Timothy Kiley

@timothykiley | contributor
Timothy Kiley

Getting a Late Life Diagnosis of Autism

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. I am now 48 years old and learning a new way of life, a way I should have always known but didn’t. I have had a particularly hard time finding resources dedicated to the specific issue of late life diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. The situation carries with it some very unique circumstances, and most of what’s out there for autism support centers around children or adults who have known they had autism all along. I was diagnosed at the age of 46. Since my initial diagnosis, I’ve been thorough a number of stages of acceptance of the condition, almost like the classic stages of grief, and it’s still an ongoing process. I’d say the first stage was a sort of denial. I did not seek out a diagnosis of autism. I was just wondering why I was like I was, and after being misdiagnosed (more accurately partially diagnosed) with other conditions such as generalized anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder, I ended up being referred to a neuropsychologist. After about four to five hours of tedious (and seemingly irrelevant) tests, I was left to wonder while the results were tabulated, however that’s done. When I finally returned for my diagnosis weeks later, I was told a whole list of all these fabulous things I could have been, had my teachers and parents known how to accommodate my issues, and had I known how to work around my own deficits. But we didn’t have autism back in my day! (sarcasm) The way it was presented to me was upsetting. I was being made to feel once again that I’m not as good as could be expected, but for a new reason. It was not made clear to me that autism was actually even part of that diagnosis, until a counselor I was seeing read the neuropsychologist’s report which included a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. I was so put off by his delivery that I could not even bring myself to read his diagnosis and interpretation of the tests. After that understanding, I was somewhat frightened. I really had no idea what Asperger’s syndrome was, and unfortunately my knowledge of autism as a whole was very rudimentary and (in retrospect) pretty much dead wrong. I understand now what awareness campaigns are about. I am aware that people get breast cancer and heart disease, but though I was aware people “got” autism, I had very little idea what that really meant. Over the last two-and-a-half years, autism has probably been my primary “special interest,” a term you will hear ad nauseum (among others), if you have not already. I have read and studied about the topic, and I know I have still barely scratched the surface, which is frustrating for someone like me who wants to be thorough in most everything I do. In retrospect, it’s hard to see why I hadn’t known earlier, now that I know what I know.  Don’t be upset with yourself for not knowing. Does a fish know it’s wet? The more I learn, the more I relate, and the better I will eventually understand how to face certain issues that have become less and less tolerable to me over the years as I’ve approached a sort of burnout stage. I reached a stage of acceptance after realizing I had spent all of my energy basically pretending to be someone else for most people I would encounter in my daily life. I was a retail manager, and I even sold cars at one time! These are not typical jobs for autistic people. I am currently a specialized mechanic of sorts for complex rehab mobility equipment. The work makes better use of my abilities, but it’s still fraught with challenges, which I’m trying to learn to face or change if possible. I even started a small social media group of people who were also diagnosed as adults, and we share with and learn from each other most every day. It has been a relief to know that other people are like me in many ways and to have “found my tribe,” as it’s often said. I hope to share that relief with those of you who are experiencing similar circumstances. We’re out there (polyentendre). As has also been said many times, but still not enough, “If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.” Now you’ve met me.

