What I Learned as a Person on the Autism Spectrum After My Train Broke Down

139
139

I was on a local train one day. We had just left the station and were heading towards the next stop when I heard a loud, long whistle. The train immediately began to slow down.

As we came to a halt before we had even arrived at the next station, all power to the train cut out, leaving only the emergency lights. I knew there was a problem. And as someone on the autism spectrum, I was extremely anxious. But the staff on the train were calm. They told us wires were down on the track. Then they said we needed to wait to be “rescued.” I didn’t really know what that meant or how they were going to “rescue” us.

As a person on the autism spectrum, the unexpected can be difficult to handle. I personally need to have a plan in place most of the time. But when the train broke down, I didn’t even know how long I was going to be stuck there, let alone what exactly I needed to do. I felt an urge to listen to some music to help curb my anxiety and then decided against it. I knew I needed to be able to hear information and instructions. I was worried I would have a complete meltdown. So I just held onto my cellphone instead and started texting my friends and family.

My parents were extra helpful. When I told them about the situation I was in, they reminded me trains break down once in a while just like buses or other forms of transportation. My dad told me to just try and stay calm and wait to find out what I needed to do.

Time went by and the staff kept relaying the information as soon as they could. And although the plans kept changing, they listened to each person’s concerns and dealt with them in a professional manner. After a while, I realized I was handling most of the situation on my own. And about three hours after the train broke down, we were finally “rescued” by another train.

Sometimes, I really wonder how much I can do as someone on the autism spectrum. For me, autism can make things a bit difficult. I really worry I won’t be able to handle a situation or will misunderstand what I need to do.

But when the train broke down, I never even had to mention to anyone I was on the spectrum. I learned something important that day. I learned I’m more capable than I thought I was.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were traveling that was either incredibly challenging or where you faced adversity. Tell us how you handled it or wish you had handled it. If you’d like to participate, please check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

139
139
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

5 Things I've Asked Myself About Having an Autism Spectrum Disorder

392
392

I first found out I was on the autism spectrum when I was 11 years old. I went up to one of my teachers and asked them point blank, “People have always said that I was special, but why am I special?” The teacher asked me to talk to my parents. I sat them down to talk about it. That was the first time they told me I have autism.

Fast forward four years later, after not really ever being curious about learning more about my autism diagnosis, I began to research online about ASD. I began thinking of becoming an autism advocate. I had so many questions. 

Now as an adult, I’ve learned so much about what autism means to me. Looking back, as a part of self-reflection, I wrote out a list of five questions I’ve asked myself about
having autism that I wanted to share with you in the hopes of educating others.

5. Why me?

Today, there is no known “cause” of autism. The truth is, I may never know why I have autism but I’ve learned so much about it being a part of my DNA that makes it a part of who I am.

4. Does autism define me or do I define autism?

So many people look at the label and stereotype of autism and think it defines their loved ones. Like Temple Grandin says though, “see the able, not the label.” Today I say autism can’t define me; I define autism.

3. Why do I have the ability to communicate more easily than some of my peers on the spectrum?

When I was researching the definition of autism as a teen I never knew autism was a spectrum disorder. Today I know that if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met just that… one person with autism. Some will find communication more challenging than others. Many will may have strengths different than mine.

2. No one in my family has autism, so why I do have it?

This question came up because for a while I felt so different than my family members because of my “quirks.” But I now know I’ll never be alone. Many of my family members have become experts in ASD to help me in my development.

1. Will autism prevent me from going after my dreams?

When I was struggling as a child I definitely had mixed feelings about this question. For example, one of my dreams as a teen was going to college. Many of my peers would bully me and say I’d never go to college, let alone graduate from high school. When I started applying to schools and got accepted into all 15 colleges I applied to, I realized one of my first dreams had become a reality. It opened a door for me to understand that other dreams of mine, like getting a full-time job, becoming a professional speaker, consulting on films and becoming an author, could also become a reality one day if I wanted them enough. They all came true.

Today, as an advocate, I just want to see all my mentees and everyone in our community get the supports they need to progress and accomplish their dreams. Autism has become a part of my skill set, and we hope we can do the same for others.

What have you asked yourself about your autism diagnosis? If I can ever help be a soundboard you can reach out to me anytime on my Facebook
page here
.

