Robert Schmus

@robert-schmus | contributor
Super Contributor
My name is Robert Schmus. I am a young adult male who lives in the Delaware Valley and am a proud autistic. I am a licensed therapist and a self-advocate. I want to share my experience with you through my articles and I want to hear from your experiences as well. Learning never ends!!
Robert Schmus

I Will Not Apologize for Being Autistic

Have you ever felt you needed to apologize for things you cannot control? Have you ever been pressured to feel you had to say “sorry” for things that are a part of who you are? Did it make you feel guilty? As if you were some burden? Well, my friends, I have some great news for you. Don’t be sorry for being yourself. For years autistic individuals, like myself, have had to apologize for our characteristics. Whenever we stimmed, we were told to stop. Whenever we rocked back and forth, we were told to stop. Now of course there are behaviors that need to be held in public, but the above aren’t behaviors that are hurting anyone. These are characteristics that help us throughout the day. We autistics are various indeed. With that said, there are those of us who experience sensory issues. For example, some of us have trouble with loud noises, while others are sensitive to certain lights. When we are in situations like this, we use our autistic characteristics and coping methods to help ourselves feel better. However, society in its infinite wisdom tells us to stop it. They tell us that we look weird. But what they don’t know is that stimming such as this is helpful. Society needs to listen to the autistic community. We are the community, we know what can help us. They also need to keep in mind that each one of us is different, so if one thing might help one autistic, it might not help another. Just like Dr. Stephen Shore said, if you met one autistic person, then you met one autistic person. I know I might be coming off as being short, I just feel that if we want to be truly neurodiverse, there are times when we need to be bluntly honest. And with this being Autism Acceptance Month, now is a perfect time. With that said, I leave you with this. When it comes to society wanting me to apologize for being autistic, just like the kids say these days, sorry not sorry!

Robert Schmus

I Will Not Apologize for Being Autistic

Have you ever felt you needed to apologize for things you cannot control? Have you ever been pressured to feel you had to say “sorry” for things that are a part of who you are? Did it make you feel guilty? As if you were some burden? Well, my friends, I have some great news for you. Don’t be sorry for being yourself. For years autistic individuals, like myself, have had to apologize for our characteristics. Whenever we stimmed, we were told to stop. Whenever we rocked back and forth, we were told to stop. Now of course there are behaviors that need to be held in public, but the above aren’t behaviors that are hurting anyone. These are characteristics that help us throughout the day. We autistics are various indeed. With that said, there are those of us who experience sensory issues. For example, some of us have trouble with loud noises, while others are sensitive to certain lights. When we are in situations like this, we use our autistic characteristics and coping methods to help ourselves feel better. However, society in its infinite wisdom tells us to stop it. They tell us that we look weird. But what they don’t know is that stimming such as this is helpful. Society needs to listen to the autistic community. We are the community, we know what can help us. They also need to keep in mind that each one of us is different, so if one thing might help one autistic, it might not help another. Just like Dr. Stephen Shore said, if you met one autistic person, then you met one autistic person. I know I might be coming off as being short, I just feel that if we want to be truly neurodiverse, there are times when we need to be bluntly honest. And with this being Autism Acceptance Month, now is a perfect time. With that said, I leave you with this. When it comes to society wanting me to apologize for being autistic, just like the kids say these days, sorry not sorry!

Robert Schmus

The Power of Stories, Listening to One Another and Human Connection

The human touch. The way we interact with each other is pretty remarkable. Now I don’t just mean talking with a person. Communication is needed, but there is something else needed to really truly understand a person. And that is to listen. By listening to another person’s story, where they come from, who they are, and what they have been through, you can really get to know the true soul of a person. We get so tangled up in our own lives that we forget to listen to those around us. Through listening to others, we get to open our minds to human connection. This has shown to be true through many forms of media, such as Humans of New York. I have always believed in this as well. I remember one person who’s story really intrigued me. It was an afternoon in Weehawken and I just got off the ferry after spending the day in Manhattan. When I was on the way to my car, I noticed a young woman sitting next to a tree in a nearby park. She had short black/brownish hair, wore a blue shirt, and had dark blue eyes. She had a sign next to her saying that she needed money for food. She also had next to her pieces of art she made. The next thing I knew, I sat down and we started to converse. She told me about the troubles she was having in her life and how she was moving forward. She also told me about the places she has been to and how she was on her way to Upstate New York to meet with friends she will be staying with for the time being. Just hearing her story fascinated me, knowing how each person had something about themselves that made them who they are today. At the end of our conversation, I dropped a dollar in the hat next to her. She said thank you, to which I replied that it was no problem. From there, I started to walk to my car and drove back home. Although it was only a few years ago, somehow it still remains in my mind. The truth of the matter is, anyone’s story can do that. Any person you come across in life can have a story that can leave an impact. From a CEO to the average Joe or Jane you bump into, they all have a story to tell. I guess that’s why it is called the human touch. I always wonder what story each person on this planet has to tell.

