A collage photo of Bryan and a photo of the letter he wrote

Man With Autism Writes What He Wishes He’d Said to Childhood Teachers

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This man with autism is finally able to say all that he couldn’t when he was a kid.

Bryan runs a Facebook page called Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness: Bryan’s Advocacy that he uses to be an advocate for people with Asperger’s. Through his page, he shares his experiences as a man on the spectrum. On Friday, he penned a powerful letter from his childhood self to his former teachers.

As a child I was made to feel bad from the teachers for being a badly behaved child,” Bryan wrote. “I couldn’t communicate my needs in an effective way that would truly get my points across.”

I am an adult on the spectrum and as a child I was made to feel bad from the teachers for being a badly behaved child….

Posted by Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness – Bryan’s Advocacy on Friday, November 20, 2015

The notes read: 

Dear Teacher, 

You wrote my mother and father a really formal letter today and they became stressed which made me very sad. I wanted to cry but I struggle expressing my emotions. I got angry instead and pushed mother which made me shout and scream. Daddy, I mean Father, took me to my bedroom for a timeout. I said “Father” because I copy those around me and I wanted to imitate your style of writing. Miss Teacher, I have autism and I want you to imitate me because I don’t want to be called “bad.”

I am not a bad child when I talk over you in class. I do not mean to, I just didn’t process what you were saying to me. 

When I shout at you I instantly regret it. The lightbulb in the classroom keeps flickering and it is causing me great discomfort.  It hurts me. I become anxious and can’t find the right words to tell you what is bothering me. 

When you give me several verbal instructions at the same time I become confused, anxious, and then I forget what you asked me to do. I did not do this on purpose. I have a great long term memory but a terrible short term memory. 

I communicate better when information is written down and I become anxious when you ask me to stand up to talk in front of the entire class. 

My mother and father cry when you send them a letter to say I’m badly behaved. They blame themselves but I can’t comfort them — the words just do not come. This makes me upset. 

Living with autism is not easy. It’s really difficult. 

But I believe we can do anything when we put our mind to it. All we need are people that are willing to understand us. I need you to understand me. 

So, Miss Teacher, I want us to work together and I want us to understand each other. A famous quote I like is, “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its entire life believing it’s stupid.” I don’t learn things in the same way as everyone else. 

I don’t expect you to become an autism expert but I want you to understand me enough not to call me “badly behaved” — it hurts me more than you know. 

Thank you teacher for reading. 

From, every single child on the spectrum. 

Bryan was not diagnosed with Asperger’s until he was 23. He spent his childhood and teen years not understanding why he felt different from his peers, so when he finally got his diagnosis it was a relief. Now, he hopes to help others by spreading awareness and understanding about autism.

I have Asperger’s Syndrome and I have difficulty lying so I’m going to be completely straight with you. I want you to…

Posted by Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness – Bryan’s Advocacy on Friday, November 20, 2015

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What I Need From You When Being Social Feels Overwhelming

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When I realized I have Asperger’s, there were so many things that started to make sense about how I navigate life. I often exist in a state of overwhelm and anxiety. Even when I am involved in an activity I enjoy, I end up with a kind of social hangover that leaves me in a fog for days. That fog makes me want to climb into my bed without speaking to anyone and emerge after it clears.

My husband and I volunteered for the Color Run recently. It was so much high-energy fun. I was dancing, singing and spraying people in orange powder for three hours. It was loud and exciting and awesome. But I came home wanting nothing more than to turn all the lights off and crawl into my bed for the rest of the day.

When I went to my first Asperger’s support group meeting, I was so anxious that my stomach was tied in knots all day. I didn’t feel like talking about the meeting afterward. I wanted to be alone and process quietly.

A month later, I still don’t feel like talking about it. My self-realization is still new, and I haven’t finished processing it.

When we vacationed at a cabin with three other couples, it was fun, but it was also really difficult for me. When people were relaxing on Saturday, my brain raced with my to-do list, things that could happen, topics of conversation to script and a high level of anxiety that I would do or say something wrong.

It’s been four days and I am still recovering from that weekend. It exhausted me in every sense of the word.

