Gut Reaction: Atypical

This is a new segment, in which I reveal my first impressions of a neurodiversity-related book, show, music, or video-game that I have just come across. For all intents and purposes, a “show” will be defined as a movie, TV series, or web series.

In order to qualify, I can only have seen no more than two episodes of a show, or in the event the show is a movie, this has to have been my first time having ever seen the show. I cannot have read more than 50 pages of a book, played more than one hour of a video-game, nor can I have listened to more than three songs on an album or have listened to a song more than ten times.


Today, we’re going to take a look at Netflix’s new series, Atypical.

Oh, boy! Here we go again…

Is it appropriate to point out at this point that I’ve only just watched the first episode? Because I feel it’s totally appropriate to point out at this point that I’ve only just watched the first episode.

The pilot episode. I’m only one episode in, and I’m already bracing myself for what I’m terrified this is:

Atypical: The Movie!

Now don’t get me wrong! I like Adam just as much as I want to like Atypical. I just don’t honestly believe for a second that we are all this robotic. Hell, I’d venture to say that a vast majority of us aren’t this robotic.

Sure, many of us do like things in a particular arrangement, and some of us can be what my family refers to as “stunad” at times (Why hello, Captain Clueless! When did you get here?), but that’s a far cry from saying things like, “I can see your bra. It’s purple.” That is a direct quote from very near the beginning of the entire series, and it came from our ND protagonist, Sam.

*slow clap* Well done, Sam. You’ve successfully set back everything NTs perceive about us by almost ten years.

No, really! Adam says something similar in the 2009 film, Adam.

Oh, Adam… I know social skills aren’t your thing, but holy damn, man!

The thing is…

I can’t tell what Netflix is going for with his characterization. It’s clear they wanted to hit us over the head with the “Sam has an ASD” card, and I’d be okay with that if the characteristics weren’t so overplayed in ways that we’ve already seen a million ways before.

That said, I saw in a YouTube clip that there will be a couple moments where we, the viewer, see what Sam experiences in the exact way he sees it.

Bright, blinding lights? Check. Loud voices drowned out by loud background noises? Check. Extreme focus on exactly what we presume to be Sam’s field of vision? Check. That’s what we need more of. It helps us personally connect with Sam on an experiential level as viewers.

What we don’t need are the awkward, creepy smiling cliché, the over-emphasis on his obsession with penguins and Antarctica (We get it: that’s your  focal topic of interest), and we certainly don’t need a Spectrumite love story that’s been done before in 2009 with Adam. In 2017, we’re craving something new with our portrayals of neurodiversity.

Like I said, it’s clear that Netflix wants us to know Sam has an ASD, but then all the other characters parade across the screen like caricatures of the people who exist and support him in his life.

Someday, I’ll be a REAL supporting cast member…

This leaves Sam in the odd position of being the only character in the show with any semblance of true personality. Which I find odd, considering how hard the show wants you to believe he doesn’t have one.

Can we make a directing decision and stick with it, please? If there’s one thing Spectrumites love, it’s consistency. I’m getting distracted just trying to pin this kid down. Watching this episode was exhausting! We’ll see how I feel after Episode 8, but from early reviews that I’ve read, the prognosis doesn’t seem too great. Like I said, we’ll see.

I could go on about Sam’s mother’s reticence to step back and give Sam the necessary room to grow, but I think I’ll save that for the actual review.

So everything said and considered (I’m going to address the Antarctic penguin in the room), did I enjoy this episode?

Yes, but I’m cautiously optimistic about it.

Every time somebody tries to make a show about a Spectrumite, it rarely focuses on the ASD or the Spectrumite attempting to adapt to it. Here, it’s like they’re trying very hard to focus on Sam and his ASD, but they can’t think of an engaging enough premise to build the rest of the show around in order to keep the focus on these things.

You can expect the full review some time after I’ve finished watching the entire season.

Until then, I’m the Role Star. Because sometimes, a Role Model just doesn’t get the job done…

The Great Schism of Autism

Hello, Dear Spectrumites!

I want to take some time today to talk about something that’s been bothering me for quite some time…

The Great Schism of Autism.

Okay, so what exactly do I mean by this?

“Jon, are you getting political again?”

Well… Yes, and no.

Yes, in that the outcome of this Schism will most undoubtedly affect how the collective voices of the Autism community as a whole will be heard by our mainstream societies.