This blog originally appeared on KerryMagro.com.

392
392
TOPICS
, , , Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

'Po' Director John Asher Hopes Movie Authentically Depicts Autism

8k
8k

Filmmaker John Asher operates on one principle when choosing his projects.

“You shouldn’t be making the film unless you have some sort of first-hand experience about what the story is about,” Asher says.

That wasn’t a problem for his latest project, which he produced, directed and edited. “Po” follows a recently widowed dad (Christopher Gorham) and his sixth-grade son (Julian Feder), who’s on the autism spectrum, as they learn to live without a wife and mother. Patrick, who goes by Po, is an inquisitive, imaginative boy who struggles to express his grief, and his newly single father David attempts to cope by immersing himself in his high-pressure job.

For Asher, “Po” is somewhat of a passion project. His own son Evan is on the spectrum, as are the sons of screenwriter Colin Goldman and lead actor Gorham and the daughter of composer Burt Bacharach (whom Asher met by chance on a cross-country flight). The trio and their colleagues made it their mission to make “Po,” which is based on a true story, as authentic a depiction as possible.

“Every piece of dialogue that Po had and every movement that he did was thought out and deliberated on,” Asher told The Mighty. “We really didn’t want it to feel forced, and we didn’t want to do things we’ve never seen an autistic child do before. We wanted to stay true so people who are not affected by autism can learn something from watching this film.”

Asher hopes his efforts to incorporate his son’s attributes give viewers a bit of insight into what autism is like. Actors Julian Feder and Christopher Gorham and director/producer John Asher on the set of "Po."

“The movie is, for me, about teaching acceptance and about love — that love supersedes everything,” Asher said. “But on top of that, it’s to educate people who aren’t aware of what parents and what children of autism go through on a daily basis.”

Though the film still awaits its official release, it’s screened well, winning best picture awards at film festivals in Albuquerque, Houston (where Feder also nabbed a Rising Star award) and Palm Beach. The cast and crew received two standing ovations at the world premiere in Panama.

Still, Asher says “Po” has a difficult fight ahead of it.

“[A movie’s success] just has to do with where society is emotionally at any given time,” he told The Mighty. “That’s why making movies is a risky proposition because you never know the mood of the general public when you release a film. It’s a hard terrain right now for little movies.”

For Asher, the making of “Po,” which he has been involved in since 2005, was never about money.

“It was kind of a love letter to my son, to let him know I am aware of what he is going through, that I love him and care about him more than anything in the world.”

Follow “Po” on Facebook and Twitter.

The Mighty reviewed an advance copy of “Po” for this article.

8k
8k
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Ford to Launch Program Aimed at Hiring People on the Autism Spectrum

9k
9k

Update: Ford Motor Company announced it will expand its pilot program in 2017 by hiring an additional 12 to 24 people on the autism spectrum. 

Ford Motor Company, in partnership with the Autism Alliance of Michigan, is launching a program designed to help people on the autism spectrum gain on-the-job work experience with Ford.

The program, called FordInclusiveWorks, is set to launch on June 1 and will match people with roles in Ford’s product development division. The program will last between 30 and 90 days, a Ford spokesperson told The Mighty. All participants will be paid for the duration of the program.

“Individuals with autism bring a unique set of talents to our business,” Felicia Fields, Ford group vice president of human resources and corporate services, said in a statement. “We recognize that having a diverse and inclusive workforce allows us to leverage a wider range of innovative ideas to make our customers’ lives better.”

The program, funded by The Autism Alliance of Michigan, is the first of its kind for Ford. It will create five positions designed specifically for people on the autism spectrum. According to Ford, participants will gain experience in the company’s vehicle evaluation and verification test lab, logging and prepping tires for test vehicles. Jobs that, Ford states, require a “great deal of focus” and “high level of attention to detail and organization.”

Ford plans on using this program to evaluate participants for future positions within the company. Completing the program does not guarantee a job. Instead, those who successfully graduate from the program will be entered into Ford’s standard recruiting process.

“We are truly excited to be collaborating with Ford on this pilot program,” Colleen Allen, president and CEO of the Autism Alliance of Michigan, said. “For so many individuals with autism spectrum disorder, getting and keeping a job is a challenge. Often, companies lack understanding of the unique characteristics associated with autism, which can be challenging, and unfortunately this can lead to perceptions of a poor fit for the individual and coworkers.”

