Yesterday kicked off Autism Month with Autism Remembrance Day where we remember all the autistic children who have drowned over the years, including the nearly thirty between 2000 and 2015.
Today is a happier day as it’s World Autism Awareness Day.
With that being the case, I’d like to give you a little background on me and then tell you why I’m proudly autistic.
I was born in a time before autism was discussed or even considered in school-age kids. I was out of high school for more than a decade before autism was discussed in schools.
What did that mean for me?
That means I was the odd kid throughout school and a large portion of my life, as I was forty-six before being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. My teachers called me weird, stupid and lazy in front of my classmates and the kids in school were more colorful with their names.
As I grew into adulthood and entered the workplace as best I could, my bosses became eve
n more colorful, with one that repeatedly called me Forrest Gump to my face and in staff meetings.
It hurt, but I dealt with it as best I could because I knew they were right. I was odd and quirky. My self-esteem has been in the toilet most of my life, including for a while after my diagnosis, but it’s gotten much better in the last five years. Especially in the last nine months.
One may think with all that baggage from my past that it would be hard to have a positive attitude about being autistic, but nothing could be further from the truth.
I’m proudly autistic and that’s why my second book, still being finished, is Asperger’s Is My Superpower.
I really do believe that Asperger’s (a form of high functioning autism with more social and processing issues and less of what others on the spectrum may deal with) makes me who I am and I like who I am.
I’m quirky, fun, wicked smart, witty, all kinds of sarcastic and crave knowledge. I was told by my high school journalism to give up my dream of writing, yet here I am, with more than one hundred articles published in thirty different magazine titles.
I’ve written for a dozen major daily newspapers, scores of websites, created and maintained two blogs, a podcast and am a Lead Editor for Good Men Project. Plus I have a former NBC writer and producer knocking on my door wanting to discuss some writing projects with me. Not bad for a guy who was told to give up his dream in 11th and 12th grade.
To me, being autistic means that my brain is wired a little differently than most, but at the end of the day, the autistic brain and Neurotypical (NT or non-autistic) brain still function and figure things out, just in different ways. It’s that diversity, where everyone is a little different, that I love and gives society what it needs.
I, like most of my Aspie (Asperger’s) peers, are out of the box thinkers and we think both logically and factually. That drives some people up the wall, but it’s who I am and how I roll, so I can’t really do anything about it.
What do I mean by logical and factual? Well, for the better part of my life I’ve been told that I’m not living up to my potential. I’m not sure how the NT brain interprets it, but n my brain this is the thought pattern.
If you’re living up to your potential, you’re succeeding. Therefore, not living up to one’s potential means you’re not succeeding. Not succeeding is the same as failing, therefore I’m failing.
Now, I’m sure when I’m being told this, this is NOT the message meant, but it’s what I receive.
Some have asked me if, given the choice, if I would trade being autistic for being NT and I have always said no because that would mean giving up who I am.
I’ll leave you with one final thought. There are a few ideas as to why people are autistic. Everything from vaccinations to gene mutation, with a few others in between. This is just my opinion, but here’s what I believe. Take it for what it’s worth.
I don’t totally buy the vaccine theory because people were on the spectrum long before we were getting vaccines at the rate we are today. Some will argue that more people are being diagnosed on the spectrum than ever before, but in my mind, that’s because we’re learning more and not that a significantly larger number of people are becoming autistic.
I tend to lean toward the gene mutation, which would surprise no one that realizes I’m a comic book nerd. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to the X-Men comics long before I was diagnosed.
The X-Men are mutants with mutated genes giving them a special power and that’s how I see those on the spectrum. We’ve been given abilities that the general population doesn’t have and to me, that’s really cool.
No matter the cause, I’m proudly on the spectrum and I don’t think anything will ever change that.
I’m an adult autism advocate fighting for the rights of those high school age and up and doing everything I can to ensure they live better lives and to hopefully educate those off the spectrum as to who we are and what we bring to the table.
On this, World Autism Day, I would love to hear your stories of autism, both triumphs, and tragedies. Use the comments section below and talk to us!