Siara Hughes studies graphic design and visual communications at Highline College in Des Moines, Washington, and for one of her final projects last quarter, she decided to produce a comic strip focused on her life with Asperger’s syndrome.

“I really wanted to tell a story that would help me explain myself, what autism means for me, what my struggles are, and how I’ve had to work through them,” she told The Mighty.

“This comic is the culmination of dozens of hours of work, lots of frustration, a couple of tears, and an earnest desire to explain myself to other people,” she added on her DeviantArt page.

Hughes, 21, told The Daily Dot she diagnosed herself with Asperger’s after identifying with an autistic character in a book and then doing research. When her younger brother was diagnosed with autism, she noticed a number of similarities between the two of them, and found an explanation for how she’d been feeling.

“Watching him go through the daily challenges of school while having them compounded by ASD reminded me of my own childhood struggles and became a sort of inspiration for the project,” she told The Mighty.

Editor’s note: These comics are based on one person’s experience.

Siara Hughes Asperger's comic

comic about autistic spectrum disorder

Hughes is sensitive to light, heat and touch, and she finds eye contact difficult. Hughes said she’s known she was different for quite some time, but it wasn’t until she learned more about Asperger’s that she began to feel understood.

“If I’m going to understand someone else and befriend them and interact in a positive way, I need to get inside their psyche and understand what’s going on under there,” she told The Daily Dot. “I want to be able to communicate, I want to be able to understand people, and it means I have to learn how to do it.”

Siara Hughes Asperger's comic

Siara Hughes Asperger's comic

Siara Hughes Asperger's comic

So far, Hughes has received a very positive response to the project. “When I turned in the story board, my teachers got really excited about it and asked me if I’d make a poster version for Student Services on campus,” she told The Mighty. “I then decided to adopt the eight-panel story board into a 12-panel webcomic that more completely told the story. I first posted the comic about two weeks ago on DeviantArt and it’s gotten more feedback than just about anything I’ve every posted.”

 

comic on ASD

Hughes also opens up about meltdowns, and how stressful they can be for her.

“The meltdowns don’t happen on cue,” she told The Daily Dot. “I don’t will them to happen; I will them not to happen. I don’t like falling apart in public.”
comic of Meltdown

Siara Hughes Asperger's comic

comic after meltdown

Siara Hughes Asperger's comic

“My goal in all of this is just to help people understand,” she told The Mighty. “To understand me, my little brother, and all the other high functioning autistic people out there like us. And maybe to help us better understand and explain ourselves.”

All images courtesy of Siara Hughes

For more of Siara’s work, visit her Facebook page and her account on Deviant Art 

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A little bit of camaraderie can go a long way.

Bryan Chandler started a new job at U.K.-based career guidance company Learning Links on Tuesday. Chandler, who’s on the autism spectrum, was “incredibly anxious” for his first day.

His coworkers, realizing he was nervous, came up with a sweet way to welcome him and put him at ease. On the morning of his second day on the job, they presented Chandler with a poster they’d all signed.

 

My work realised I was anxious on my first day at my new job yesterday so they created this welcome poster for me this morning. I love it… thank you – Bryan 🙂 <3

Posted by ASPERGER’S SYNDROME AWARENESS – Bryan’s Advocacy on Wednesday, February 17, 2016

 

 

Some of the signatures offered words of welcome, others told him to let them know if there was anything they could do to help in settle in. It was a truly warm welcome.

I love it,” Chandler wrote about the poster on his Facebook page, Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness: Bryan’s Advocacy.

Chandler has made headlines before for a letter he wrote to his childhood teachers, as well as a post he shared about how sensory issues can affect those on the autism spectrum.


Kayden Clark, a 24-year-old transgender man with Asperger’s syndrome, was shot dead by police, who were responding to a suicide call at his residence in Mesa, Arizona, on Thursday, reported ABC 15 Arizona. Last year Clark earned praise for sharing a YouTube video of himself being comforted by his dog, Samson, during a meltdown. Millions viewed the clip.

Update — Saturday Feb. 6 10:45 a.m. PST —  A previous version of this article misgendered Kayden Clark. The article has since been updated.

Clark’s mother Stacia told the New York Daily News officers were well aware of his special needs before entering the residence. “Before the police arrived [he] wasn’t posing a threat to the community at all,” said Stacia, who referred to Clark by his legal name, Danielle Jacobs. “And the police came into [his] own place. They shot and killed a 24-year-old autistic, mentally ill individual whom they had been familiar with and aware of [his] special needs.”

Detective Esteban Flores, of the Mesa Police Department, confirmed to AZ Family that officers responded to a suicide call at the same residence two years earlier. When officers made contact with Clark on Thursday, he told them he had a knife and was going to hurt himself, Flores told the news outlet. “When [he] made contact with them [he] approached [two officers] with the knife, extended it out, and they felt threatened,” Flores said, adding that they fired their duty weapons. The incident is currently under investigation.

“I talked to [him] last night and the night before and [he] seemed fine,” Stacia told the NY Daily News.

When Clark’s meltdown video first went viral, he told The Huffington Post, “When I have a meltdown, I often have self-injurious behavior and I often self-harm.” That video has since been made private.

“This tragedy highlights the increased need for first responder training to teach first responders to effectively interact with autistic and special needs individuals,” Dr. Julian Maha, founder and CEO of the autism nonprofit, Kulture City, told The Mighty. “The training will give them much needed tools to effectively communicate with autistic individuals, help keep both parties safe and hopefully prevent tragedies like these.”

