Autism Acceptance Day 2017

Helping people with disabilities has always been a passion of mine. I’ve worked with children with various disabilities, but the ones with autism always stole a piece of my heart. I felt as if I saw a little bit of me inside them. Little did I know the reason I felt so connected.

 

I have autism.

 

I’ve been hospitalized 11 times in the last six years for mental health reasons. Depression and anxiety was always my diagnosis until my hospitalization in my freshman year- and only year- in college.

 

The psychiatrist said that he noticed some signs of Asperger’s Syndrome and suggested I got tested. Over winter break, I went to a testing psychologist who had my parents and I fill out questionnaire. I also had IQ tests done.

 

When I went to get the results, the psychologist said that I definitely was on the autism spectrum.

 

My parents said that the had wondered if I was on the spectrum for a while. They noted poor eye contact, difficulty with social cues and taking things too literally. After the questionnaire, it was revealed that I had many other symptoms.

 

I never suspected that I had autism. All of the people I had worked with or had seen on television were a lot different than me. I’m not nonverbal. I don’t wander away from my family. I am able to communicate.

 

However, I do have autism. There is no one way everybody expresses their symptoms. I have trouble with sarcasm, but another autistic person might be able to laugh along. I wring my hands and rock side to side when I am stressed, but someone else might flap their hands. Everybody in the world is different, and that is the same with autism.
As it is Autism Acceptance Day (April 2, 2017), it is important to know that there is no one face for autism. Everybody on the spectrum deserves to be accepted, no matter their ability. We might be easily spotted, or we might look like just another person in the world. In fact, that is what we are. Just another person in the world. No matter our ability, we are human, just like you.

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A “Typical” Day In My Life With Asperger’s

Asperger’s is anything but typical, but it also doesn’t define a person. Our lives are different, so therefore, our days are different. Here is a ride through a Sunday in my life as someone with Asperger’s:

8:45 AM– I wake up, ready for a good day. Then I remember I have to go out somewhere. Church usually, and then lunch with my family. A normal schedule, and I am used to it, so all is good.

10:00ish AM– The choir comes out, sometimes a few minutes late. Those few minutes deeply matter to me, and I am anxious until they finally come in

10:15ish AM– I start to get distracted. My mind goes off into it’s own world until I pop back into reality. Then I sing and read along with the service

11:00ish AM– Church is over. I dread the gaggle of people who are going to talk to me and touch me. I don’t know when I am supposed to hug them or shake their hand. I just know that I don’t want to be touched. I try to keep up the conversation with people, but let’s face it. All I can say is “Yes” and “Thankful”, no matter how well I know the person.

11:30 AM– We are out to eat with my grandparents, either at Cracker Barrel or a sandwich place. I am anxious because of the loud noise and many different smells combining in my nose. I handle it most of the times, but sometimes I zone out.

12:15 PM– We are finished eating. I have food all of the table, my clothes, and my face. I’m messier than my 11 year old sister. I’m probably messier than a six year old child. My mom promises to stain treat my clothes when we get home.

12:30 PM– We are in the car, either heading home or to a store. I like both, but some stores are very stimulating. I prepare myself and often do very well in the store.

2:00 PM– I am at home, either working on a project (such as writing or Legos) and am very immersed in my task. Well, most of the time. Sometimes I keep getting distracted, but if I’m really interested in it, I can pass by 4 hours without realizing it.

5:30 PM– My mother calls us for dinner. Another mean, another mess.

7:30 PM– Back on with my projects, probably for another few hours

10:00 PM– I wait until the clock says 10 and start to get ready for bed. This hasn’t happened recently due to insomnia. I take my blood pressure, even though I know I’m going to take my medicine even if my pressure is too low. Then I take my medicine. I kiss my mom and dad. I make sure “I love you” is the last thing they hear each night, and if it isn’t, I worry that I will die and that won’t be the last thing they hear from me.

Goodnight.

Wait a minute…this schedule is all very true, but my day is very typical to people without Asperger’s  as well. Here is another version of a Sunday in my life as a person with Asperger’s

8:45 AM– I wake up, ready for a new day. I know there are several things happening today, and prepare myself for them.

10:00ish AM– I wait in church, a little anxious, but anticipating what should be a good church service. My pastor is great.

10:15ish AM– I start to zone out, but I bring myself back. Everybody zones out once in awhile. Sure, I might do it more, but it doesn’t make me strange.

11:00ish AM– Church is over. I am anxious about talking to people, but I am excited to shake my pastor’s hand and have him praise me on my blog, or something else I’ve done recently.

11:30 AM– We go out to eat. It is loud, bright, and odorous, but I take in my food and enjoy every bite. I focus on the details and fully appreciate my meal.

12:15 AM– I am messy, so I clean off the table and my face. I try to leave the table as neat as I can. My clothes are messy, but they will be cleaned when we get home.

12:30 PM– We either head home or to a store. If we go to a store, I use my sensitivities to my advantage and try to look at each item intently and pick out the best ones I can.

2:00 PM– I get involved in a project or activity that I enjoy. I do it because it is fun, and it makes me happy. Simple as that.

5:30 PM– Mom calls us to dinner. I make another mess, but clean it up.  Dinner is delicious (as always). I clean up my plate but often leave the cup behind.

7:30 PM-Back to the projects!

10:00 PM– I go through my schedule, on a regular night. I kiss my parents and tell them I love them. I go to sleep happy and ready for another new day.

Goodnight
See! An Asperger’s day can be hard, but worded differently, but still in a completely true way, it can be similar to an “average” person’s. We are different. That is a fact. However, we are also very similar to an “average” person. In fact, there is no average person with Asperger’s, but there is also no average person. Our days are different, but aren’t we all?

Yes, Asperger’s Is Hard

Asperger’s is deeply misunderstood. While it is on the autism spectrum, it is not like classic autism. People with it don’t show severe symptoms and it is not always visible to untrained persons. However, it is a real disorder.

I am one of many people who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome. A lot of cases are not diagnosed until later in life because it is not as obvious to professionals or families. Sometimes it’s not even visible to the person themselves. I knew I had some quirks, but wasn’t sure if I had Asperger’s.

Asperger’s and being quirky are not the same thing. Many people think that really smart people, or people who don’t talk to others, are the people who have Asperger’s. I’m here to tell you that it is way more than that.

Asperger’s is looking at someone’s forehead or just looking down to avoid eye contact.

Asperger’s is melting down in an ice cream shop due to loud sounds, strong smells, and too many people.

Asperger’s is wearing headphones into a store and turning the music up louder when you hear thunder roll.

Asperger’s is being told “It’s a joke!” over and over and still not catching on.

Asperger’s is freaking out because you were told to get some place at four o’clock but arriving at 4:01.

Asperger’s is falling so deep into an obsession that you can’t think of anything else and most everything you say is about said obsession.

Asperger’s is thinking someone is mad at you, but they are really just resting their face.

You might think “Wow! It must be awful to deal with that.” My answer to that is, yes, it can be awful, but not all the time. Sometimes Asperger’s leads me to be more insightful of  small details. It gets me to be more than punctual EVERYWHERE I go, unless I have someone poking behind. It’s having a passion and being active in your life. It can even mean that you are above average in intelligence.

Yes, Asperger’s is hard, but everyone has a struggle. We are all different, and while Asperger’s makes some things harder, it also can make life better.

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