If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. Every person who has autism is unique in his or her own ways. Here are 5 of mine.
1. I am able to accomplish anything I put my mind to. Autism has given me an amazing ability to focus on my special interests and never quit. My grandma, Helen Olmsted, was an accomplished author of three published books and wrote and directed over a hundred murder mystery plays. I also desired to be a published author and see my book in Barnes & Noble. I wrote a three hundred page book on theology and my book proposal was rejected by over 20 publishers. I had invested over 1,500 hours writing the book. Instead of giving up my dream, I wrote a second book, “A Parent’s Guide to Autism,” and on April 5, Charisma House published it.
The only difference between a successful person and a failure is a successful person rises one more time than he or she falls.
2. I sound like a Transformer. Autism caused my speech to be delayed, and my brother Chuck at 7 years old bragged to his friends, “My brother sounds weird; he speaks Norwegian!” When I was a sophomore in high school, I was chatting on the phone with a girl who asked me, “Why does your voice lack inflections? You sound like a Transformer.” I had a crush on her and felt embarrassed by her question. In interviewing others with autism in the process of writing my book, I discovered I was not the only Transformer on the planet. We on the spectrum are more than meets the eye.
3. I love to follow routines, and have never missed a scheduled day of work. At the beginning of 2010 NFL season I purchased two tickets for Brett Favre’s final game at Ford Field in Detroit. Brett’s consecutive start streak had reached 309 games. On Monday night, December 13, 2010, Brett’s streak ended due to an injury to his right shoulder. I like to joke, “If Brett Favre had autism he would’ve never allowed any shoulder injury to break his streak.”
The day after Christmas, 2014, I woke up an hour before my shift and felt horrible from bronchitis. I did not want to break my iron streak of never missing a day of work. My concrete thinking reasoned, “If a nurse sends me home for being contagious, my streak will continue because I showed up for work.” I put on my gray scrubs outfit and stumbled to my Ion. I felt dazed as I drove the five miles to work. My head was spinning faster than the roundup ride at the State Fair.
When I entered the conference room, I said to the charge nurse, “I feel like I am about to pass out; please take my temperature.” After placing the thermometer in my ear, she exclaimed, “Your temp is 103. I’ll call the supervisor and tell him you need to go home immediately.” My consecutive streak continued.
4. I have never had a credit card. Autism causes me to have obsessive compulsive behavior, so I have never dared own a credit card. When I order an item online I have my wife use her card. About 25% of adults with Asperger’s have clinical signs of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD.) Thus a credit card could have devastating financial results for us.
5. I have a savant ability for memory. Only about 10 percent of autistics belong in the savant category, though most savants are autistic. I can quote word perfect over 10,000 Scriptures including 22 complete books of the New Testament and over 5,000 quotes. While in college, this gift enabled me to mentor and intern under internationally known TV evangelist Dr. Jack Van Impe.
When you meet someone who has autism, remember that each one of us has his or her own unique gifts. As Temple Grandin states, “I am different but not less.”
Follow Ron’s journey on Spectrum Inclusion.
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