I used to wonder why this would happen to me. Why did social events exhaust me? Why couldn’t I keep a high-level social schedule like everyone else? What was wrong with me? It’s honestly a relief to know why I feel this way.

It may be difficult for others to understand why I need space during the social hangover. I simply need understanding. Don’t expect me to make any decisions in these moments, because they are overwhelming. Allow me extra time to respond to questions. Be polite when I ask you to repeat yourself. I may not be able to process what you are saying. Offer to take over a task that I may be working on so that I may retreat to a dark, quiet room. Give me a little time to myself.

Realizing I have Asperger’s has allowed me to understand why I function differently, and I’m learning to give myself the grace to retreat or recover when I need. It’s helpful when others allow me that same grace.

Follow this journey on Little Mama Jama.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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What I Wish I Could Tell People About My Experience on the Spectrum

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What’s one secret or truth I wish I could tell others about my experience with Asperger’s?

I’m not OK. It’s not that easy. And yes, most of the time I am pretending.

When I received my Asperger’s diagnosis, I waited weeks to tell my family. I was 35 years old and already a parent myself, and I was terrified for them to find out. To this day, my father still does not know.

Mostly I hesitated telling people out of fear they would look at me differently. I was still learning to accept parts of myself, so how could I expect that immediately from anybody else? Another reason was that the reactions I got when I did tell people were less than savory. They didn’t believe me.

I now believe this happened for two reasons. First, all the years my symptoms were dismissed and I was regarded as socially awkward, shy, slow to warm up, rude and sneaky. I had studied the behavior of those around me and learned to adapt, something that seems to be a commonality among females on the spectrum. The second reason I feel people weren’t accepting of my diagnosis is that the general population has a lack of information and understanding about the Asperger’s/autism spectrum diagnosis.

It came as a surprise to my close family and friends, and they had a hard time understanding how this could be. They felt I looked fine on the outside and was exaggerating or making excuses for my behavior.

The truth is, nobody knows what it’s like inside my brain. They don’t know just how hard I am on myself on the inside for everything about me that is different on the outside.

I have to work double time to make it through parent/teacher meetings, soccer games on the sidelines, dates, family gatherings and sometimes even extended periods of time with no break from my kids. The hours that follow are usually spent trying to recover. It can take days for me to get back to myself after a social event or interaction, whether successful or unsuccessful. I can spend hours crying, replaying every minute over and over in my head thinking of all the ways I could have done it better, differently or how I could have fixed it. I stare out my window trying to remind myself there is more to my existence than confusion.

Something so simple for one person to me can be completely overwhelming. I went to college and got a degree, but I cant find a job for the life of me. It’s not because I don’t want to succeed — it’s because I cant find a place where I don’t have to be afraid just to be me. I have a hard time trying to rationalize going out and pretending I’m something I’m not in order for the world to accept me. Just to make a penny.

Sometimes my Asperger’s makes me look quiet.

Sometimes my Asperger’s makes me look rude.

Sometimes my Asperger’s makes me look antisocial.

I can assure you on the inside, I am none of those.

There is so much I have yet to to make sense of. Sometimes I have to go to my kids for advice because there are some things they’re just better at in life.

I have chosen not to tell my dad about my diagnosis because I don’t want him to lose faith in me. Sometimes I feel he may be the only one left who still believes in me. I wish I could tell him that just because I’m not like his friends’ kids with their successful marriages, careers and houses, I’m doing the best I know how to in order to be successful. I am surviving.

I wish I could tell people that sometimes surviving itself is a daunting task. I wish my dad knew that. I wish I could tell others how although Asperger’s can create boundaries for me, I am learning to navigate around them in my own way in order to be happy.

It may not be their interpretation of what the perfect life looks like, but it’s mine — and I think I will do just fine.

Follow this journey on Awkward Is Awesome. A View From the Spectrum.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one secret or truth you wish you could tell others about your experience with disability, disease or illness? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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My Son With Asperger's Was 2 the Day I Truly Became His Mother

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It has always been my dream to be a mother. As a little girl, I spent endless hours caring for my baby dolls and taking them on pretend adventures. As the years went on, I created my own vision of what real motherhood would look like someday. The handsome husband and the well-behaved children in perfect outfits. Me doing it all while looking fabulous. My children would be smart, kind, talented and loved by all.