Those interested in the program can apply through Ford’s career portal.

9k
9k

RELATED VIDEOS

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

What I Want the World to Know About Autism

675
675

Autism requires understanding and empathy. Autism affects social and learning skills. It can also affect the way someone thinks and it can make it difficult to comprehend (understand) words, situations, facial expressions or emotions.

I want to share my story about my life with autism. I was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at 6 years old. PDD-NOS stands for Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified; it’s on the Autism Spectrum. As a child, I had no eye contact, poor language and social skills and melted down every day. I was nonverbal and overly sensitive to everything like noises. I didn’t really understand why I had tutors in classes with me. I still do, and I’m fine with that.

Now I know I have tutors in classes with me because I learn differently. Without tutors, I would be confused and wouldn’t be able to understand what’s going on. I was bullied, picked on and made fun of and lied to in school. People would stare and point at me. It made me feel like I would never fit or blend in with everyone else. Many tried to push me down, but people who care about me helped me go back up on my feet.

Look at me now. I’ve worked extremely hard, and I’m independent. Whenever people try to bring me down, I automatically get back up. When a person points and stares at someone with autism, that’s called being rude and disrespectful. I think the people who judge me really just don’t understand.

For those of you who support people with autism and don’t judge them at all, keep continuing to spread autism awareness. For those of you who don’t seem to understand autism, try to ask yourself, “How can I help people with autism?” For those of you who have autism, you are beautiful fearless warriors. Nothing can stop you from succeeding. You can succeed like everyone else. You are just as equal as anyone. If you want to succeed, go for it. For those of you who want to understand autism, try practicing empathy. Offer people on the spectrum  fairness, equality and respect. And I encourage you to stop judging others.

Nothing will ever stop me from rising to the top. Nothing is going to stop me from rising all the way to success. I am never going to give up. That is why I am writing this.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Why is it time to start talking about it? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

675
675
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Sam Allen, Young Man With Autism, Campaigns for Notice on Driver's Licenses

3k
3k

Thanks to the efforts of one San Antonio man on the autism spectrum and his mother, the Texas Department of Public Safety (TXDPS) is promoting several new initiatives for autistic drivers.

Sam Allen and his mother Jennifer, founder and CEO of the nonprofit awareness and advocacy organization Aspergers101, collaborated with TXDPS to spread the word about an optional “communication impediment” notice that can be placed on the back of driver’s licenses. Though the option has been available for some time, many people were unaware of it.

“These initiatives are truly groundbreaking. I have peace of mind knowing that I’m protected with the communication impediment driver license notice,” Sam Allen, 21, said in a TXDPS press release. “The ability for me to drive is a stepping stone toward a life of independence; and I am grateful that initiatives like the ones announced today are changing the way law enforcement interacts with those with autism or other communication challenges.” The back of a Texas driver's license shows the "communication impediment" notice.

DPS spokesman Sgt. Lonny Haschel, who has a family member on the spectrum, added that the notice, which can also be utilized by drivers with conditions such as Down syndrome, stuttering and hearing loss, helps facilitate communication between drivers and officers.

“Being a police officer is a very dangerous occupation, because you never know who you’re going to encounter when you’re making a traffic stop,” Haschel told The Mighty. “Having that kind of understanding back and forth when we encounter an individual that may have a communication impediment is going to make our job that much that better, and make it a much better community service.”

TXDPS will offer additional training and education about autism spectrum disorders for its officers and recruits, in addition to hosting a “Driving with Autism” camp in concert with Aspergers101.

The camp, slated to launch later this year, will feature classroom instruction, hands-on driving practice and role-play scenarios with officers.

Jennifer Allen said the initiatives establish a precedent for both the law enforcement and autism spectrum communities.

“Much of my fear about my autistic son driving has been eased thanks to the Texas Department of Public Safety. I deeply appreciate that DPS responded to our efforts to raise awareness and seek meaningful policies that accommodate those with a communication challenge related to autism, Asperger’s syndrome, brain injury or other speech impediments,” Allen said. “These initiatives set the stage for powerful well-rounded programs that other states hopefully will emulate.”

3k
3k
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Real People. Real Stories.

7,000
CONTRIBUTORS
150 Million
READERS

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.