Bryan Chandler, who runs the Facebook community group, Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness – Bryan’s Advocacy, echoed those sentiments when asked to comment on the story.

“Police education is essential to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again,” Chandler told The Mighty. “It is important for them to understand what a meltdown is and the extreme reactions that occur when one is on-going. They should be trained on how to support someone with autism when having a meltdown, and I believe I speak for most people when I say the following: ‘I do not expect their education to be perfect, but they should at least be trained on how autism affects us, however basic.’ Verbal communication is difficult for us and a bit of understanding would have gone a long way here… This situation is evidence that more awareness is needed.”

No law enforcement officials were injured in the incident, and the officers involved were placed on administrative leave, which is standard for officer-involved shooting situations, reported ABC 15 Arizona.


The picture below was taken this past summer. My family and I decided to take a day trip to Virginia Beach to have a family day before school started. The young man in the picture is my oldest son, Aaron. The young lady in the picture is his girlfriend, Brittany. The younger gentleman standing in the background is my youngest son, Bryant.

family on beach looking at ocean

To the naked eye, it may look like some kids enjoying a sunny day at the beach. Here are a few things the picture doesn’t show.

Aaron has Asperger’s syndrome, and he had experienced difficulty in social situations most of his life. On this day, Brittany sat next to him, and Bryant stood in the water, seemingly looking out at the ocean, but he was really listening to Aaron to make sure he was doing OK.

The photo doesn’t show the joy in my heart and tears in my eyes as I discovered this moment and felt compelled to capture it. When your child feels accepted after being ostracized, it is a prayer answered.

The photo doesn’t show the years of conversations Aaron and I have had about “social skills,” dating, conversations… you name it, we have talked about it.

The photo doesn’t show the patience and consideration this couple has for each other. He opens doors for her and asks her if she is OK. She answers no matter how many times he asks and touches his arm lovingly when they are together.

The photo doesn’t show the joy on both of their faces as they walked back to our spot on the beach. To see them truly enjoying each other’s company is another prayer answered.

As we walked back to our vehicle later that day, Aaron came up beside me and whispered, “Thank you, Mom. I had the best day ever! I love you!” This is a common phrase he says when he is happy.

It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, though, a picture is worth a thousand words, prayers, smiles, hugs and precious experiences.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us one thing your loved ones might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


I was fresh out of high school, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Just a couple years before, I had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. I was also struggling with a phobia of bees. I wanted to get out in the world, but I wasn’t sure how to. I wasn’t ready for college.

My mom found a special program for me which would allow me to try out different possible job positions. I could go to a job that interested me and try it out for a few hours to see if it would be something I wanted to do long-term. One of those positions just happened to be helping staff providing equestrian therapy to children with special needs. And I had no idea how much I was about to learn in such a short amount of time.

I arrived at the facility on a hot summer day, and before I could even take in the beauty of what was going on, I noticed something flying around the doorway to the outside area. It was some kind of bee. I lost all of my focus instantly and began to freak out. I wanted to go home, but I was told that I couldn’t. I felt horrible, trying to pull myself together so that I could try working a little bit, but it was no use, and I ended up having a complete meltdown.

The staff at the facility was amazing. They went out of their way to try to help me. They sat me down, asking what they could do for me. They even told me I didn’t have to work outside, as had originally been planned. Instead, I could help in a session with a child with special needs who would be using the inside ring. Although I was still teary-eyed and my meltdown wasn’t quite over, I agreed to try.

I walked over to the child on the horse. He was somewhere between 8 and 10 years old, and he was nonverbal. But that didn’t stop him from connecting with me. Right away, he looked over and smiled at me. Then, he did something I will never forget.

He wiped a tear from my face.

I couldn’t help it. I had to forget my worries about a silly little bee and smile back. I thanked him and told him not to worry about me, and that I was OK.

And it was true. Because of this child, my meltdown immediately stopped. I was OK again.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to a stranger or someone you don’t know well who showed you incredible love recently. 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images


As someone on the autism spectrum, one of the most common questions I hear is about how my diagnosis changed me. But the funny thing is that I have noticed more of a change in others.

Growing up was confusing to me. For my whole life, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get things right. People gave me strange looks. They became angry over things that didn’t make sense to me. It seemed to me that people were just being nit-picky. I tried to tell them I was lost, but no one seemed to hear me. In 10th grade, after 15 long, tiring years, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. I shrugged off this “official” diagnosis because I didn’t really know what it was. I was still the same person.

What I wasn’t expecting was for other people to stop being so mad at me. They began to listen. People understood my struggles, such as my hypersensitivities and my literal thinking. Instead of being upset when I misunderstood something, they stopped to help explain it to me in a different way. When I was overwhelmed with a task, they would help me break it down into smaller steps rather than assuming I was being lazy.

How did my autism spectrum diagnosis change me? It didn’t.

Rather, my diagnosis changed others. It changed their point of view about me. I was no longer seen as a lazy, rude, selfish girl. I was no longer considered to be “picky” over foods or clothing, or “overreacting” due to changes in my routine. Instead, I was finally seen as the hard-working, generous and caring woman I was striving to become. I was not “picky,” but hypersensitive. I was not “overreacting” to change; rather, I was unprepared for it.

A diagnosis hasn’t changed who I am. It has changed how others see me.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us about a time someone in your community went above and beyond (or did the exact opposite) for you or your loved one with special needs. 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 Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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