To the Subway Employees Who Made the 'Wrong' Sandwich for My Son With Autism

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You didn’t know my son is on the autism spectrum when he asked for a sandwich with ham and pepperoni and nothing else on it. He pointed to the meat in the display counter. 

You made a sandwich for a cold cut combo with pre-prepped meat, and we took it home.

Fifteen minutes later I was back and explaining he wouldn’t eat it because the pre-prepped meat wasn’t the same color as the meat in the display counter. I told you he has Asperger’s syndrome and cannot eat the one you made. So you kindly remade it with meat from the display counter, and I am grateful.

What you don’t know is he has sensory issues with many things like clothes, noise and food. He only eats about 12 things period, and venturing into Subway was a big deal for him. He came unglued when the meat didn’t look the same in that sandwich, and it put him into an anxiety attack. Every day is a challenge to prep food for him that he will not find too crunchy, or too sticky or too something. It is beyond his control.

Thank you, for your kindness — for just understanding and making the sandwich again with the same meat, only a different color, to make a little boy less anxious so he could eat. You made our night.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us an unexpected act of kindness, big or small, that you’ve experienced or witnessed in an everyday place. 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.

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Benjamin, Boy on the Autism Spectrum, Writes Poem Called 'I Am'

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On Sunday, the National Autism Association shared a poem from a 10-year-old named Benjamin, who’s on the autism spectrum. His mom sent in the poem, titled ‘I Am,’ saying “he was given the first 2 words of every sentence. This is what he wrote…”

 

A mother writes, “My 10 year old son with Aspergers was asked to write a poem for school titled ‘I Am’ he was given the…

Posted by National Autism Association on Sunday, April 10, 2016

 

 

The poem reads:

I am odd, I am new

I wonder if you are too

I hear voices in the air

I see you don’t, and that’s not fair

I want to not feel blue

I am odd, I am new

I pretend that you are too

I feel like a boy in outer space

I touch the stars and feel out of place

I worry what others might think

I cry when people laugh, it makes me shrink

I am odd, I am new

I understand now that so are you

I say I “feel like a castaway”

I dream of a day that that’s okay

I try to fit in

I hope that someday I do

I am odd, I am new.

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What I Wish I Had Found When I Googled Asperger's Syndrome

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As a person who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as an adult in 2014, this is the information I wish I would have found when I Googled my condition.

Asperger’s is a pervasive developmental disorder that is on the autism spectrum. While some may describe it as “mild” autism, I’ve found functioning labels are not very useful. A person with Asperger’s may not always have the same experience as others with autism, but they are both still on the same spectrum nonetheless. A person with Asperger’s may not experience a language delay, while others on the spectrum might.

A person with Asperger’s may meet their developmental milestones on time, however, they still may experience some forms of social differences. While they may have a desire for friends, there is something in the process of forming connections that may pose challenges. Others may see them as “odd,” or wrapped up in their own interests. They may not be sure how to initiate social interactions. Others on the spectrum may be able to better navigate the social world, and find it easy to make friends. Some may do well socially, but have difficult interpreting others’ messages and take things literally.

A person with Asperger’s may have sensory sensitivities, from mild to severe. It is a commonly-known characteristic of autism for one to have difficulty with eye contact, however, this is not necessarily a given. Many people on the autism spectrum do not experience any difficulty in this area.

Literal thinking is a common theme among those with Asperger’s. They may hear the phrase “missing the forest for the trees” and become puzzled. They may not always be able to pick up on double meanings or hidden agendas.

People on the autism spectrum may appear or act younger than their chronological age. This is because autism is a developmental disorder. One may have younger interests and simply be in a different stage of life than their peers. A person with Asperger’s most likely has a special interest or two; something that takes up a great deal of their focus and attention.

The most important thing is that those with Asperger’s, or anywhere on the autism spectrum, have many gifts to offer the world. Being on the spectrum gives one a unique perspective and way of looking at the world. Hyperfocus and special interests may be very useful in the working world, especially if the job is in a specialized position. Finally, despite the myth that people with autism do not have empathy, it is actually thought that most have too much empathy, and just aren’t sure how to express it. Therefore, people on the spectrum can be very compassionate.

If you think that you might have some of the characteristics of autism, don’t hesitate to let your physician or psychiatrist know. It always helps to find out the most you can about yourself. Who knows? You just may be part of one very “ausome” population!

woman in glasses smiling at the camera
Sue.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write the article you wish you’d found the first time you Googled your or a loved one’s diagnosis. 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.