Timothy Kiley

Late Diagnosed Autism and Personal Conflict

I was diagnosed with ASD late in life, about three years ago at age 46. The prescribing doctor called it Asperger’s syndrome, even though the diagnosis was no longer included in the DSM-V. I’ve come to refer to it as autism and myself as autistic. I discovered late diagnosis brought with it unique circumstances for which I have found little applicable support. I’m certainly not saying it’s worse for those of us diagnosed after our “formative years” by any means, but it’s different. It requires a different approach. I’ve decided to write about some of my experiences thus far with the intent of offering some ideas and posing some questions we can all consider together. I can only speak for myself and share my own experiences and observations, but hopefully others will relate and benefit from it. This time I would like to share some thoughts on how aspects of autism have affected interpersonal conflicts — at least for me. Contrary to what I had thought pre-diagnosis, my inherent negativity, depression, anxiety, poor self image, rigid thinking and many other less than desirable characteristics were likely related to autism all along. I just thought I was “normal” and other people were the same. I hadn’t known it, but I experienced atypical reactions to not fitting in and not understanding the way other people think. Others seemed to communicate and operate together with relative ease, and they mysteriously appeared to be able to bypass conflicts I was unable to avoid. It turns out my impaired ability to interpret vocal intonation, subtle gestures, facial expressions and other nonverbal nuances (these relative inabilities are common autistic traits) contributed to misinterpretation of others. They often resulted in inappropriate or confusing reactions from me, which sometimes led to confrontations or disagreements. As a bit of a side note, I suspect many of the times I encountered conflicts it was actually as a result of me not knowing someone was actually trying to be friendly with me, or at least just thinking they were being “playful.” I’m not sure. I remember conflicts, especially in school and at work, which often arose from what I perceived as people trying to skirt policies and abuse liberties. If it was “wrong,” something had to be done, and that was my responsibility… or so I thought. Social justice! It’s enlightening to see it now, almost looking in from the outside, like Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas Past. For me, confrontations can progress to a sort of emotional meltdown. It may not be “typical” to many Autists, but it’s my form of meltdown. Usually it’s more of a shutdown, in which I can’t really think or process. In the worst instances I can become reactivate, angry, and even irrational. When confronted with bullying as a youth, I would usually freeze. I remember instances in which I would cry, not understanding how to react to whatever taunting was occurring. Naturally that would only serve to encourage further abuse from emotional predators (bullies). I still remember their names and the feelings I felt, 40-plus years later. As an adult with rigidity of thought (what counselors and publications I’ve read have repeatedly referred to as black and white thinking), I “stick to my guns” and refuse to waver, sometimes allowing conflicts to escalate and even become worse than the initial trigger I had originally thought was the cause of the conflict. I feel that instinct to want to affect justice and right the wrongs. I would (and often still do) get the sense if someone is not 100 percent with me, they are essentially an adversary and are not to be trusted in any matters, especially those of importance. Black and white, on or off. There is little in between. In conflicts as an “adult,” sometimes those childhood tears can well up and reopen the stinging wounds of youth, leading to associations which can further escalate the matter inside my head. I hold the tears back, but what does that look like to others who don’t understand what’s happening to me? Generally expressionless as I am, with flat affect and monotone voice, they probably have as hard of a time interpreting me as I do them. Even after my diagnosis, I hadn’t considered autism could be a root cause of many of the issues I’ve faced throughout my life, but I can now see it has often been a key element. I now have the opportunity to learn how to control or at least minimize these effects. That brings up some questions… How do I consciously recognize and adjust to these events in real time, as they unfold? What can I do to to slow down reactions and avoid my own internal escalation? How do I accept that the other party has an opinion or viewpoint that is in direct opposition to mine, yet not believe they are (by the transitive property) also then completely opposed to me as an individual? All in, or all out (black and white). If things break down, how do I later explain myself without looking foolish and sounding like I am using my diagnosis as a crutch or a “convenient” excuse? Typical of my self-doubt… Am I actually just overanalyzing and misinterpreting what a heated argument is for anyone (autistic or not) and this is just what conflict is? These are a few of the issues a late life diagnosis can bring to the forefront. Hopefully they can become a pivot point from which I can affect positive change. I’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s good to have something to look forward to and develop strategies for improvement. So far, I am focusing on being less reactive and recognizing that I need more time than most to process emotions, especially in traumatic or challenging circumstances. Usually it’s at least a day before I can assess things clearly, but that’s not always possible. Hopefully I can report back in the future with answers and solutions to many of these and other questions. If you think of any, let me know. For now, maybe it helps to know we are swimming against the same tide (though I don’t like to swim).