I do have a beautiful family that includes a handsome husband and four wonderful children. There are moments when I look fabulous. My children are smart, kind and very talented. But they are also frequently misunderstood by the world. Their days are filled with moments that would have thrown the nuns who taught me into a tizzy. Their unusual behaviors would have had the popular girls in my class whispering in disapproval. My motherhood journey has been different than I expected. I am the mother of three boys with autism.

I remember the simultaneous rush of panic and excitement when I felt the first pangs of contractions. At the hospital I gazed out the window with wonder at the people in the streets below going about their business like this was any other day. To me there was nothing ordinary about it. I was about to become someone’s mother.

That someone, my oldest son, Liam, was born hours later. I was in awe of him. I felt such peace with him in my arms. I couldn’t stop smiling or looking at him. The brush of his velvety skin against my cheek was pure heaven. When he was in someone else’s arms I counted the seconds until they gave him back to me. I was blissfully happy.

Weeks later, the picture was not so perfect. Liam started to cry. A lot. He couldn’t be held tight enough or long enough. He screamed when others held him. He barely slept. I was inundated with expert parenting advice from family, friends and strangers on how to “fix him.” Nothing worked. When he learned to walk, he was running days later. I watched other children playing in the park while my child ran in circles and was literally drawn like a magnet to whatever he should not be near. The dirty looks and disapproval quickly followed. Clearly, I wasn’t doing something right.

I felt the stares of other mothers at the playground burning through my back as I struggled to help him through one of his frequent and explosive meltdowns. He acted like the children around him didn’t exist. Once, in a split second, he dumped sand all over a child as I helplessly tried to reach him and intercept. My profuse apologies were no match for the mother’s understandable anger. I left quickly in shame with a kicking and screaming Liam. I sat in the car and cried while Liam repeatedly banged his head on the car seat.

I knew in my gut something wasn’t right. His doctor said he was just an active little boy. My in-laws said I was overprotective some days and not tough enough other days. Maybe I was just a horrible mother. I felt as though I was failing miserably at the only job I ever really wanted in life.

One day when Liam was 2, we spent a beautiful summer day at a friend’s cookout. All the children were playing together in the grass. All of them except Liam. He was fascinated with the tools in the garage and everything else he wasn’t supposed to touch. During dinner, I tried to calm Liam during one of his frequent meltdowns. I overheard a so-called friend behind the grill mutter to his company, “If that was my kid, I’d shoot myself.” I looked up and his eyes met mine. I put my plate down. I picked up Liam and announced to my husband that we were leaving. I heard no one else and saw no one else as we marched straight out of the party to our car in the street, with my husband chasing behind in confusion.

I sat in the back seat on the way home trying to console Liam, who was distraught over our early exit. I showed him a magazine to distract him, and he began to look through it on his own and quieted down. I put my head back, closed my eyes and tried to cool the rage inside me. The calm lasted all of about 30 seconds.

“Look, Momma! Look, Momma!” Liam repeated over and over while jabbing me in the arm. “What, Liam!” I exploded. I opened my eyes to the page in front of him. It was a mother and her little boy walking on the beach holding hands.

“It’s just like you and me!” He beamed from ear to ear. Tears began to sting my eyes. “That’s right,” I said, “just like you and me.” I kissed his sweaty head and whispered into his hair. “No more, Liam. I am done listening to all of them. From now on I am listening to you, and I am listening to myself. I hear you. I see you.” That was the day I truly became someone’s mother.

The next day I called my pediatrician and demanded to see a specialist. Months later, Liam was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. I have battled schools, insurance companies and others’ opinions every day since then. It has been a tough road but a true gift. 

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Today Liam is 14 years old. The busy toddler who ran circles in the playground runs instead alongside me in road races. The rambunctious preschooler who didn’t notice anyone else in the sandbox is now a wonderful friend and volunteers at church. The little boy who always said the wrong thing now writes beautiful poetry. He is still quirky and marches to the beat of his own drum. I love that about him. He is braver than I am.