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Remembering the Friends Who Liked Me for Me When I Was a Child with Asperger’s

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My earliest memories are filled with the breathlessness of summers spent with my girlfriends. Running to get where we were going, playing house and jumping on mattresses in the cool cellars of their apartments. Riding my bike, not too fast, but fast enough to feel my hair flying out behind me as I tried to keep up. Lying in our little plastic pools, giggling and feeling the freezing water on our hot skin. Sitting on concrete porches with our boomboxes and rocking out to Cindy Lauper and Madonna.

I watched them do cartwheels and ride their bikes hands-free and hang upside down. I watched them jump off the swings and spin their bodies round and round, their eyes and smiles wide with excitement. I watched because I wasn’t brave enough, coordinated enough, to do those things. I watched because it looked exciting, those dangerous feats of theirs. I wasn’t jealous; I didn’t want to do those things. I knew I couldn’t, so it didn’t bother me. I liked to watch.

My friends ate ham and cheese sandwiches, drank lemonade, and snacked on Twizzlers. Not me. I was too picky. PB&Js were my lunch, every single day until my teens. I wouldn’t try lemonade or orange juice or anything so colorful. I drank milk or water, and my snacks were plain and crunchy. Cheez-its. Dry baggies of Frosted Flakes. I ate differently from them. It didn’t bother me. Or them.

We went to each others’ birthday parties. I said “No, thank you” to the ice cream cakes. I played “pin the tail on the donkey” without the blindfold and with a well-received plea to not be spun around too much prior to the pinning. I flinched when balloons were handled, and when those balloons finally popped I jumped in fright. I hardly spoke to the parents, hardly looked into their adult faces, and only fleetingly mumbled a low response to a friendly question. I was quiet and shy and reserved. But I was accepted. I was one of them.

In the summertime, the sun would be so bright, it would flicker through the trees, making the world go dark and bright within a space of a breath. I remember how I would blink my left eye, hard, as I tried to take it all in. It felt good. My friends didn’t blink like that. They never asked about it. So I blinked hard, all the time, when I felt that urge. It wasn’t until my father started calling me One-Eyed Willie that I realized my blinking was a “Bad Thing.” And then I hid it in shame.

I have moved a lot in my 38 years, away from those great friends of mine. But we still keep in touch, and of all the people I have met and friended in my years, they are the four I consider to be my bestest. The ones who didn’t judge. The ones who truly liked me for me. The Great Ones.

We were all under 8 years old at that time. That wonderful, carefree time when there were no social expectations of proper eye contact and mundane conversations about weather, no stress of husbands and children of my own, no need to be so appropriate. We were wild and unsupervised and inappropriate and it was all good.

If you are reading this, you know who you are, my dear friends. I thank you for your time and kindness and for the memories of a happy, happy childhood. The thought of you will always make me smile.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us about a time someone went out of his or her way to make you and/or your child feel included or not included. 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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When I Realized How Acting Could Help Me as a Person on the Autism Spectrum

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I don’t know exactly when I figured it out. But I know it took too long. You see, I’ve
been taking acting classes since I was a kid. My mom’s a big theater fan, while my father acted a lot in college, so it only seemed natural that I gave it a try. And unlike sports and musical instruments, acting stuck.

I really enjoyed it. It was like playing make believe, which was a favorite game of my friends and me, but other people got to enjoy it, too. Now, I never intended to be a professional actress (which is not as impossible a dream as it might seem in the Twin Cities), but I still took the classes. And when it came time for high school, I branched out from Catholic school and went to a performing arts school instead as a theatre major. It was definitely a big change, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I finally felt like I fit in, in the sense that I was now with a bunch of other people who really didn’t fit in either.

People were more accepting and, for once, it didn’t feel like everyone was trying to change me.

It was in high school when I was first diagnosed with Asperger’s. It had a few other diagnoses that proceeded this, but Asperger’s was the last piece of the puzzle that made everything fit. And, in a turn that may surprise some but not others, a lot of my classmates shared my diagnosis. A lot. So my school was incredibly helpful and accepting, and it felt like everyone (or most people) worked together to help me through school. Without their help, there’s no doubt I wouldn’t have graduated. But getting a little creative with schedules and a bit more lenient with attendance did wonders. I really enjoyed the time I spent there, especially the acting classes.

So, when it came time for college, it seemed natural that I take more acting classes. Even though I said I’m not looking to be a professional actress, I feel like I’m a pretty good one. I’ve never really acted outside classes, but I still felt like I nailed the classes I took. My favorite part was developing my characters. I loved coming up with backstories; I loved making up every little part of their lives. I’d know their childhood, I’d know them inside and out. I’d know how they would react to every little situation, and I would carefully adapt my mannerisms to match theirs.