Community Voices

Sensory Processing Disorder

As a person with #SensoryProcessingDisorder that was not properly addressed during my childhood, I found this story really relatable. I don't meet the criteria for autism but I'm definitely neurodivergent. I wish people talked about SPD more.

How about you? Do you have sensory processing disorder with or without autism? Have you struggled with judging yourself about it?

I Don't Judge My Sensory Processing Disorder

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Louise Steel

When I Realized I Was Apologizing for Being Autistic

“Sorry, I have Asperger’s.” It was only in the hours after my interview with the budding young journalist that I realized the significance of what I’d said, and the sad truth behind my disclosure. Yes, I have Asperger’s syndrome (a form of autism). It was diagnosed three years ago now, at the age of 33. But that wasn’t the sad part, at least not in my eyes. No, the saddest part wasn’t the fact that I’m on the autism spectrum. It was the “sorry” that prefixed it. It was only later that evening, when I stopped to actually think, that it dawned on me. What exactly was I sorry for? For being awkward and not fluent in the type of human interaction that flows so easily to most? For making my interviewer uncomfortable as I squirmed under the weight of her questions? For not providing the easy answers she wanted? For being a disappointment? For being me? Yes, to all of the above. The student journalist, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, had actually sought me out for an interview after coming across my music videos online. She was impressed. “Wow, I wish I was that confident,” she’d thought as she watched me strut around in a red sequin dress and then stand on a podium to belt out the final chorus of my new song, “Sideshow.”Now she was eager to know more about the sparkly girl she saw on the screen – all singing, all dancing. How did she come up with her songs and what was her inspiration? The pen was poised and the notebook open like an oyster, ready to capture all the pearls of wisdom that were bound to come out of this girl’s mouth. It must have come as a bit of a shock when I sat down for the interview via Zoom – no sequins, no top hat, no special lighting or effects, and the strange inability to string a sentence together without getting flustered. As we began our interview, I could sense that my own social awkwardness and uncomfortable verbal struggle were already making the poor journalist uncomfortable, not to mention a little confused. After watching my performance on YouTube, she’d come prepared to interview a bright and confident starlet, surely, not some reluctant wallflower who stared blankly into space and ummed, ahhhed and made uncomfortable faces as the words somehow birthed their way out of her mouth. I felt like a fraud. A disappointment. A fake and a mistake. Like I’d somehow misled the poor reporter into thinking I was something I wasn’t, and now she was stuck with me on a Saturday night, sharing an uncomfortable and fruitless hour of her time. She’d began optimistically with an introduction and an open invitation — a warm-up, if you will. “So, tell me more about yourself,” she smiled, probably thinking she’d start off easy. But for someone on the autism spectrum, that question can be one of the hardest. Where to start? What exactly did she want to hear? Date of birth? Star sign? Employment history? The temperature was up to a boiling point in my brain, as it often is when I find myself asked about such a difficult subject. Before I knew it, random sentences began bursting forth out of my mouth, as my brain bubbled over with anxious electricity. I stabbed wildly at this, and then at that – babbling something about how my latest album came about, and how growing up, I’d always found it easier to write and sing songs then I did to actually speak and interact the way most people do. It’s true. Writing is my preferred method of communication. You can take your time — edit it, shape it, control it and make it flow, something I’d always found impossible through actual verbal articulation. It is my way of expressing myself and making people understand – communicating my feelings, thoughts and emotions in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling foolish, vulnerable and misunderstood. Writing is my way of connecting with people in a world that can often be quite lonely. Writing and singing my own songs gives me a voice, self-esteem, a certain