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What Amy Schumer and I Both Appreciate About People on the Autism Spectrum

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If your partner is having a rough day, what do you do to brighten it? You might swing by the store and grab some their favorite flowers  for a thoughtful surprise. Maybe you decide to take them out on a date and help them clear their head of whatever has been bothering them that day. I throw on an Amy Schumer movie or Netflix special and know it will bring a smile to my wife’s face.

Amy Schumer is my wife Mary’s favorite comedian and has an uncanny ability to make her laugh really hard — like deep belly laugh, tears flowing hard. She also just so happened to be pregnant at the same time as my wife. Mary was having a rough pregnancy day (the ones where her hormones were racing and the baby wouldn’t stop trying to make more room in their crowded uterus suite) so we cuddled up on the couch and turned on “Growing,” Amy Schumer’s Netflix special. Little did I know that by watching it, I would find out Mary wasn’t the only one that had something in common with Amy. I did as well; we share a love for someone with autism.

During the show, Amy opens up a little bit about her personal life. She talks about her pregnancy and being recently married. She also shines light on an unexpected topic — her love for autism.

“And once he was diagnosed, it dawned on me how funny it was because all of the characteristics that make it clear that he’s on the spectrum are all of the reasons that I fell madly in love with him.”

Schumer discusses how her husband is her “dream man.” He lacks awareness of social norms, is unapologetically blunt and is unable to lie. These are all the characteristics that led her to fall in love with him.

When I first started working in the field of autism back in 2007, the boy I was working with shared many of these same characteristics. He was blunt, unable to lie and often experienced the world differently than I do. He had not developed a social filter and was unaware of social norms. My experience working with him was life-changing and inspired me to create Specialty Athletic Training in 2012.

Specialty Athletic Training was created to provide access to healthy living to individuals with disabilities. I saw the need to serve this community and provide personal training services that were individualized to their needs.  But I also created it for myself because of the joy working with this population brought to my life.

I loved the bluntness of Benjamin, the inspiration behind Specialty Athletic Training. If I had a tuna sandwich for lunch, you better believe he’d let me know that my breath smelled bad. If I was trying to break the silence during a long car ride, he’d reinforce the fact that he wanted silent time. He would say what was on his mind and I found it made communication much easier.

But I also fell in love with his heart, which is what I have found to be the common denominator in the children and adults we have the opportunity to work with. They are the most genuine and caring people. In a world that can often be filled with chaos and darkness, they are a positive light and teach me daily how to love life and what is really important.

Author B.J. Neblett said, “We are the sum total of our experiences. (They) make us the person we are at any given point in our lives. And, like a flowing river, those same experiences, and those yet to come, continue to influence and reshape the person we are and the person we become. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.”

Thanks to the sum of my experiences with Benjamin and all the other people I have had the opportunity to work with since creating Specialty Athletic Training, I am a much better person. I am glad they will continue to influence and reshape me in the years to come.

Originally published: September 12, 2019
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