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Jill Alexandra

One Thing I've Found To Be True About Treatment-Resistant Depressi

As mental health conditions such as major depressive disorder (MDD) have begun to shake their long-held stigma, people are also becoming increasingly aware of the spectrum on which many mental health conditions exist. MDD can look different for each person – but there is a specific subset that many people don’t understand, and that is treatment-resistant depression (TRD). Unfortunately, TRD is not simply a matter of going through more than one medication. Frustration builds when you begin to run through treatment after treatment, and combination after combination, year after year, only to find little or no success. When I was first diagnosed with MDD in my late twenties nearly fifteen years ago, I never imagined it would be this hard and that I would still be searching for a solution. I don’t know exactly when my psychiatrist decided my MDD deserved the label of “treatment resistant,” but when I saw it on a referral form, I realized he was right. I had been through every type of standard antidepressant on the market, at least once, and continued to search for a solution that worked for me. Trying to find a medication that I responded to was very difficult. While I was relieved that there was a medical term for the struggle I was facing, part of me was disheartened. It was as if someone had validated me, but at the same time put me in the category of “just give up on her.” Still, I continued to fight. I continued to try, everything. Every lifestyle change you could make, I tried. From low-carb diets to yoga to new sleep schedules. Every over-the-counter vitamin has made an appearance in my medicine cabinet. I was always willing to try something, even when I had very little hope of it helping. Every time a drug failed to work, it became a little more difficult to keep trying. I pushed, using whatever strength I could find, and kept giving medication after medication a chance. It’s difficult to describe the kind of hopelessness you feel when, time after time, you fail to get any “better.” After officially deciding I was “treatment resistant,” my doctor and I began repeating medications in different combinations. At times I was on upwards of seven medications, as frequent as five times a day, using one medication to offset the side effects of another. I would set alarms on my phone and carry bottles of pills in my purse. It felt never-ending. There was so much to keep track of that at times I forgot to pay attention to if the medication was even helping. So many nights were spent in tears, feeling like I must be the only person in the world who can’t just “get better.” The crushing feeling of isolation that comes with TRD is perhaps the most difficult part. The unshakable sense of being broken somehow. But over the course of 14 years I have found one thing to be true above all else – I am absolutely not the only one. I have endured three trips to a psychiatric hospital, and every time I met people just like me. People who struggled with the same things I did – and felt the same things I felt. We talked, we laughed, we cried, we bonded. So much so that I keep in close contact with several people I met there. We are each other’s lifelines, and we are happy to be able to support each other with unconditional love. TRD is a very real problem for a number of people, and I happen to be one of them. It is not a reflection on my character, nor a personal failure of some sort. It is simply a medical condition. It’s not my fault. Frustrating as it may be at times, I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t bring this upon myself. I am not a bad person. It’s not a matter of willpower or positive thinking. I have a medical condition, and a doctor to help me manage it. It’s not easy, but it’s not hopeless. Finding a doctor who is willing to stand by your side through it all is of tremendous importance. On one occasion, I had to drag myself to my doctor’s office and hand him my cell phone. On the other end was my friend, who had to explain to my doctor that I was extremely depressed and couldn’t bring myself to even speak. My doctor was patient and understanding. He worked with me until I was able to talk to him a little. He took his time. Not once did I detect even a hint of judgment or frustration. It is vital that your doctor is willing to work with you in whatever condition you present yourself in. Because in the darkest time they may be the only thing you can reach out to. Establishing a support system of people who are loyal to you no matter what is also invaluable. Friends who will hold you while you cry and not ask you to explain why you are crying. Friends who will play their guitar and sing for you because they know it always makes you smile. Friends who can see you at your worst moments, and only love you more. Those are your people – so hold tight to them, and lean on them when you need to. When you are overwhelmed by the enormity of trying to manage TRD, it’s important not to forget how far you have come. You have to hold on to the good moments, no matter how brief. You have to search for things that work for you. Yes, it’s hard – but it’s not hopeless. How many times you have shown up for therapy that you had no interest in being at? How many times you have woken up and put your feet on the floor and tried? Just tried. Because for as far as you have come already, you are capable of going so much farther. We are stronger than we think. We deserve tremendous credit every time we continue our search for a solution. Every time we push ourselves to just leave the house, or just make a phone call, or just get out of bed at all, it’s a victory. Those things may seem simple to the outside world, but with TRD they are monumental accomplishments. Every step, every effort, everything deserves credit. We are still here, we are still fighting. We never give up. We are battle-hardened warriors. We are fighting for our lives. And it’s a fight we intend to win.

