.
http://lovelifeandbegentle.blogspot.com/2012/05/megan-goes-to-college-and-oh-yeah-she.html?m=1

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Aspirations

I have a dream for myself. I will not give up on achieving my dreams. Everything I do is to achieve that dream.
Film school is a dream of mine and I will accomplish that dream no matter what it takes. I’ve already completed one dream now on to another.
If I get accepted to film school, I will complete the program for the MFA in documentary filmmaking while continuing to work at ABC News.
Once I am done I am going to apply for jobs with ABC News in New York and make documentaries about autism and LA history. It will happen!

Welcome to Aspie Land…and what do I mean by neurotypical?

This blog title was chosen for a reason. There is often repeated phrase that  occurs among people with Asperger’s is that we feel like we are from a different planet. A good example of this is the website WrongPlanet.net which was created by Alex Plank. The site itself is meant to be a community site for people with Asperger’s. The title of the website itself is representative of the idea that I mentioned about Aspie’s sometimes viewing themselves as being from a different planet. The idea has become widespread among Aspies, so much so in fact that a culture has developed based on this widespread view that we are not like people who don’t have autism.  We have even developed a term for non-autistic people: neurotypical. Many members of the autistic community believe in neurodiversity.

There are two groups of thought in the autistic world. Those who want to cure autism and those who believe in neurodiversity. Mike Stanton in “What is Neurodiversity?“describes it this way:

“The idea of Neurodiversity was developed by autistic people in opposition to the pathologizing model. According to them autistic people are not disordered. They have a different sort of order. Their brains are differently wired. They think differently. They do not want to be cured. They want to be understood.”

Up until the 1980s mothers were blamed for the autistic behavior of their children. Autism was often called Refrigerator Mom Syndrome. The focus eventually shifted to a more genetic component. It was from there that people began looking for a cure for autism. However, many people who have autism began to feel that they should celebrate their differences especially the differences in our brain functions from people who did not have autism.  As with any group in order to  differentiate from the group they are separating from by labelling them. The name neurotypical basically refers to someone who does not have autism. The autism community chose that word because the word normal had too many  negative implications. Neurotypical as a term rejects the idea of  a normal brain because that would mean that anyone who has autism has an abnormal brain. Also what would constitute a normal brain remains to be determined because brain functions depend on factors that are relevant and different for every person.

I belong to the neurodiversity movement because I am proud of what I have accomplished and I am proud of the unique way in which I look at the world. I don’t refer to myself as being neurodiverse as an individual. As part of a community I am neurodiverse. I can no more be cured of autism more than  cows can fly upside down. I am not certain I want to be cured. Too much of the discussion of autism revolves around finding a cure as if I and all other autistics have a diseased brain.

Attitude

I have been thinking a lot about attitude. Attitude is a fickle thing. It can basically make or break your life, your relationships and your career. It may seem like a trivial thing but it can have a lasting effect on the things that I just mentioned. Having a good attitude is important as eating and drinking. We all used to make fun of Stuart Smalley the character from Saturday Night Live who was part of the skit Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley. While we all mocked him for standing up in front of the mirror and saying “Because I am good enough, I am smart enough and dog gone it….people like me.”

While Smalley may have been an overly pretentious man, as portrayed by Al Franken, there is still some truth to the satirical nature of the SNL skit, The hardest thing anyone can do is look themselves in the mirror and state how prepared and confident they are for whatever lies ahead for them during the day. Just saying positive self-affirming things can have a psychological effect. Words have power to uplift and and power to destroy. Even William Shakespeare understood the power of words as was evidenced by his statement that the pen is truly mightier than the sword.

Still its not enough to say self-affirming words, sometimes you do need to carry a sword in the form of a smile. Never let them see you sweat is an old adage that still rings true.
There are various ways to change your attitude. I have found that the most effective way to change your attitude is through exercise. The most upbeat people I have met also work out regularly. Exercise releases endorphines which are basically stimulants into your system. After a good workout you feel very good. It also can boost your confidence levels which also affect your mood and your overall attitude. I started training to do my first 5K in August and the workouts have left me exhausted at times, but I still felt confident enough to take on the world.

From Vincent Williams

Mr Williams, read my article from the The Orange County Register, which I have reposted here as well, and took the time to leave a comment on my blog. Because it was so well written, and so long, I felt it merited it’s own blog post.

From Vincent:

Well done, Robert! I’m an Aspie as well, albeit not formally diagnosed, 46, with a 12 year old son who is a diagnosed Aspie. When my wife and I were trying to figure out what was going on with him in his early years (especially since the pediatrician dismissed our questions/concerns outright), I stumbled on references to Asperger’s Syndrome. Reading the various traits and hallmarks was like reading into a mirror. Not only did it describe him, but it described me to a T. And, it also described my Dad as well, which led me to believe that AS is hereditary, and based on the levels of AS from my father to me and then to Ethan, I’m reasonably convinced that the “level” of AS is pronounced with each generation. Of course, I’m not a scientist or expert in any medical arena, but, like you said, I know us because I am one, and I witness and live it each day.

