Trying New Things With My Son Who Is on the Autism Spectrum

There is no denying there are some activities that are more challenging to do with your child when they are on the spectrum. All sorts of things factor into the overall outcome of whatever it is you have set out to do. You think about sensory overload, how their day was yesterday, if this outing will mess with their schedule or routine, and you think about all of the possible outcomes of the situation.

The thing is, when you are going to a doctor’s appointment or therapy appointment, you still think about all of these things but you go because you have to, no matter what the outcome.

Instead of thinking of all of the things that could go wrong, or wondering if our children will like it, perhaps we should also take this approach with the fun things in life. If it turns out they don’t like the activity or event that you attend, then I understand you probably wouldn’t go again. I think it is really important our kids have the chance to make that decision on their own.

We have tried several different sports, activities, places to go out to dinner, etc. Have all of them ended in pure joy? Of course not, we all have personal preference and the things you may think are fun could be different from your friends or family. The important thing is that you keep trying new things, and if you find something your child loves, you keep doing it!

It would be easy to talk yourself out of doing events that may sound challenging. You might even tell yourself, “He is just so happy at home.” Possibly, but he could really enjoy the event you are talking yourself out of. What is the worst that can happen? If they don’t like it, you can always leave, and if you think they did like it but it was too overwhelming and you left, you can always try again with more supports.


When we started to go to sensory friendly movies, we saw just the beginning of quite a few movies. My son would say he wanted to go to the movie, we would get there, and he would watch 10-15 minutes of the movie before he would ask to go; then it became 20-30 minutes. The progress was slow but he wanted to go. So we went and eventually he sat through an entire movie and we couldn’t be more proud! He wanted to go to the movies, but that didn’t make it any easier for him to be able to sit through the whole thing.

In my experience, I base whether or not my son liked something on things other than how he acted while we were doing it. For example, how much he brings it up after the event is over or if he acts like he wants to do it again. Since my son is nonverbal, we make stories for a lot of the things we do using an app on his iPad. It is easy to tell when he really likes something if he watches the story over and over or shows it to others. That doesn’t always mean the event was perfect or that he never struggled. What it does mean, is that it was worth it. To him, being overwhelmed or struggling at the time didn’t make it less worth it. If it was worth it to him, who I am to say, “We should skip that, he might struggle,” or “What if he get’s overwhelmed?”

I guess some things are just worth getting overwhelmed for.

Try the fun stuff. It might work out and it might not, but you never know unless you try.

We take my son to Superkids at Soapbox Derby. No, it isn’t always perfect. He struggles to wait his turn and in general wait for it to start. However, when you see his huge smile as he experiences the thrill of coming down the hill, it is all worth it. He shows these stories to people all the time.

It isn’t always easy, but it is worth it!

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The Necessity of Special Interests for Me as a Person on the Autism Spectrum

It is a key characteristic of people on the autism spectrum to often be singularly occupied with so-called “special interests.”

But what distinguishes a special interest from a regular hobby? Many people absorb themselves into time-consuming hobbies, so, superficially, it might not seem extraordinary. However, I’ve had hobbies like that myself, and I don’t believe it really compares. And just to make clear from the start: I don’t consider a special interest an obsession. Like a regular hobby, it can certainly turn into one, but I don’t consider it by default any such thing. Allow me to try and explain how I see it:

For me, the single greatest difference between a special interest and a hobby is that it’s possible for me to put a hobby on hold if life changes make it impractical, or if I’m stressed and preoccupied.

For my special interests, the inverse is true.


When I’m going through stress or life changes, I literally need my special interests to stay functional. Therefore, they may prop up at what might seem an inconvenient time to start a new hobby. And when I say “prop up” instead of “pop up,” that’s a pun; they are indeed my brain’s way of regaining balance from everyday chaos by creating a safe zone in which to restore energy, order and sanity.

A special interest is a place I can control, where I can fully define the rules of play. It’s predictable, accessible and free from unwanted disturbances. Without exception, mine have offered a large number of facts and/or patterns to be learned and explored; small gardens I could tend to until they outgrew their habitat. A special interest rewards the time I put into it with energy I need to function properly, and I also feel strangely happy and at peace when submerging myself into one. It is a friend that always offers comfort, learning opportunities, even a sort of intimacy and a path for growth. It conforms to the rules I have set, in diametrical opposition to the real world, where I must attempt to adapt to the vague and — to me — irrational social rules of other people.

So, no. It’s not an obsession I “need to snap out of.” And when I say I need it, I’m quite serious. If you stay with me for a second, I’ll try to elaborate.