No, in that this issue goes a hell of a lot deeper than that.

“Uh-oh. Jon used a bad word. He’s getting serious…”

Yeah. I am. Because, really, the Great Schism of Autism is hurting us all, and it needs to stop. Like, years ago. It needed to stop years ago. It’s still happening, and probably will continue to happen long after this post, but it needs to stop. Have I made myself clear that this needs to stop? Because, if I haven’t, it needs to stop, and it’s hurting the Autism community by not stopping.

“Settle down, Jon.”

So, what exactly is the Great Schism of Autism, and how is it hurting the Autism community as a whole?

To understand the answer to this question, we first have to understand how the Autism Spectrum (Yes, it’s a Spectrum, folks! Let’s carry this lesson with us…) is currently thought of.

Most people, even us at times, tend to think of the Autism Spectrum as this:

A one-dimensional line segment. Point-A to Point B. Low-functioning to High-functioning.

Over time, this has perpetuated the idea that there’s nothing more to an individual diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) than where he or she is placed along this line segment. This is the root of the Great Schism of Autism.

Now, here’s what I mean by that term. the Low-functioning end of the line segment doesn’t accurately represent the folks at the other end of the line segment, and vice versa. People, families, and communities affected by ASD don’t even agree on what counts as “real Autism” half the time.

“Wait… What?”

Prior to the release of the DSM-V (That’s the manual of statistics and diagnostic criteria psychologists widely use for diagnosing ASD, by the way…) in May 2013, many psychologists — and advocates, even — couldn’t agree on whether or not Asperger’s Syndrome should be included in the High-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum. Ultimately, Asperger’s Syndrome was lumped in under the Autism Spectrum Disorder umbrella in the DSM-V manual, but consider this:

What if it hadn’t been?

I wouldn’t have had my internship for the past 19 months without a diagnosis of ASD. I’d still be unemployed and living with my parents, right now, struggling to make a dent in my career.

To me, that’s a thought that’s going to keep me up at night, now that I’ve thought of it. And just when you think the DSM-V’s inclusion of Asperger’s Syndrome finally put the Schism to bed, we have our good ole’ pals, the Susan G. Komen of Autism, Autism Speaks to remind us that it’s so far from over…

https://www.autismspeaks.org/site-wide/cure-autism-now

Yeah, about that…

http://autisticadvocacy.org/tag/autism-speaks/

Guys! Hey! Take that outside!

I guess you can figure out what’s going on there, but beside quite possibly killing my taste for the color, “blue,” forever, let’s break this all-too-ignored, but public spat down and reflect on how this has impacted the Great Schism of Autism.

Autism Speaks stands accused of misusing donations that are supposed to be going toward helping the Autism community by funneling them into grandiose marketing campaigns for a “cure” and massive overhead costs.

This is problematic for an organization that wants to be the “voice of Autism” for the sole reason that by working toward a cure, they are marginalizing the audience they want to be the voice of in their marketing campaigns.

We’ll listen to your cries for help. Just as soon as we’re done wiping you off the face of the Earth!

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) has responded by fighting against a cure, claiming that a cure is an unnecessary extreme that would ultimately be tantamount to eugenics (At least, that’s how I would put it…)

ASAN’s stance is that with proper accommodations and people just not being jerks, in general, anything is possible for a Spectrumite.

This has created two camps:

The families of the Low-functioning Spectrumites (the Point-As), and the self advocates at the High-functioning end of the Autism Spectrum (the Point-Bs).

This is the root of what I mean by “the Great Schism of Autism.” The Point-As feel that all the resources are going more toward the Point-Bs’ end of the Autism Spectrum. They feel that Point-B doesn’t even count as “real Autism.”

Before you call me out on this, I’ve seen these arguments on the comment threads of Autism Awareness posts on Facebook time and time again over the past 10 years that I’ve even had a Facebook account. So many, I can’t even find the best five to put here to give you examples. Maybe, you have, too. Or maybe not.

The Point-Bs, in turn, feel like everything that’s offered to the Autism community is unavailable to them because they’ve already “fallen off the cliff,” having aged out of any governmental resources that would have been available to them by the time they reach the point where they could think about becoming self-sufficient.

“So, how do we even begin to fix this?”

I’m glad you asked.