Timothy Kiley

Getting a Late Life Diagnosis of Autism

Three years ago, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. I am now 48 years old and learning a new way of life, a way I should have always known but didn’t. I have had a particularly hard time finding resources dedicated to the specific issue of late life diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. The situation carries with it some very unique circumstances, and most of what’s out there for autism support centers around children or adults who have known they had autism all along. I was diagnosed at the age of 46. Since my initial diagnosis, I’ve been thorough a number of stages of acceptance of the condition, almost like the classic stages of grief, and it’s still an ongoing process. I’d say the first stage was a sort of denial. I did not seek out a diagnosis of autism. I was just wondering why I was like I was, and after being misdiagnosed (more accurately partially diagnosed) with other conditions such as generalized anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder, I ended up being referred to a neuropsychologist. After about four to five hours of tedious (and seemingly irrelevant) tests, I was left to wonder while the results were tabulated, however that’s done. When I finally returned for my diagnosis weeks later, I was told a whole list of all these fabulous things I could have been, had my teachers and parents known how to accommodate my issues, and had I known how to work around my own deficits. But we didn’t have autism back in my day! (sarcasm) The way it was presented to me was upsetting. I was being made to feel once again that I’m not as good as could be expected, but for a new reason. It was not made clear to me that autism was actually even part of that diagnosis, until a counselor I was seeing read the neuropsychologist’s report which included a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. I was so put off by his delivery that I could not even bring myself to read his diagnosis and interpretation of the tests. After that understanding, I was somewhat frightened. I really had no idea what Asperger’s syndrome was, and unfortunately my knowledge of autism as a whole was very rudimentary and (in retrospect) pretty much dead wrong. I understand now what awareness campaigns are about. I am aware that people get breast cancer and heart disease, but though I was aware people “got” autism, I had very little idea what that really meant. Over the last two-and-a-half years, autism has probably been my primary “special interest,” a term you will hear ad nauseum (among others), if you have not already. I have read and studied about the topic, and I know I have still barely scratched the surface, which is frustrating for someone like me who wants to be thorough in most everything I do. In retrospect, it’s hard to see why I hadn’t known earlier, now that I know what I know.  Don’t be upset with yourself for not knowing. Does a fish know it’s wet? The more I learn, the more I relate, and the better I will eventually understand how to face certain issues that have become less and less tolerable to me over the years as I’ve approached a sort of burnout stage. I reached a stage of acceptance after realizing I had spent all of my energy basically pretending to be someone else for most people I would encounter in my daily life. I was a retail manager, and I even sold cars at one time! These are not typical jobs for autistic people. I am currently a specialized mechanic of sorts for complex rehab mobility equipment. The work makes better use of my abilities, but it’s still fraught with challenges, which I’m trying to learn to face or change if possible. I even started a small social media group of people who were also diagnosed as adults, and we share with and learn from each other most every day. It has been a relief to know that other people are like me in many ways and to have “found my tribe,” as it’s often said. I hope to share that relief with those of you who are experiencing similar circumstances. We’re out there (polyentendre). As has also been said many times, but still not enough, “If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.” Now you’ve met me.

Malena Dell

The Challenge of Social Anxiety for a Person on the Autism Spectrum

When I was being evaluated for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at the age of 20, my doctor asked questions to make sure my diagnosis was ASD and not social anxiety disorder. But both social anxiety and ASD seemed to resonate so strongly with what I had experienced in my life. Now I am seven months out from receiving my diagnosis. I am more self-aware than I ever thought I would be. I think I understand why I identify with both ASD and social anxiety. There are two ideas I have that differentiate ASD and social anxiety: for me, ASD can be too little social awareness, while social anxiety can be too much social awareness. As a child, I never understood the social rules some others seem to take for granted, like why I was expected to hang out with the kids at parties and not the parents. This fits my ASD diagnosis, but as a child, I didn’t feel the anxiety that comes now. I was oblivious that I was breaking “rules.” Now I am older and understand more of these rules and can fit in to my surroundings very well. I learned through being left out of groups. I learned through seeing people who were once great friends of mine maturing in these “weird” ways I could not seem to grasp and leaving me behind. As an adult, I place that feeling I had with those kids growing up in the middle of all my social attempts. I am constantly worried I might lose one of the real friendships I am finally learning to manage successfully. This leads to anxiety, almost to a major effect at times. The good news is this: I am learning how to manage both. Every day is like an adventure — I learn a new social rule and push through some social-related anxiety. It has definitely been a challenge, but I am learning how to accept myself… slowly, but surely. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock image by Everste