When I grow low on energy, I don’t simply get tired and grumpy. I literally lose control of crucial mental faculties some others might take for granted. This is a non-exhaustive list of the most prominent ones:

  • The ability to gauge my own emotional/stress levels.
  • The abilities to read and evaluate facial expressions, tone of voice, social context, intent and even the trajectories of objects.
  • Frequently I will lose grasp of my temperament, vocal amplitude, physical tics, my reaction to stimuli and even some motor function — including facial expressions.

These are all intuitive abilities for many people; they run in the background. I, and others like me, have to actively manage and process them all to a rather large degree at any given time, and I need a mental surplus to do so. A single brain can only actively do so many things.

As my mental energy is worn down by social interactions, changes of plans or unmet expectations, there comes a point where I can feel these basic abilities starting to disappear. It’s a harrowing, agonizing experience of feeling like I’m literally losing my mind, one piece at a time. When it gets really bad, I’m struggling so hard to function at a most basic level that it becomes a chore to string together sentences, that I can barely connect with my facial muscles, and any sudden event will make me cover for safety. The only solution to avoid a complete meltdown is solitude, isolation from stimuli and, yes, engaging in my special interests.

My wife has grown to understand this to a large degree. I used to work my special interests mostly late at night, but that’s not a viable solution in our household. Once in a while, to be able to power through the week, I need to dive into my seemingly frivolous piles of facts and sequences during family hours. Instead of just chiding me for spending some of the few hours we have together on my interests, it has become something we can talk about. I rarely ever reach the point described above anymore; we are learning to manage it.

In light of this — if you have a partner, child or friend with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), I beseech you to recognize their special interests as more than just an obsession or a nuisance, unless of course it is actively destructive. Please know it can also serve a purpose and be inherently beneficial. Naturally, it needs to be balanced with everyday life, as it can surely get out of hand, but having a healthy relationship with one’s special interests can help keep meltdowns at bay and make the remaining time that much easier and enjoyable.

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This Actor on the Autism Spectrum Has a One-Man Show About His Life

George Steeves is a professional actor on the autism spectrum who wrote and is starring in his own one-man show about life with Asperger’s syndrome. He studied at California Lutheran University in Los Angeles.

When I worked as a video producer at The Mighty, I got to work with George on a video adaptation of one of our most-read stories: Lamar Hardick’s “When People Say, ‘You Look Tired.'” The experience made me want to learn more about George, so I asked him to do a quick interview with me. Here’s what I learned:

What was your early childhood like?

I was very oblivious as a child… When I was a toddler, my mom sensed that something was “off” because my motor skills seemed a bit impaired and I didn’t make eye contact much. When I was 3, I couldn’t communicate well. All I knew how to say was, “Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty.”

My mom placed me with different psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors, therapists, etc. At first I was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder (PDP) and ADHD. Then I received a diagnosis of Asperger’s when I was 11 years old. Growing up in the 90s in rural Virginia, people didn’t know what Asperger’s was.

What was that like?

The public school system in Virginia was terrible, and my mom knew I wouldn’t survive, so I went to a small private school called Woodland Academy (15 people in my grade). I still got picked on, but it was more for being the only boy in my class.

At what age did you start doing theater?

I knew I wanted to be an actor when I was in sixth grade and did my first play. Of course, there weren’t many opportunities in Virginia and Pennsylvania, but then I ultimately moved to Los Angeles when I was 19 to start college at CLU. Then I started pursuing acting professionally when I was 21.

What was auditioning like in LA?

I would get so nervous, but as I got more practice the nerves would go away. Even though I couldn’t get an agent at first, I had booked 20 projects in my first year.

What was your first professional project?

I did a SAG short film called “The Wolf,” so I became eligible to join the union, which helped me get an agent and manager.

What made you want to do a one-man show?

I was watching an episode of “Oprah’s Master Class” with Whoopi Goldberg and how she did a one-woman show, so I thought, “Maybe I can do a one-man show!” So I started to develop the idea about struggling as an actor but then found a producer who convinced me to make the show about life with Asperger’s. The show ended up being based off a song I wrote, “Magic 8 Ball.” The story is told through a Magic 8 Ball. I talk about the trials and tribulations about growing up with Asperger’s, not being able to communicate verbally, being teased, verbally auditioning for American Idol, coming out to LA to join an acting class that ended up being a cult, etc. It’s basically me running a marathon trying to make a career and trying to find everyone else’s validation and in the end, I realize the only person I need to validate is myself.

How’s the experience been so far?

It’s a therapeutic experience. I’m reliving being a child, experiencing heartbreak, failed auditions and the like. I’m really hoping my story will inspire others. We have such a divided nation right now. We have a leader who made fun of a disabled reporter, and the appointment of our Secretary of the Department of Education broke my heart. My community isn’t feeling very supported right now.