I stumbled across this post several months ago, and I believe Tumblr may actually hold the key to starting to turn this around:

http://theoraah.tumblr.com/post/142300214156/understanding-the-spectrum

TL;DR:

Tumblr user, theoraah, theorizes that, rather than a line-segment, the Autism Spectrum is more akin to a two-dimensional color wheel that charts our prevalence of certain symptoms of ASD.

It’s a great theory, but I think it could go further than it does in its current form.

Meet the Aspie Dialogues Model of the Autism Spectrum!

We are three-dimensional beings; shouldn’t the way we think about Autism reflect that fact?

Rather than a one-dimensional line or a two-dimensional circle, I propose that the Autism Spectrum be thought of as a three-dimensional globe, latitude and longitude and all.

Where the grid lines meet, that’s a data point. And because of its three-dimensional nature, these gridlines carry depth to them all the way to the core of our Selfhood, or what makes us who we are.

The resulting patterns of these gridlines form a map of our symptoms and will vary subjectively from person to person. Because let’s face it; ASD is a very subjective neurodevelopmental disorder, and how it affects each individual will vary subjectively from person to person.

And by understanding this simple fact that there’s diversity within neurodiversity, we can begin to heal as a community and finally end the Great Schism of Autism, once and for all.

Will that actually happen, though? Probably not for a long time. People are stubborn, especially when their loved ones are at stake. I’ll be the first to admit that Spectrumites can be some of the most stubborn folks out there. I’m one of them, after all.

But it still needs to happen. Because as Benjamin Franklin famously once said:

“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

We need to figure out what our priorities are as a community before we can expect anybody else to take us seriously.

Once we determine what our expectations of ourselves are, we can then determine what our expectations of our neurotypical peers are and hold them to those expectations.

Thank you for staying with me this long on your Memorial Day Weekend. I hope you enjoy it and make the most out of it!

Be sure to check out the Late 2017 Putting the Pieces Together Challenge, and may you find peace with yourselves, within yourselves. Rock on, Spectrumites!

Changing the Game: Late 2017 Putting the Pieces Together Challenge

So, I’m going to go out on a limb, here, and say that my prompt for the “Early 2017” Putting the Pieces Together Challenge may have been too polarized for what I wanted to accomplished.

That’s my boo-boo.

I know. Making this visual pun hurt me, too…

So, why don’t we adjust the rules of the game before we blow the final whistle?

Announcing:

The Late 2017 Putting the Pieces Together Challenge!

For all the updated dates and rules, please refer to the Campaign page.

Here’s the new prompt:

I want to know what drives you in this life. Is there a single motivating force you believe in or moral/ethical code you adhere to? When all else fails, how do you carry on? What gets you through your day and motivates you for tomorrow? Do you have any quotes, movies, books, etc. that inspire you to keep going?

I want this blog to be the source of a positive type of energy. By explaining what our “guiding lights” are, so to speak, there’s even the possibility that one of you can help another person out there who may be seeking guidance or a friendly voice to talk to.

Isn’t that what this life should be about in the first place? People helping each other, lifting them up instead of always putting each other down.

May we all help each other find peace with ourselves, within ourselves. Rock on.

The 2017 Putting the Pieces Together Challenge is On!

Hello, again, dear Spectrumites!

Yes, I know the Holidays were… hectic… for some.

Okay, maybe not THIS hectic…

But, seizure-warnings aside, (and by the way, WARNING! THE ABOVE IMAGE MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR READERS WITH EPILEPSY, CHILDHOOD FEARS OF THE NOSTALGIA CRITIC, OR GENERAL FAITH IN CHRISTIANITY, AND MAY CAUSE SEIZURES, ANXIETY, OR GENERAL OFFENSE AT THE ASPIE DIALOGUES AND THE NOSTALGIA CRITIC. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.)

Any way, all seizure-warnings aside, the Aspie Dialogues has fully transitioned over to WordPress.org now and is ready to take on 2017 after a year that had many wondering…

What the HFIL was that?!

All right, so I guess we all haven’t seen that episode, now have we?

2016 was a year that many of us would much rather forget.

Except him. He’d like to savor it. He’d like to savor it and ride it for all it’s worth.

And there lies the Million-Dollar Question:

What can we do to help those who are going to be impacted the most by his policies?

…Or put into terms more approachable by The Aspie Dialogues

What can we do to help those Spectrumites who are going to be impacted the most by his policies, such as the Republican stance on repealing the Affordable Care Act? Adults on the Spectrum find it hard enough to find support and resources for their Autism! How can we fight back?