power and control in a world where I often feel like I don’t have much and social currency is key. I write songs like “Sideshow” to empower myself and make music videos where I can play a fantastical version of myself – a character who is strong, powerful, respected and admired. If my interviewer had asked me to write my answer down, this is what I’d have said. Of course, articulating it verbally is another matter. It never comes out right. Not even close.In the midst of the interview, I began to feel myself drowning in my own muddled dialogue, realizing that despite my best efforts I wasn’t making much sense anymore, even to myself. My brain had crashed. And so, came the spontaneous revelation – like some kind of social hand grenade. “Sorry, I have Asperger’s.” I didn’t mean to blurt out such a personal revelation, but I felt like I owed the poor girl an explanation, and an apology for my shortcomings. It was the first time I’d ever said it out loud – at least to a stranger. Somehow, my disclosure felt like admitting defeat, but soon after I felt a strange sort of relief sweep over me – the way I imagine a criminal might feel when they finally confessed to something akin to fraud. I’d been unmasked, but at least I could breathe again. And I didn’t have to pretend. I felt the contents of my brain no longer boiling away inside my skull, but simply simmering on a lower, more manageable heat. The distance between myself and the interviewer dissolved suddenly in that one spontaneous moment of honesty. And it felt good. Our eyes met and she smiled softly. Maybe my sledgehammer statement was the first thing she’d heard that actually made sense during our time together? Maybe she had a newfound respect for me, or maybe it was just an angle for her article which stood out, sparking her interest? “Do you know what Asperger’s is?” I asked, turning the tables on my interviewer, and potentially insulting her at the same time (without ever meaning to). It’s true. In my experience, not a lot of people know what it actually means to be autistic. There are so many myths and misunderstandings surrounding this complicated condition — stereotypes, masking, functioning labels, and that’s just for starters. I’m always delighted when someone knows a bit about what it means, so I was somewhat reassured when my interviewer nodded and phrased her next question in order to probe a little further into how it affects – and inspires — my music. I smiled back and suddenly felt the barriers come down between us. It felt like I had stuck “L plates” onto myself and now I could go forward with the interview, safe in the knowledge that my interviewer might take it easy when I forgot my indicators, or accidentally found myself driving the wrong way down a dual carriageway, as I often do (so to speak). We spoke about many things during the course of the interview, and it felt good to be able to cruise around different subjects honestly, without being terrified of crashing — making a mistake, babbling or being responsible for the dreaded “awkward” silence. All my life, I’ve felt as though I must struggle, perform and hold my breath in order to fit in and feel worthy. I perform my songs, but I also perform in social situations and life in general, working hard to keep up and “pass” as someone who belongs. Struggling and suffering silently are just a way of life for many autistic people — something you just have to get used to. Masking and hiding those struggles are survival instincts you learn as you go along — a shell you form in order to appear less vulnerable, and to avoid alienating yourself completely. We bend in order to fit in – often with disastrous results. Sometimes I bend myself so much to the point where I actually break and a meltdown occurs. However, my disclosure made me entertain the idea that perhaps with more honesty, maybe such disasters could be avoided. Maybe I didn’t have to mask and struggle. Maybe it was time for the world to bend for me a little bit, and meet me where I am for a change — or at least halfway. It gave me hope that someday there’ll be a time when I won’t think twice about revealing my condition – being honest about my needs, my true nature and what’s best for me. That I won’t feel bad about being “different.” “I have Asperger’s.” My only hope is that one day I’ll learn to say it out loud without being “sorry.”

Community Voices

To people who have been diagnosed with autism later in life: Is that diagnosis a relief or does it cause additional stress in your life?