Doing this play saved my life. What I say at the end of the show is that it’s not a mistake for me to be here and it’s not a mistake for any of us on the autism spectrum to be here.

What’s the show’s final line?

“Please take the time to know us, please don’t put us into a corner, we are just like you.”

George’s show “Magic 8 Ball (My Life With Asperger’s)” plays at the Sacred Fools Theater in Hollywood, California. For more information, head here.

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My Advice When Asked, 'Should I Disclose My Autism Diagnosis?'

Recently I celebrated my 39th birthday. I was born on June 5, 1978. Autism is classified as a developmental disability, which means I was born with what is known as Asperger’s syndrome (an autism spectrum disorder), but I wasn’t diagnosed until almost three years ago at age 36. Celebrating birthdays are now a much more significant experience because I now have the opportunity to make more sense of my beginning as I continue to build a better life for myself and my family.

Over the past two years, I’ve shared my story through blogs, radio and podcast interviews, and articles. I’ve also recently released my first book this year.

Since being diagnosed with ASD in 2014, I’ve had the privilege of not only sharing my story with the world but also sharing my suggestions with those in the autism community, particularly the parents of teens, young adults and other adults recently diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

In the last several weeks, I have been asked by several people a question about disclosing my autism diagnosis. While I believe that to be a personal decision that can be best made in the context of a great community of support and love, I will share three things I believe should be considered if you are thinking about disclosing your autism diagnosis.

Go with your gut: Pursuing an autism diagnosis after early childhood can be a difficult decision. It can become even more difficult as you enter into adulthood. In my own experience, pursuing a diagnosis at age 36 was difficult because of a lack of resources available to adults. First, it was hard to find someone who could and would diagnose me with ASD. Second, it almost always becomes a matter of financial capability. Wanting to pursue a diagnosis didn’t mean I would be able to afford the assessments that can range in the thousands of dollars.

This is why it becomes even more complicated when deciding whether to disclose your diagnosis to family, friends, employers and/or educational institutions. The time and financial resources you’ve invested in receiving a diagnosis will inform your position on whether or not to disclose. Pursuing a diagnosis as an adult is hard work, and I have found that when deciding to disclose my diagnosis publicly, I had to consider the investment I had made in getting the answers I was seeking.

Disclosing your ASD diagnosis is extremely personal, and for some they may see the potential problem in making it public knowledge. There is still a large portion of our culture that either because of ignorance or intention, fail to be accepting or accommodating to those with neurological differences.

My advice is to always go with your gut. Don’t underestimate the power of your ability to make the right choice for you. If you have made your way through the world without a diagnosis of ASD, then you know how to make the right choices for your own life. Trust yourself enough to decide if disclosing your diagnosis is good for you. After all, choosing to invest in getting a diagnosis is an investment in your own self-development and growth, so learn to trust yourself.

Give consideration to your goals: If you have pursued an ASD diagnosis, then perhaps you have done so with a goal in mind. When I decided to pursue an official diagnosis, I had determined that one of my goals was to learn more about myself, but that wasn’t the only goal.

As a husband, I have a goal of being the best partner I can for my wife. I wanted to know how and more importantly why I processed the world the way I did. Getting a diagnosis was important because I wanted to strengthen our relationship.

As a father, my goal was similar. I wanted to learn how to maximize my time with my boys. I also had the goal of using my new-found knowledge of self as a way to teach them how to be more kind and compassionate.

As a pastor, I have a goal of finding the intersection of my faith and service to others with my diagnosis. I wanted to discover how to share my life with others who may have little to no knowledge of how to allow their faith to inform their love for all of humanity and their ability to see the image of God reflected in every human life.

In reality my goals, which are many, may not be your goals but I do think it is important to keep your goal(s) in mind when deciding to disclose. The overarching theme of my goals was to learn how to place myself in a position where I can reach my potential as a husband, father, and pastor. I suggest strongly considering how, with whom, and when (or if) disclosing will help you maximize your potential. In my humble opinion, disclosing your diagnosis shouldn’t be about others and their opinions of you as much as it being about an opportunity for you to be at your best in every possible situation.

Go slow: If you’re an adult who has recently been diagnosed on the autism spectrum, chances are you’ll need some time to reflect. When I was diagnosed, it didn’t come as a surprise, but it did increase my sensitivity. I found myself becoming more sensitive about my innermost thoughts and feelings, dreams and hopes, struggles and suspicions.

All in all, I discovered that a diagnosis at my age came with a liberating sense of freedom as well as an overwhelming flood of emotions. I needed time to sort it all out and to study more about ASD and how it might be impacting my personal and professional life. It was because of this flood of new facts and feelings that I decided to take it slowly. It was a few months before I starting to disclose my diagnosis, but my timeline might not be yours.