And I think it was in college when it hit me. I was in a class, working on some improv,
and I looked at my partner and thought, “Oh, their expression shows they’re smiling… but they’re clearly upset. I need to acknowledge that.” But it wasn’t until later that it clicked. I had always thought of acting as a fun game, but once class was over, it was over. But here I was, in the middle of this game, playing it and putting together the pieces. I was picking up on those subtle body cues I’d had so much trouble with in “real” life. I also remembered those times I’d be looking in the mirror, practicing expressions. Trying to figure out how to convey grief, anger, frustration, whatever, without saying a word. Yet I often lacked those expressions in real life. I’d often get confused, and my expression wouldn’t match how I really felt.

When I realized this, I realized I could put all those acting lessons to use. Not only could I recognize other people’s expressions better, but I could also more properly match my own feelings to my body language. This may sound strange to someone who isn’t on the spectrum. But for me, and a lot of others on the spectrum, it’s difficult to properly show emotions. It’s not that I don’t feel them; it’s just that my body doesn’t immediately show them in a way society says it should. I may look entirely blank when I’m grieving, for
instance. But when I realized I could show fake grief in acting class, I realized I could show my real grief in real life.

So from then on, I paid a bit more attention to my expressions and body language. I paid more attention to the subtle changes in my voice, and how to express myself that way. I’d pay a bit more attention to how I felt and how my body must’ve looked. Slowly but surely, I feel like I got better at conveying my emotions in a way that allowed other people to see how I felt, something I always had trouble expressing before.

I know there were other factors at play, too. But I think acting was one of the biggest ways I learned to express myself. It’s incredibly ironic, when you think about it, but in the end playing all those characters helped me learn more about myself. Pretending to be someone I wasn’t made me realize who I was. When I was younger, I’d sometimes feel like I was wasting time with acting classes, since I would never be a real actress. But now I realize that they were some of the most important classes I’ve ever taken.

Woman with her face painted as a cat and wearing cat ears
Sarah in a costume for a show

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

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Everyone Should Hear What This Man With Autism Has to Say About Love

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This man on the spectrum has some thoughts on love that everyone should hear.

Bryan Chandler is an autism advocate who runs the Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness: Bryan’s Advocacy Facebook page, which has nearly 190,000 likes.

Chandler was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was 23 and he now uses his platform to raise awareness and to talk about all the different ways being on the spectrum affects his life.

 

Just because everyone amuses me when I post a selfie here we go. Oh no, the end of the world is near hehe! – Bryan ? <3

Posted by ASPERGER’S SYNDROME AWARENESS – Bryan’s Advocacy on Monday, February 22, 2016

 

Most recently, Chandler tackled the myth that people with autism can’t feel love.

On Monday, February 22, Chandler shared a post on his page talking about the love he feels for his boyfriend, Martyn, who also has Asperger’s syndrome.

Love is love, and how I feel for my boyfriend cannot be anything but love. They say those with Asperger’s are unable to…

Posted by ASPERGER’S SYNDROME AWARENESS – Bryan’s Advocacy on Monday, February 22, 2016

 

His post read:

Love is love, and how I feel for my boyfriend cannot be anything but love. They say those with Asperger’s are unable to feel anything but that is far from the truth. My boyfriend (Martyn) has Asperger’s, as do I, and I can honestly say he is one of the most loveable, intelligent, kind hearted, beautiful and gifted individuals I have ever had the chance to meet. I’m sure many of you agree that there is someone in your life that just makes you “feel” — Whether it’s a lover, a parent, or even a pet. We have feelings. Martyn is the perfect guy for me and I’m confident in his abilities, confident in his achievements and he makes me smile every day. They say there is a soul mate out there for everyone and I have definitely found mine. I would show off my boyfriend to anyone because he is just perfect and I love him. Aspies can love, never forget that. — Bryan

Many commenters chimed in to agree with Chandler or offer words of support.

“That’s one of the biggest, most pernicious, and false myths about Aspies out there,” commented Mark Janes. “It’s more a matter of learning how to manage feelings that often are very intense and can be very hard to express appropriately. Combine that with a world full of neurotypicals who freak at any inappropriate or unexpected reaction and it’s like being expected to knowingly run across a minefield.”

That’s fills me with happiness as I wish with all my heart one day my son will Love and be loved just like you,” commented Julie Elizabeth Troshupa.

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

Get more from Bryan Chandler by following the Asperger’s Syndrome Awareness: Bryan’s Advocacy Facebook page.

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