Timothy Kiley

How Autism Causes Vaccines

Autism causes vaccines. You read that right. Or did you? The fallacy that vaccines cause autism is still out there, and it’s dangerous misinformation which could prevent millions of lives from being saved. It’s as commonly misstated as “Beam me up, Scotty,” or “Play it again, Sam,” neither of which were actually said by the characters being quoted. No credible information has been presented to show vaccines cause autism. All such theories have been readily debunked by nearly all in the practice of medicine. Nurses and doctors urge everyone to vaccinate for the common good, and many medical professionals are just as frustrated over the anti-vaccination movement as we are. According to the World Health Organization, measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children worldwide, but measles vaccines are credited with preventing an estimated 15.6 million deaths between 2000 and 2013. Though it can’t be proven that vaccines cause autism, it is possible to show how autistic people throughout history have been responsible for technological and scientific advancements which have led to the development of the very vaccines some would falsely claim cause the condition. A few examples of historical figures who were thought to have been on the autism spectrum are Albert Einstein, Leonardo DaVinci, Nikola Tesla, Isaac Newton, Henry Cavendish and Charles Darwin. Other brilliant scientific minds, past and present, have begun to be identified as autistic as well. Many lists have surfaced over the last few years, some speculative, some highly probable, some without question. I’ll leave it up to you to look them all up, but here are a few examples of probable neurodiverse people who contributed to the ultimate development of vaccines. The microscope: “Sir Isaac Newton developed his particle theory of light (Corpuscular Theory) in 1678. This theory was found to be sufficient in explaining how light moves and helped microscope builders refine lenses.  Newton had developed a telescope but did not work on the microscope himself.” X-ray technology: “Every radiologist is aware of Nikola Tesla’s research in the field of electromagnetism. The International System (SI) unit of magnetic flux density, the Teslacon magnetic resonance imager (Technicare, Solon, Ohio), and Teslascan manganese contrast agent (GE Healthcare, Waukesha, Wis) were all named after him. Without his other inventions like the alternating current supply, Tesla-Knott generator, and fluorescent lights in view boxes, it is impossible to even imagine a workday in a contemporary radiology department.” DaVinci’s contributions: “Da Vinci was among the first to provide both accurate drawings and explanations of [human] anatomy.” Charles Darwin: “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” ― Charles Darwin For some time since my own late diagnosis, I had been wondering why autistic people seem to want to relate our condition to such important people. Sure, it sounds cool, but is it self-serving to attribute autism to so many scientific luminaries? Especially because no one seems to point out the less desirable who may have been autistic. There must be some… I’ve since come to realize there are reasons for this apparent self-promotion. Among other things, we need to show we are not only deserving of acceptance, but we can even be considered exceptional and often celebrated. Without variations made possible by an atypical mind approaching things from unconventional angles, we would probably not have many of the innovations in science and specifically in the field of medicine which led to the development of those contentious vaccines. Therefore I suggest each time we hear someone say, “Vaccines cause autism,” we return with, “Autism causes vaccines.” Let’s see if it cures the epidemic of ignorance.