I’ve always been a proponent of telling it like it is. Right now, we need everyone, and I mean EVERYONE reading this to take a stand and tell it like it is.

That’s why I’m starting early with promoting the 2017 Putting the Pieces Together Campaign.

It will have the same deadline as last year’s and I hope to hear from more people than I did last year.

For this year’s challenge, (and parents, legal guardians, and caregivers, please jump in on this, too!), I want all the adults on the Autism Spectrum to weigh in on the debate by sharing their stories with the world with the following questions in mind:

What has been your experiences in trying to obtain support and resources for your Autism Spectrum Disorder since aging out of the system and “falling off the cliff?” Has it been an easy time or a hard time? What do you attribute to that?

Please consult the Challenge page for more information.

The world’s turning into a scary place, but we can start to make it better, one step at a time, when we stand together.

Let’s make 2017 better than 2016. By far.

May you find peace with yourselves, within yourselves. Rock on.

 

Well. That happened.

How about that World Series, right? I mean, who blows a certain win quite like that?!

Daffy Duck just wishes he had my swagger...

Too soon for that kind of light humor?


Okay, so I know I’ve been gone for a while. During that time, I’ve been battling some very personal inner-demons of my own.

But I’m back now, and I’m ready to give my best shot at helping at least someone try to heal tonight. I don’t count for the purpose of this post, so it looks like it’s gonna have to be at least one of you guys.

Ready? Here’s the best I can do…


A lot of people are scared right now. As an American with a disability (I remind you all that it’s not the ability or disability that defines us, it’s how we let it control us that matters), I’m pretty scared, too.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd place me at "Zoinks, Scoob!"
On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d place me at “Zoinks, Scoob!”
Many people don’t know how to feel after what happened.

As an adult on the Autism Spectrum, it was hard enough to obtain resources before. What’s going to happen to me, now?

Okay, so some have some sort of idea of what their gut reaction is…

That’s a valid concern. After well over a year of statements that would seem to indicate that those with disabilities are somehow inferior in our President-elect’s eyes, we certainly have a right to be concerned about what’s in store for us next.

It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to feel hurt. It’s okay to feel afraid. Even if some doomsday legislation comes out of this, The Aspie Dialogues is not going anywhere, and neither am I. I’m around for this term, whether anybody likes it or not. Myself included.

So, where does that leave us, then? What do we do, now? What can we do, now?

We heal. We begin the healing process by learning from what happened. We regroup, and we try again and hopefully do better the next time around.

…And no matter how afraid we are right now, there will be a next time around.

We heal by putting the fear and anger behind us. We’re going to hurt for a while. And that’s okay. But let’s try to stay in control of our fear and anger. Because if we don’t, we become what many of us just spent over a year rallying against.

As I type this, some very upset people are rioting across the country. They have every right to be upset, but let’s try to keep our emotions to an appropriate, civil level. Violence, destruction, and hatred are all things many of us just voted against; let’s not become blinded by those things, ourselves.

It’s going to take some time, but we will heal. As a nation, as a network of communities, and as individuals, the pain from this very divisive, emotional election cycle was all too real. But it will pass. Even if Trump is the worst President of all time, just remember this: pain is temporary. Even if he gets re-elected in 2020, pain is temporary.

It may not feel like it right now because we’re still reeling from high anxiety levels from the election cycle, but the sun will still rise again.

When will the sun rise again? This seems like a really dark time for us, at the moment.

Tomorrow.

And the next day, and the day after that, and so on…

I know it sounds blunt when I say it like that, but it’s not untrue. The planet still spins around the sun, the moon still spins around the planet. Everything is still there, right where we left it on Monday night. And it will still be there in four years. And it will still be there four years after that.

One day at a time… 1,461 times in a row. We’ll all get through this. Together.

So, to answer the question from before about what to do in the meantime, I’m going to be cautiously optimistic that things won’t be as bad as we had feared. There’s been too much fear going around lately not to.

So, I’m going to believe in a better day yet to come, when we will be accepted for who we are and what we can contribute to society as Spectrumites.

I’m going to believe that the chaos of 2016 will return to peace of mind over time.

I’m going to believe that things will get better. And we’ll find that when they do, we’ll feel better on multiple dimensions.

What I want you all to do now, readers, is to challenge yourself:

Look deep within yourself, and find the kindness in your hearts and spread it to somebody who needs it more than you do.