I grew up in Australia, and moved here to the US when I was 20 (1986). I was brilliant at school, would read encyclopedias for the hell of it, but at home I was a complete klutz. My folks wondered what the hell was wrong with me. Dad had the shortest temper on the planet, and I felt his wrath plenty over the years. On his good days, he sweat brilliance, knew everything about anything, and would talk paint off a wall (much to the chagrin of people he knew, who often had tuned out eons before but were captive to his ramblings). I got one hug out of the guy, which was prompted by me, and he still felt uncomfortable. We had a falling out in 1996, when I approached him over his days with the heavy hand, and I was basically ostracized. He died last year, and the family never mentioned it; I found out through a Google search for an obituary.

Depression, attention issues, lack of focus, constant distractions… that’s me. In fact, I came across your story as a result of being distracted from my normal work at home (graphic design/illustration). My teenage and 20’s years were miserable. It’s taken time to “grow out” of certain things, but I still tackle with various issues. I don’t have personal friends (real-life ones, away from the ‘net), and I’m not bothered by it. In fact, I’m more uncomfortable around people in casual settings, and would prefer to not be there. I work okay with people (I’m also part-time at Disneyland) but I’m there to work and then go home. (The kids are the best, I do enjoy interacting with them better than adults).

Ethan, the oldest of my two sons, is profoundly anti-social, and extremely awkward in conversation with anyone, family or stranger. At school, he’s brilliant, working in math beyond his age range, can spell anything, has a memory for history like a trap (got that from me), but has difficulty with comprehension and vocal sentence structure. He cannot stand tattoos but has taught himself to look away and ignore them (a world of difference from when it first manifested). The youngest, Gage (7) is mildly autistic, but not an Aspie, and is much more outgoing.

The difficulty lies in knowing that in order to help him overcome social obstacles, I need to be there to help, which presents some problems at times when I myself have similar issues. No amount of therapy or counseling is likely to help (been there, done that); it’s a matter of trial and error for all of us. There’s still some resistance from some circles; my mother doesn’t buy that I’m an Aspie, and it took her a long while to accept that diagnosis for Ethan. It can be a lonely environment to work in sometimes.

Well, I’ve rambled on long enough, just as Dad would, and now I must go collect the paint off the floor. (Metaphors I can do; Ethan wouldn’t get that at all).

Take care,

Vince
Anaheim Hills, CA

Autistic blogger writes from the heart The Orange County Register

This appeared in The Orange County Register today on A1.

Autistic blogger writes from the heart

By ROBERT MORAN / FOR THE REGISTER

We are not all the same.

The belief that all autistics are the same is still one of the biggest misconceptions that autistics have to deal with.

Now that the Centers for Disease Control has determined that the diagnosis rate of some level of autism is 1 in 88 people, the numbers may seem startling, but it just means that there are more accurate methods of diagnosing autism. Better and more accurate methods, in this case, are important because no two autistics exhibit the disorder in the same way.

The new diagnosis rate has indirectly shown the world that autistics are all different.

I am not Rain Man. I can’t count cards like that. Sometimes I wish I could do that though. But my only prodigal ability has been to put pen to paper, which I have been doing since I was 9 years old.

I am writing my blog, Welcome to Aspie Land, not for myself. I am doing this because I believe the perspective of an autistic adult is as just as important as the perspective of a parent of an autistic child.

Too often the discussion is one sided and autistics are often not included in it. I am writing this because I want to demonstrate the diversity community. We all come from various backgrounds. I am a Roman Catholic. I have some autistic friends who are atheists. I am of French, Irish and Mexican descent. I know a few autistics who are Asian and some who are African American. We are as diverse as humanity.

Yet some people still operate under the assumption that we are all the same.

I recently graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in broadcast journalism. I work as desk assistant at ABC News at their LA bureau. I am one of the only people that I know of who is autistic and pursuing a career in journalism.

I am writing this blog to not only promote an understanding of the diversity of autism by promoting awareness, I am promoting acceptance.

Acceptance is what every human being looks for and autistics are no different in that end. I also want to inform people about autism, but not from the perspective of a parent or a psychologist or social worker, but from the perspective of a person who has it. The voices of the autism community should be as diverse as the community itself. I don’t pretend to be an expert but you can’t really understand autism unless you actually have it.

I often hear people asking why I am not like their son. Autism is a spectrum disorder. I am as different from Temple Grandin as she is from Vernon L. Smith who won the Nobel Prize for economics. For starters, I haven’t written any books like Grandin and I am not all that great with math like Smith, but I am comfortable with it. Many autistics are non-verbal. Others simply don’t know when to stop talking. Many are also blind. While others have synesthesia, which in some cases causes people to see letter and numbers as colors.

I should make it clear that I do not have synesthesia.

Not all autistics are men. Many are women. In fact, more and more women are being diagnosed with autism than ever before. Also, not all of us were diagnosed as children. I know a few who were diagnosed as adults. I was diagnosed as a teenager. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism.

Aspies, as some of us like to refer to ourselves, often have difficulty interpreting social interactions. The degree to which this occurs varies from Aspie to Aspie. I remember, several years ago an Aspie friend, who shall remain nameless, came to visit me and my family after we had all gone out. He continued talking to us and sitting in the living room despite some of my families intimating that they were tired and going to bed. He even continued chatting with us from the living room after we had all gone to change to our pajamas. It was not until my mom told him we were going to bed and he needed to leave did he get the clue and leave.

I on the other hand am usually the first one to want to leave a friend’s house when it gets late.

Aspies can be clueless when it comes to social interactions, but we are also refreshingly honest. It’s not in our nature to act with guile or deception.