Timothy Kiley

Responding to Stereotypes About Autism

I’m 49 years old, and I’ve been autistic for three years now. Actually, I have been autistic all my life, as are all autistic people. I just didn’t know it early on, like many of you may have. A person doesn’t just suddenly develop autism, nor do they leave it behind when they turn 18 (or 21 if you apply for an extension). I am what might somewhat inappropriately be referred to as a non-typical atypical. I think most of us are, hence the idea of inappropriateness. Though there are commonalities throughout the spectrum, there is no cookie cutter from which we are created, nor is there a pigeon hole in which we can be kept. I currently have a small group of about 80 fellow autists, most diagnosed as adults. No two of us are alike. Most of us share similar values and some common interests, but we are all different in significant ways. My interests are many and varied, as are those of most people, autistic or otherwise. I am not exceptionally intelligent. I have no Rainman-esque superhuman abilities. I do not like “The Big Bang Theory,” and I have never been to Comic Con. I have no more interest in trains than the next person. I am able to decipher sarcasm and other subtle forms of humor. I can (and do) eat almost everything. I have worked in retail sales management and even automotive sales. I do not like being confined in tight spaces. I could go on, but it seems in typical fashion (for me) I already have. The point is, we are not all the same. A friend of mine, who also does not fit the societally-imposed stereotypes of autism, was at her doctor’s office for an unrelated issue. The doctor told her he doesn’t believe she’s autistic. How do you accurately judge that in a 15-minute encounter, especially enough to contradict not only the person herself, but the actual expert who diagnosed her? I had similar issues during the process of my diagnosis. Several highly un-qualified persons told me that because I was fairly well spoken, could make eye contact, and had emotional empathy, I could not possibly be autistic. Autism is not a condition which inherently requires a specific set of behavioral characteristics. It is a different way of processing in the brain, much like different computer or mobile phone operating systems. You can do most of the same things on the different platforms (with certain exceptions), and you’ll often come up with the same outcomes, but the information gets processed uniquely. You can’t usually identify an autistic person at a glance. If we are stimming (calming or centering self-stimulation) it may be too subtle for someone to notice. After all, we’ve had a lifetime of others telling us to stop shaking our legs, or tapping that pen, humming, whistling and talking to ourselves. We’ve often found less obtrusive ways to regulate. We learn to mask, and we spend a lot of time and effort doing so. We observe and reflect what non-autistic people (often called NTs or neurotypicals) do. If you’ve ever been in a dramatic role on stage, you have some idea how that works. It requires continuous concentration, and it’s draining. Some autistic people are excellent public speakers, great sales persons, musicians, artists, mechanics, pilots, teachers, athletes, or almost anything you can think of — though perhaps not politicians. I am currently a specialized mechanic of sorts, assembling, customizing and repairing mobility equipment for physically disabled people. I’ve worked full time all my adult life. I have a wife of over 27 years now, and had a foster son who recently went out on his own after three years. I play bass and guitar by ear (though not much of late), and I have even sung and played with the musical team at my place of worship. As for “special interests,” I have more than a few. I am quite frequently referring to Nile Rodgers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hal Blaine and the other members of the Wrecking Crew, the Swampers of Muscle Shoals, and background singers like Merry Clayton (as featured in the documentary “20 Feet From Stardom”). I like to notice and identify samples (little clips of older songs) used in modern music. I like to find rare cover versions of songs by other performers. Though I have my favorites, I am always evolving in my musical tastes and listen to a local public radio station which features a very diverse playlist. I went to a technical college to learn to become a radio broadcaster (which is kind of no longer a thing), and to learn audio production techniques (also now long since outmoded, until the “hipsters” revive cart tapes and analog 16 track reel to reel tapes). I like many genres of television and film, and by the time I was 18 had seen “The Blues Brothers” over 108 times, when I introduced the young lady who is now my wife to the film. I enjoy comedy, and I have patterned most of my social life around it. In fact, it’s a bit of a crutch, and without it I’m lost, it’s become so ingrained. Why am I listing all these things? I want to show you that you can be you and no one can tell you “you can’t be autistic” because you don’t “obsess” over Arctic penguins, model train layouts or philately. And if you do, that’s also great. Incidentally, why is it neurotypical people have “hobbies” and for us it’s “obsessions?” I’ve encountered plenty of “normal” people who fixate on things far more than I do. I don’t diagnose them as autistic on the spot any more than my friend should have been “un-diagnosed” by her doctor. Anyway, it’s OK if you dress plain and don’t act eccentric all the time. It’s fine if you are outgoing and like to be around people, though that’s not for me. It’s certainly OK if you have no “special” abilities, narrowly focused interests or any or all of the other allegedly stereotypical autistic traits. If you’re autistic, you’re autistic, and no one else’s prejudicial assertions can change that. Be you, not what someone else expects you to be.