Perhaps, you’ve been in heated debates with close friends or relatives for the past year and you feel your relationships straining over them.

Instead of yelling at each other about everyone’s faults, try communicating with them a desire to understand each other. Look to the positive qualities in each other that make life worth living.

Everyone makes an impact on each other’s lives. Whether we realize it or not. What that impact is is up to us to define.

A coworker of mine set his Skype status a while back with the following quote:

Life is about making an impact, not an income.

Admittedly, I don’t know where he got it from, but it’s sage and it’s timely for this situation.

And I know that a lot of people don’t like her, but I’m going to leave you all with this excerpt from Hillary’s concession speech on Wednesday that spoke to me:

cwyncqvxuaij0g7-jpg-large

…And to all the young people in particular, I want you to hear this. I’ve spent my entire adult life fighting for what I believe in. I’ve had successes and I’ve had setbacks — sometimes really painful ones. Many of you are at the beginning of your careers. You will have successes and setbacks, too.

This loss hurts. But please, please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. It’s always worth it. And we need you keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives…

May we all find peace with ourselves, within ourselves and start to heal.

An Open Letter…

It’s almost the end of August; that means that for many of you, school will be back in session either about now or within the next couple weeks. I felt that now was the appropriate time to have this discussion. At the very least, I wanted to talk to you before school begins again.


Bullies. We’ve all been there. Even the kids who picked on you have been there. This year, their kids will bully your kids. Every year is the same nonsense. As much as teachers will try to assure you that they are doing everything they can to prevent it, your kids still come home beaten and battered. So, rather than preaching to the choir again, I’m taking a different approach. Call this radical if you want; call it whatever you want. Instead of trying to reassure you guys – whom I know are emotionally strong enough to handle this mess (you have to be with the ASD diagnosis) – I’m going to reassure the bullies instead. Directly.


Dear Bullies,

Maybe we got off on the wrong foot. Maybe you don’t, or rather, won’t care about a word I have to say, but that’s okay, as long as you hear me out.

We all have struggles. For quite some time, you were mine on the playground. You were a struggle for me in the classroom. You were even a struggle when we weren’t even on school grounds. I don’t know what I personally did to make you so angry at me, but whatever it was, I’d like you to know that if it’s something I can change, I’d gladly do what I can to make things right.

Now, that’s not to say that I’d be willing to change who I am, or who my friends are, or anything intangible like that. But, if I personally said or did something to upset you, I’d like a chance to make amends.

You see, we’re not so different. We’re both human beings, despite how you may view me and/or treat me at the present moment. In fact, everybody is a human being, deserving of the same respect and dignity, regardless of whether or not you feel they’re worthy of them. Yet, you wander through life revoking others’ dignity, treating them with great disrespect.

While I don’t condone that behavior, nor do I necessarily forgive it, per se, I do want you to know that I also don’t believe in holding grudges against people. Grudges take anger to fuel them. Anger consumes energy until there’s nothing left to fuel it. In short, anger drains you; it will leave you withered and exhausted in the long run.

Please, take better care of yourself. Just like that boy you intimidate online because he talked to your girlfriend that one time during lunch, or that girl you body shame because she doesn’t meet your standards of what you think beauty should look like, you are worth more than all that.

And just like you are worth more, so are we all. It’ll become you to treat others with that same promise of respect and dignity that we all want out of life. Who knows? You might even make the best friend of your life out of it.

I don’t need to know what your home life is like. Whether your dad abused you or your step-mom was never there for you when you were younger will make no difference to the people who truly care about you. But if you keep treating people the way you treat them now, very few truly will.

I want you to know that while it doesn’t seem like it now, there are people out there who will truly care if something happens to you. They will notice when you’re not around, and they will treat you with respect and dignity, too.

But that’s a two-way street. You have to give a little to take a little. So, while I don’t tolerate your current behavior as it is now, I see the potential in you that you may not even realize is there. I know you are capable of better than this, and that is why I’m holding you to a higher standard than you are used to being held to.

If you start treating others with humane respect and dignity, I will be willing to move past what you’ve done to me, to so many others like me. I may not believe in holding grudges, but I do believe in second chances.

You, my friend, are worth it.

