Asper-friends at ASA

I’m at my family’s house, at the dining room table.  This is the first time in three days I’ve had my computer open, and I should really be doing research for school.  The Goose is lazing next to me, purring away… when someone comes downstairs, I half heartedly, but very vocally, start to beg her to hop down from the table, where she is so not allowed to be.  As soon as the person goes back up, I pet her and tell her to lay on down.  This kitty gets limited mama time, and I just don’t have the heart to make the chirping little fuzz girl move… even when she’s standing directly in front of the key board, knocking things over, chirping and head butting me!

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I spent the last two days at the Autism Society conference here in Pittsburgh.  I met some amazing people, including one of my long-time closest friends whom I’d only known online, until Thursday.  I met people with autism of all ages, and the presentations by people on the spectrum were the ones I chose to attend.  I was so encouraged by their words, by interacting with them.  At one presentation in which a panel of people with autism told their stories and answered questions, every person in the audience on the spectrum got to introduce himself or herself.  I was blown away by the number of very, very successful people; people with advanced degrees; people who had been diagnosed both very young and very late, but who made life work.  

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(Aspergirls– Chloe and I at Eat n Park after ASA)

Because that’s what I’m doing.  I’m making life work.  I’m back in school for my MFA in Creative Writing.  Now, look back at some of my early blog posts… would you ever imagine that I’d be doing this?  I’m in a nursing home, yes, and honestly, I may stay there for a bit longer as I work toward my degree, because as difficult as it is, I think it’s the wisest decision.  But I will get a job, I will move out, and I will have an apartment and a real, grown-up job that uses my strengths.  

I love Jennifer O’Toole’s whole concept of Asperkids.  Jennifer is a mom with three kids, and she, her husband, and her three incredibly children (with whom Chloe and I played for hours) all have Asperger’s!  They are brilliant, funny, and very polite, and honestly, their brains work so much like mine.  Let me tell you that, in a room with five Asperkids, there was not a single moment of silence!  I felt so free to be me, all me, no hiding my intensity.  I’m one very intense young lady– I wear people out!  But with other Asperkids, they just throw the same intensity back at me, and we all talk at once, sometimes all on different subjects, too.  And that’s just fine with us.  In fact, I realized that kids with Asperger’s, in my mind, have the best manners I’ve ever seen… and it’s because they think just like I do!

Jennifer developed a kit called “Congratulations, you’re an Asperkid!”  When a child is diagnosed with ASD, a parent (or anyone) can order this kid, which includes a video with the bubbly, energetic Jennifer congratulating the person for being an Asperkid.  How great is that– total joy and positivity about our awesome way of being.  I can’t get enough of that.

One of the things I took away from the conference was how I need a mentor… someone who has done the grad school, teaching thing and succeeded at it.  Someone who is a writer, because like Asperkids, we writers have unique minds.

I’m working toward going to more conferences and cannot wait to speak one day soon.  I cannot wait to reconnect with the friends I’ve made, and I thank them for their kindness in making me feel so welcome.

Hope to see you there!

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3 thoughts on “Asper-friends at ASA

  1. Thrilled to hear of all your adventures and congratulations on returning to school! So many of us are in your corner cheering for you. Amazing!

    I relate to your ‘really intense’ personality. Years ago, a psychiatrist explained that I had difficulty attracting boys because I was ‘too intense’. In spite of this I managed to be married three times and live in three other long-term relationships over 25 years. Exhausting!

    I’m one of those late-diagnosed folks… at 65 in 2010. Receiving an Asperger’s diagnosis was a huge breakthrough for me. I’d always known I was different… from earliest childhood… and now I understood why! And I’d found others who are like me! What a relief to view my life in retrospect and no longer blame myself for being weak, flawed or wrong… but simply wired differently and experiencing life from a different perspective than most people.

    In addition, I now realize that I was self-medicating most of my life as a way of coping with depression and anxiety resulting from living life on the spectrum… being different and yet struggling to fit into ‘normal’ and meet high expectations both in school and at work, each and every day. That, and some pretty traumatic life events, made for a very bumpy ride. I like to call it ‘high-functioning hell’.

    Autism is a genetic neurodevelopmental disorder. I believe that undiagnosed and untreated it can well lead to mental illness.

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