When Liam was 5, he and I were having a special afternoon together and stopped at a local carousel. We paid for our ticket, and he was off to find the perfect horse. “This one!” he announced in excitement as he clambered up the saddle and tightened himself into position. “Oookaayyyy, we are ready to go!” he pronounced with the full intensity of a space mission. I chuckled and climbed atop the horse next to him. The carousel began to spin slowly and then faster as we passed the same faces in the crowd watching us over and over. Liam started to lift his arms up in the air and alternated loud and enthusiastic cheers of “Woohoo!” and “Yee-hah!” and “Ride ‘em, cowboy!”

I saw the blurry faces start to whisper and stare. I began to tell him to quiet down but then I stopped myself. I turned my gaze away from the faces circling around us and looked instead at the pure joy in the face of my son. I lifted up my arms, hesitantly at first, and then with more purpose. “Woohoo!” I cheered. Liam’s face lit up. We circled around and around, hooting and hollering and waving our arms in the air as the world watched. This was our ride together. We only had one ticket. We should ride it our way.

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What This Selfie Means to Me as a Person With Asperger’s Syndrome

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When you look at this picture, what do you see? A happy girl, who happens to be wearing braces, sitting in her car on a nice day. Am I right? Well, that’s only part of the story.

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I took this selfie on an ordinary day in the park where I often spend my lunch breaks while working as a supported housing specialist. I typically grab something to eat through the drive-thru at Burger King, my usual spot. Then I park my car in the park a few blocks away from my office. Most of the time, I take a nice walk after chowing down.

Now you’re probably thinking, “So what? She likes to eat lunch and walk in the park. What am I missing?” Well, let’s get to the most exciting part of the story and my primary reason for writing this. In this particular picture, you are correct in that you see a happy girl with braces. What you don’t see just by looking at it is that she’s a happy Aspie! I took this picture only months after I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. I’m most likely beaming with happiness because I was elated to finally have answers and to have my suspicions of five years confirmed. It meant a lot to me to finally make what I saw as part of my identity official. Now, look a little more closely. If you notice, I’m wearing a necklace with multicolored puzzle pieces in the pendant. I got this necklace for myself as my way of spreading autism awareness and acceptance.

Another neat factoid about this picture? It has been featured in a calendar that autistic adults submitted their pictures to for each month. I thought it captured the essence of my being: a happy girl with an expression of youthful joy, flashing her tin grin without any reservations. I’m simply me. I was excited to see the finished product and to tell my family about it. Some of them ordered a copy.

So what did getting this diagnosis mean for me? It meant that after years of knowing I was a little different, I finally had a reason for it. I could put a name to the challenges I faced, and more importantly, the gifts life has handed me. I’ve always been that girl who was thought of as a little weird for not wanting to date or dress like the others. My differences are always something I’ve carried with pride. Fitting in is a moot point for me. I’m much happier playing my video games, geeking out over the latest Android update and living life on my own terms. This is one of the Aspie traits I embrace to the fullest.

They say a picture says a thousand words. I think that statement just about sums it up.

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My Son With Asperger’s Wants to Tell You What Being Different Means

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This morning we were reading about being different and all of the sudden, my son, Griffin said, “I just came up with this poem.” He’s come up with some amazing things, but I wanted to make sure he wasn’t remembering it after reading it somewhere. He told me he was 99.9 percent sure he just came up with it, and after doing some research, I didn’t find anything like what he wrote. I love moments like these, where I get more insight into the amazing person he is and the person he’s becoming. He teaches me so much, and I just love his words of wisdom.

Griffin shares his parents’ passion to share their story in order to help others. He wants those with and without autism not to feel alone and to know they are special. He also wants to educate those who don’t understand autism. He confidently shares with people he meets that he has an Asperger’s diagnosis and knows it’s just part of what makes him special. He plans on being a video game designer and composer when he grows up.

Here’s my sweet boy reciting his poem, “An Ode to Being Different”:

“Hi, I’m Griffin. This is a poem that I wrote. I wrote it because I don’t like discrimination. It is called, ‘An Ode to Being Different.’ 

“Different sometimes seems unfair
“But please do not ever despair.
“Different is what makes this world so great.
“Different is never something to hate.

“And it’s not. Bye!”

Follow this journey on What Will This Day Bring?

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