So, I leave you with two options:

  1. Squander this opportunity. Ignore everything I just said and live your life in silent misery, alienating everyone who may have otherwise cared about you. Or,
  2. You can learn from this. Take it to heart and grow, not only socially, but as a decent human being with the ability to sympathize and empathize with your peers. Become a better person today than you were yesterday. Everyday. Learn to laugh. Learn to cry. Most importantly, learn to love. Both yourself and others.

It’s a brand new school year; I’m wiping the slate clean for you. What you do with it is entirely up to you.

Until you make your next decision, I’ll be right here, waiting to be your friend. I hope you’ll be mine, too.

Sincerely,

Jon

Let’s Not Sugarcoat This…

Since before the inception of this site, even before I was approached by the Kinney Center in 2011 to start what eventually became The Aspie Epilogue, I have spent almost all of my time trying to shatter the ASD mythos, from which, all negative stereotypes are born.

If you’re a seasoned veteran of The Aspie Dialogues, you’d know that the biggest stereotype that I’ve always tried to shatter as much as I can is the notion that we are disabled. (Incidentally, if you’re a new reader, welcome aboard! I just wish we could’ve met on a lighter subject.)

In the past, I’d always viewed this notion of disability as the notion that there is something wrong with us, that we are broken and need fixing. However, I’ve come to realize something over the past two days:

That’s a fallacy. And you can quote me on that.

I’ve recently realized that my notion of disability was flawed and required re-examination. So, I did.

I’ve come to terms with the idea that disability simply means we have our limits, which we need to be careful how we approach.

Some people may have more limits than others; some people may strive to push their limits further. Others, may not pay attention to what their limits are and, rather unfortunately, they may push beyond those limits, past their comfort zones. This may lead to even less fortunate results.

About this time in 2012, I posted about poor life decisions on The Aspie Epilogue. Yeah… Those kind of results are what I’m talking about, here.

So, what brought all this on, in the first place? What could have possibly happened two days ago that could shake my faith in one of my core philosophies?

This past Friday night, I realized that I had to get a fasting blood test done the next morning. Not knowing if I should take my medications, I had to skip taking them. Twice. Once Friday night, and once Saturday morning.

Only, I had forgotten to take Saturday morning’s meds while there was still enough time left to take them before interfering with the evening dosage.

Needless to say, I could feel a tremendous difference. In fact, I almost had an outburst at the clerk at my local comic book store over a simple mistake. To his credit, he did handle himself very professionally; I was the clear jerk in this situation. I own that. It took everything within me to not have a meltdown and to simply move on without further incident.

That’s when it hit me:

I’m not just at a disadvantage, as I always liked to say on The Aspie Dialogues, I also have a condition that hinders my ability to modulate my emotions. In other words, I’m disabled.

I have limits that neurotypicals don’t have. I have to approach my limitations strategically so that incidents like the situation at the comic book store don’t occur.

So that was Saturday, but what happened Sunday after I’d had two doses of my meds in my system? The abridged version is: I ruined my mom’s good mood for the entire day. I mean, the. Entire. Day.

Once again, my emotions got the best of me and I snapped momentarily. It should have ended there, but once I started trying to dial back, all hell broke loose.

I wanted to talk it out, my mom didn’t, and we butted heads over that. Needless to say it got much worse (verbally) before it could get better. I ended up going to my friend’s house for the remainder of the day, while my mom took the rest of the day to calm down. The incident made her sick to her stomach for much of the day, even after it ended.

Emotions: 2; Jon: 0.

So, where am I, right now?

I’m at home, at the moment, and things seem to be quiet, now. Mom’s asleep, and Dad’s watching TV.

Emotionally, I’m scared out of my mind. I try to put up this facade that, “I’m not disabled; I have a disadvantage.” But let’s be honest and stop sugarcoating this:

I am disabled, and that puts me at a disadvantage. And that scares me. I’m scared for my parents, who have to put up with this from me, right now. I’m scared for my sister and her husband, especially since she just had my first niece last Friday.

Jon and Vivi
She’s a beautiful baby girl named Vivi, by the way!

Not to mention, I’m scared of what might happen if this happens in front of Vivi.

I have a beautiful, sweet girlfriend, who has never seen this side of me before. I’ve always tried to hide it from her for her sake, but by denying my limitations for so long, is that not the same as denying an inherent piece of who I am?

I honestly don’t know what she sees in me. I’m loud, I’m terribly out-of-shape, and I don’t even have that much hair on my head, anymore. (I’m under 30, by the way.)