If you’ve decided it is beneficial for you to disclose your diagnosis, just remember that you’re not obligated to tell everyone immediately or even at the same time. Consider exploring how to take your time with different groups of people. Remember you have the power not only to determine the purpose of disclosing your diagnosis but also the pace at which you decide to do it.

With or without a diagnosis or with or without disclosing your diagnosis, know that your value isn’t tied to how others perceive you. Your journey is your own to both navigate and narrate, so however you decide to tell your story, tell it with confidence because your story matters.

Stay strong.

A version of this post originally appeared on The Autism Pastor.

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Paramount Pictures Wants to Turn Book About Autism, 'Neurotribes,' Into a Film

Paramount Pictures has acquired the rights to Steve Silberman’s 2015 book “NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity.” The project has been set up with “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels and his company Broadway Video.

Silberman’s book discusses a broader model for accepting and understanding autism as well as goals for a more accessible and inclusive society. He follows the lives of several individuals with autism and their families’ journeys. Silberman also unfolds the history of autism, covering the story of Hans Asperger, the father of Asperger’s syndrome and Leo Kanner, who covertly tried to suppress knowledge of autism.

“NeuroTribes” won the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, the most prestigious non-fiction award in the U.K. The book was also highly reviewed by critics such as The New York Times who called it an “ambitious, meticulous and largehearted history.”

Similar positive feedback followed Silberman’s Twitter announcement of “NeuroTribes” being optioned.

Correction: The Mighty removed a section of this article which featured criticism that Silberman’s book did not show a diverse representation of the autism spectrum. According to Silberman: 

[T]he entirety of chapter two, “The Boy Who Loves Green Straws,” is a nearly 40-page in-depth profile of a boy named Leo Rosa who very likely meets the blogger’s definition of “low functioning,” though I avoid the phrases “low functioning” and “high functioning” in the book as much as possible because I believe they’re both clinically inaccurate and terribly dehumanizing and stigmatizing. I also profile Leo’s wonderfully supportive parents, and in fact profile parents of profoundly affected children throughout the book. 

The Mighty reached out to Broadway Video and has yet to hear back.

When I Talked to Kevin Hart About Being on the Autism Spectrum

A common problem I’m faced with, as a mentor to students with disabilities, is that a majority of them have experienced bullying. To help with that, I’ve often told them about celebrities who have overcome bullying in their childhoods. For that reason, people such as Bruno Mars and Jennifer Lawrence have become inspirations to them. Then, a movie came out called
“Central Intelligence” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin Hart. Many of my mentees were inspired by the underlying message of the film: that you shouldn’t bully others.

Because of this, when I heard Kevin Hart was coming into town, I wanted to meet him in the hopes of telling him how this film had made an impact on my mentees.

But then something I wasn’t expecting happened.

Kevin Hart, who I met at a book signing for his new book, said when he arrived in that NYC bookstore:

“One of the things I did was never give up on my dream.” – Kevin Hart #NeverGiveUp

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“I’m the person that dealt with the word no for a long time. I’m the person that dealt with a lot of negativity and adversity that people don’t know about. I wanted to share this story so you guys could understand that regardless of your position in life… you’re human… One of the things I did was never give up on one thing that’s very simple, that’s my dream.”

To hear him say that truly resonated with me. Growing up on the autism spectrum, I was often told the word “no.” I was often told growing up that I couldn’t achieve amazing things in my life because of my disability. Although my path and Kevin’s path were different, I can now say as someone who has lived his dream of being an international motivational speaker, I’ve been able to live my dreams today just like Kevin.

When I got to meet him, I was absolutely speechless. He met me with open arms, giving me a hug, asking me about my story and then taking a photo with me to boot. I told him first about how I was told, just like him that I couldn’t things in my life but I persevered. I told him I could achieve greatness in my life. The three words he said to me still resonate after I said that:

“Yes you can.”

For a celebrity like Kevin to look me in the eye and tell me I could do amazing things in my life truly meant the world to me. While I continued to speak with him and told him how he inspired my mentees, he said, “That’s the greatest compliment I could ever ask to receive.”

It’s people like Kevin who truly made me realize the power of humility. Kevin, who had hundreds of people out to see him that night, gave me the time to talk with him. He didn’t rush me off, and every minute I spoke with him, he was actively listening to me like I was a dear friend who had known him for decades.

To Kevin, I thank you for treating me not only as a fan, but a friend in that moment. I hope we can only to continue to pursue our dreams in the future. You bring so much laughter and joy to so many people, and I can only hope to bring love and inclusion for our community. I can’t thank you enough.

Kerry Magro and Kevin Hart

A version of this blog originally appeared on

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