Today is a happy day as it’s World Autism Awareness Day. The day that autistic people can celebrate their uniqueness.
Being that it’s World Autism Day, I’d like to give you a little background on me and explain why I’m proudly autistic.
In fact, I was born before autism was discussed or even considered for school age kids – it just wasn’t something that people knew about. I was out of high school for more than a decade before autism was even discussed in schools.
I was forty-six years old when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
What did that mean for me?
This means that I was the “odd kid” throughout school and subsequently, a large portion of my adult life. My teachers called me weird, stupid, and lazy in front of my classmates; and kids, being cruel called me even more awful, colorful names.
As I grew into adulthood and entered the workplace, my bosses became even more colorful – I had one guy who repeatedly calling me Forrest Gump to my face and in staff meetings.
It hurt, but I dealt with it as best I could; I knew they were right. I was odd and quirky. Thanks to this, my self-esteem was in the toilet for most of my life, even after my diagnosis. Luckily, it’s gotten much better in the past five years, especially during the last nine months.
I can see where you’d think that with all the baggage from my past that it would be hard for me to have a positive attitude about being autistic. Honestly, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m proudly autistic and that’s why my second book, not quite finished, is called Asperger’s Is My Superpower.
I really do believe that Asperger’s – which is 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. I like who I am.
I’m quirky, fun, wicked smart, witty, all kinds of sarcastic, and I crave knowledge. I was told by my high school journalism teacher to give up my dream of writing, and here I am. I’ve got 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 high school.
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 I believe that it gives society what it needs.
Like most of my Aspie peers are out-of-the-box thinkers; we think both logically and factually. That may drive 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?”
See, 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 my brain this is the thought pattern:
If you’re living up to your potential, you’re succeeding. Not living up to your potential means you’re not succeeding. Not succeeding is the same as failing, therefore I’m failing.
Now, I’m sure when this was said to me, it is NOT the message someone intended to send, but it’s what I receive.
People ask that if, given the choice, I would trade being autistic for being NT. I’ve always said no as that would mean giving up who I am. I’m not about to do that.
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 buy the vaccine theory as people were on the spectrum long before we were getting vaccines at the rate we are today. Some 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 more about autism; and with that comes easier recognition of the signs – not that a significantly larger number of people are becoming autistic.
I tend to lean toward the gene mutation, surprising no one – I’m a comic book nerd. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to the X-Men comics well before I was diagnosed.
The X-Men are mutants with mutated genes giving them special power – that’s how I see those on the spectrum. We’ve been given abilities that the general population doesn’t have and I think that’s awesome.
No matter the cause, I’m proudly on the spectrum and I don’t think anything will ever change that. I’m now an adult autism advocate fighting for the rights of those high school age and up; I do everything I can to help them live better lives and to educate those off the spectrum about 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!
This post was previously published on Good Men Project and is reprinted with permission of the author.