She doesn't seem to care about any of that.
She doesn’t seem to care about any of that.

When I look into her eyes, I see my whole world. I see everything I’ve ever wanted in a long-lasting relationship. I love her, and I want her to be safe and happy.

But how can I keep her safe and happy if I can’t trust myself to rein in my emotions properly?

Clearly, this is a discussion I plan on having with her in the near future, and I hope she sees this to know just how much she means to me. (And believe me, I love you with all my heart!)

I want our relationship to move closer, but I’m scared of myself after these recent outbursts. How can a relationship built on trust last, if one party can’t even trust himself?

So, what’s the bottom line, here? Am I saying that I want to break up for her sake? No. NO. A thousand times NO.

What I am trying to say is, that I’m scared. I see the possibility of everything I’ve ever wanted in my life slipping away, and I don’t want that to happen.

I want to push through this carefully and meet the next limitation I have to face pertaining to my disability. I want this to bring me closer with my loved ones in the end.

But if I’m going to do that, I have to face a certain very uncomfortable truth:

I am disabled, and that puts me at a disadvantage.

Here’s the catch:

Though I am disabled, and that puts me at a disadvantage, what really matters is how I cope with that disadvantage.

That’s the stage I’m at in all this, right now. I’m trying to sort out my coping method.

I’ve long believed that anger is inevitably temporary. That is, our minds and bodies don’t have the required stamina to keep it up forever. Either we  get physically tired of it all, or it drains us mentally and emotionally. Anger exhausts us until we just give up on it. Even so, once that happens, it’s not always so easy to repair the damage anger causes in the end.

These last two days have taught me that.

Until next time…

May we find peace with ourselves, within ourselves.

Good night.

Guest Post: Jeff W. Shares His Insights with His ASD.

This is the part where I suggest I switch to a monthly format and work my way up to a weekly format. Clearly, so much has been going on at work that keeps me away from The Aspie Dialogues.

When I last posted, I was trying to encourage other Spectrumites to share their messages and experiences with ASD with the NT world. I obviously missed my deadline to post the results on the site, but since I only received one response from a particularly courageous soul I happen to work with, I spoke with him about making his message a guest post. We’re making Aspie Dialogues History, here, Spectrumites and Puzzle Pieces! I’m just as excited as you are! Our first guest post!

So, a little about my colleague, Jeff…

He is a very kind man, who will always chip in and support others, no matter the personal sacrifice he may endure. So, for him to come out and self-identify for this cause is amazing to me because in today’s world, that’s asking for future employers to not take you seriously.

…And that’s precisely why Jeff wanted to speak up. To change NT perceptions of us. One voice at a time. So, without further ado, here’s what Jeff had to say about the Putting the Pieces Together Challenge:

Where do I even begin? I think for starters, everyone has to understand that each person on the spectrum has their own set of challenges and difficulties. Some people have sensory issues where one constant distraction in the physical environment negatively affects their productivity. Others face the challenge of socializing or coping with change and transitions. Also, the mass media and some people tend to make unfair and judgmental statements about people on the spectrum. They think they know everything and can speak for everyone but they truly can’t. Each and every single of us who is on the spectrum is different in our own ways and people need to realize that.

On a more personal level, I wish people were more accepting of who I am instead of belittling and hating me for what I’m not. I may not be the most athletic, most talkative, or even the best looking person you’ve met but I’m a human being. A human being with real feelings, real thoughts and real struggles in life! Friends at first sight isn’t always the case but if you choose to welcome me with open arms, really get to know me, regularly touch base, and always make me comfortable and happy to engage and interact with you, that is the key to establishing and maintaining friendship or a network.

The bottom line is that individuals with autism are HUMAN and each individual deserves and needs to be treated like one. We can succeed in life like most people do but if that is going to happen, we need to have the right and accommodating environment. How exactly? By always having the considerate, compassionate and altruistic support from everyone around. Not just from family, but from managers, work colleagues, mentors and friends.

Jeff W.

Now, Jeff touches upon several topics I touch upon on this site, and I just want to take a quick moment of your time to elaborate on some of them.

Jeff begins by mentioning that everybody on the Autism Spectrum has his or her own set of challenges and difficulties, and that not all of them are going to be the same for everybody. If there’s one thing I love mentioning on The Aspie Dialogues, it’s that ASD is a uniqueness that is as diverse as the people whose daily lives it affects. That is to say –as Dr. Stephen Shore once suggested…

If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.