As someone who is just now beginning to see and understand the roller coaster of emotional and sensory issues that have factored into my existence from the very beginning, having a label to put on those struggles has been a strange relief. It doesn't change anything about who I am, but just being able to look at my life through a different lens has been both terrifying and comforting. Any one else have thoughts on this process and things that have helped you through it?
#Autism #AdultDiagnosis

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Robert Schmus

5 Tips for Talking to Autistic Teens About Sex

Birds and the bees. This phrase is as old as time. We all know what it means. It’s the phrase a parent says to their teen when teaching them about sex. It is necessary to discuss, despite it being difficult. However, autistic teens sometimes seem to be left out of this talk. The reason for this seems to be that the neurotypical world feels that many of us might not be able to understand. But the truth of the matter is, depending on the autistic individual’s cognition, many of us can understand this topic. Here are five tips to help parents when talking with their autistic teen about sex. 1. Be honest. This is very important. Your teen is at an age in which their body is growing and they are feeling attracted to peers of the opposite and/or same sex. This includes autistic teens. Be sure to tell them that such feelings are normal and don’t leave anything out when talking to them. If you don’t know too much about this subject, the next step might help. 2. Do your research. Let’s be honest, there might be some sexuality-related topics you don’t know about and that’s OK. In fact, it’s normal not to know everything. That is why you should do your research on the topic of sex. Once you have a good grasp on this, you may find it easier to discuss it with your autistic teen. 3. It’s OK to feel nervous. This can be a tough subject to talk about, especially with your own kids. So it’s absolutely normal to feel nervous. Give yourself some time to decompress before giving this talk to your autistic teen. Even being honest with them about how this makes you nervous can be a relief. 4. Do not assume. This is a big one. Many autistic teens don’t have “the talk” because their parents assume they wouldn’t be able to understand. However, this assumption has led to many autistic teens not knowing much about this time in their lives, an uncertainty that continued into adulthood. Do not assume that they would not understand this talk. It might even surprise you how much they might be able to understand. 5. Let them ask questions. Once you have given your teen “the talk,” give them a chance to ask any questions they might have. There might be something they would be curious about. This would also give them the opportunity to speak what is on their mind regarding this topic. Well, those are my five tips. Now I want to be frank with you, I am not saying that these tips are foolproof. You are the parent and you would have a better understanding of your autistic teen. I’m just giving you these tips from the perspective of an autistic person like myself. Nevertheless, I hope you have found this to be helpful and I wish you the best with this talk. You’ve got this!

Robert Schmus

5 Tips for Talking to Autistic Teens About Sex

Birds and the bees. This phrase is as old as time. We all know what it means. It’s the phrase a parent says to their teen when teaching them about sex. It is necessary to discuss, despite it being difficult. However, autistic teens sometimes seem to be left out of this talk. The reason for this seems to be that the neurotypical world feels that many of us might not be able to understand. But the truth of the matter is, depending on the autistic individual’s cognition, many of us can understand this topic. Here are five tips to help parents when talking with their autistic teen about sex. 1. Be honest. This is very important. Your teen is at an age in which their body is growing and they are feeling attracted to peers of the opposite and/or same sex. This includes autistic teens. Be sure to tell them that such feelings are normal and don’t leave anything out when talking to them. If you don’t know too much about this subject, the next step might help. 2. Do your research. Let’s be honest, there might be some sexuality-related topics you don’t know about and that’s OK. In fact, it’s normal not to know everything. That is why you should do your research on the topic of sex. Once you have a good grasp on this, you may find it easier to discuss it with your autistic teen. 3. It’s OK to feel nervous. This can be a tough subject to talk about, especially with your own kids. So it’s absolutely normal to feel nervous. Give yourself some time to decompress before giving this talk to your autistic teen. Even being honest with them about how this makes you nervous can be a relief. 4. Do not assume. This is a big one. Many autistic teens don’t have “the talk” because their parents assume they wouldn’t be able to understand. However, this assumption has led to many autistic teens not knowing much about this time in their lives, an uncertainty that continued into adulthood. Do not assume that they would not understand this talk. It might even surprise you how much they might be able to understand. 5. Let them ask questions. Once you have given your teen “the talk,” give them a chance to ask any questions they might have. There might be something they would be curious about. This would also give them the opportunity to speak what is on their mind regarding this topic. Well, those are my five tips. Now I want to be frank with you, I am not saying that these tips are foolproof. You are the parent and you would have a better understanding of your autistic teen. I’m just giving you these tips from the perspective of an autistic person like myself. Nevertheless, I hope you have found this to be helpful and I wish you the best with this talk. You’ve got this!

Community Voices

Describe your mood today using…

<p>Describe your mood today using…</p>
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Community Voices

What are some publications you have submitted articles to? #publications