Jeff reiterates an important fact of life we must all learn:

If things are ever going to change for the better for Spectrumites, everybody must first acknowledge that we are all unique HUMAN BEINGS, just the same as any NT. He goes as far as to suggest that we can be as successful and as integrated with society as any other human on this planet. We just need to be treated with the same respect and dignity that comes so easily to NTs.

We are just as happy to interact with you as you are with other NTs, but you have to meet us halfway. Relationships are a two-way street. I believe that’s the point Jeff is trying make with his second paragraph.

As for his concluding paragraph, Jeff sums up everything we all want to share with the world with one definitive sentence:

The bottom line is that individuals with autism are HUMAN and each individual deserves and needs to be treated like one.

…And when we get right down to the purpose of the PPT Challenge or sites like The Aspie Dialogues, isn’t this what everybody’s end goal is? Don’t we all want to be treated as a human individual?

Don’t we all have the moral obligation to treat others with the same mutual respect and dignity we would want others to treat us with?

I’m going to leave you with this thought to mull around on until the next time.

Thank you, Jeff, for participating. Just so you all are aware, Jeff is an extremely talented writer in his own right (Or should I say “in his own… write?” Get it? *rimshot*). This message only scratches the surface of what he is capable of.

May all Spectrumites find peace with themselves, within themselves. And may we all eventually see the day when Jeff’s talking points come to fruition for everybody.

Until then, we’ll have courageous individuals like Jeff to help guide the way.

Thank you, and goodnight.

Ask an Aspie: It Was the Best of Times …Or Maybe Not So Much.

I know I’ve been gone for a few weeks. …Right after I said I’d be posting more often, at that, but there’s only so much a mere mortal can do when he’s dealing with a cold, working on numerous projects at work, his pregnant sister’s due in less than three months…

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By the way… Congratulations are in order to Understanding Invisible Illnesses’s Jenny P. and her husband! They are due in May! (Not pictured: the pregnancy and the husband.)

You get the idea. Something had to give, and I deeply apologize for the fact that this was it.

So to make up for that, I’m treating you all to another round of…

ASK! AN! ASPIE!

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Wheel of Morality… Turn, turn, turn! Tell us the lesson that we should learn!

 

I usually tend not to discuss my… what should I call them? My dark sides?

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BYO Milk, though…

I usually tend not to discuss my dark sides with my readers for the fact that I’m trying to present myself as a positive role model for you guys. However, I’m starting to think that maybe there could be lessons to learn from them. So, here goes…

I have a short fuse. Particularly with my dad, to be quite honest.

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Yeah! This guy!

So much so that I felt the need to make my resolution this year to have more patience with him. We just had an argument earlier today centered around the steps we take to achieve greater harmony with each other.

He’s my dad, and I love him very much. Sometimes, too much of a good thing becomes less of a good thing beyond a certain level of interaction… If that makes sense.

I have a tendency to shop online when I’m upset. This was especially difficult around the time my sister lost her first pregnancy just before Christmas 2014.

My default volume is loud. My other volume settings include slightly less loud and way louder still. I can start off a sentence at an appropriate volume, but by the end of the sentence, the other person I’m talking to is asking me why I’m yelling.

And the list goes on…

You may be asking me at this point, “Why are you telling us all this? This seems very personal!” And you’d be right; it is very personal.

However, as I said before, I believe there’s a lesson to all this: No matter how far we may progress with our… I guess to complete the reference, I’ll say our light sides…

No matter how far we may progress with our light sides, we will still always have those proverbial skeletons in our closets for us to work on. We are coping with a lifelong diagnosis, which will always impact our logic, our way of seeing the world, our way of understanding the world, and our way of coping with the world.

We are never done learning about ourselves; not even for a moment. I guess what I’m trying to say is regression is natural, but it can’t be the end of the progression. Because if it does mean the end of the progression, our ASD (or even any other diagnosis we may have) has control of us and not the other way around.

If I had ever given in to any one of my dark sides and quit, I wouldn’t be here right now, typing this for you. Fall down ten times, get up eleven. When you do, just know that I’ll be right here with the The Aspie Dialogues, ready to help you get back in the game. Because it’s not what you do wrong that necessarily defines you; it’s about what you do to learn from it.

May you find peace with yourself, within yourself! Rock on, Spectrumites!