Timothy Kiley

Responding to Stereotypes About Autism

I’m 49 years old, and I’ve been autistic for three years now. Actually, I have been autistic all my life, as are all autistic people. I just didn’t know it early on, like many of you may have. A person doesn’t just suddenly develop autism, nor do they leave it behind when they turn 18 (or 21 if you apply for an extension). I am what might somewhat inappropriately be referred to as a non-typical atypical. I think most of us are, hence the idea of inappropriateness. Though there are commonalities throughout the spectrum, there is no cookie cutter from which we are created, nor is there a pigeon hole in which we can be kept. I currently have a small group of about 80 fellow autists, most diagnosed as adults. No two of us are alike. Most of us share similar values and some common interests, but we are all different in significant ways. My interests are many and varied, as are those of most people, autistic or otherwise. I am not exceptionally intelligent. I have no Rainman-esque superhuman abilities. I do not like “The Big Bang Theory,” and I have never been to Comic Con. I have no more interest in trains than the next person. I am able to decipher sarcasm and other subtle forms of humor. I can (and do) eat almost everything. I have worked in retail sales management and even automotive sales. I do not like being confined in tight spaces. I could go on, but it seems in typical fashion (for me) I already have. The point is, we are not all the same. A friend of mine, who also does not fit the societally-imposed stereotypes of autism, was at her doctor’s office for an unrelated issue. The doctor told her he doesn’t believe she’s autistic. How do you accurately judge that in a 15-minute encounter, especially enough to contradict not only the person herself, but the actual expert who diagnosed her? I had similar issues during the process of my diagnosis. Several highly un-qualified persons told me that because I was fairly well spoken, could make eye contact, and had emotional empathy, I could not possibly be autistic. Autism is not a condition which inherently requires a specific set of behavioral characteristics. It is a different way of processing in the brain, much like different computer or mobile phone operating systems. You can do most of the same things on the different platforms (with certain exceptions), and you’ll often come up with the same outcomes, but the information gets processed uniquely. You can’t usually identify an autistic person at a glance. If we are stimming (calming or centering self-stimulation) it may be too subtle for someone to notice. After all, we’ve had a lifetime of others telling us to stop shaking our legs, or tapping that pen, humming, whistling and talking to ourselves. We’ve often found less obtrusive ways to regulate. We learn to mask, and we spend a lot of time and effort doing so. We observe and reflect what non-autistic people (often called NTs or neurotypicals) do. If you’ve ever been in a dramatic role on stage, you have some idea how that works. It requires continuous concentration, and it’s draining. Some autistic people are excellent public speakers, great sales persons, musicians, artists, mechanics, pilots, teachers, athletes, or almost anything you can think of — though perhaps not politicians. I am currently a specialized mechanic of sorts, assembling, customizing and repairing mobility equipment for physically disabled people. I’ve worked full time all my adult life. I have a wife of over 27 years now, and had a foster son who recently went out on his own after three years. I play bass and guitar by ear (though not much of late), and I have even sung and played with the musical team at my place of worship. As for “special interests,” I have more than a few. I am quite frequently referring to Nile Rodgers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hal Blaine and the other members of the Wrecking Crew, the Swampers of Muscle Shoals, and background singers like Merry Clayton (as featured in the documentary “20 Feet From Stardom”). I like to notice and identify samples (little clips of older songs) used in modern music. I like to find rare cover versions of songs by other performers. Though I have my favorites, I am always evolving in my musical tastes and listen to a local public radio station which features a very diverse playlist. I went to a technical college to learn to become a radio broadcaster (which is kind of no longer a thing), and to learn audio production techniques (also now long since outmoded, until the “hipsters” revive cart tapes and analog 16 track reel to reel tapes). I like many genres of television and film, and by the time I was 18 had seen “The Blues Brothers” over 108 times, when I introduced the young lady who is now my wife to the film. I enjoy comedy, and I have patterned most of my social life around it. In fact, it’s a bit of a crutch, and without it I’m lost, it’s become so ingrained. Why am I listing all these things? I want to show you that you can be you and no one can tell you “you can’t be autistic” because you don’t “obsess” over Arctic penguins, model train layouts or philately. And if you do, that’s also great. Incidentally, why is it neurotypical people have “hobbies” and for us it’s “obsessions?” I’ve encountered plenty of “normal” people who fixate on things far more than I do. I don’t diagnose them as autistic on the spot any more than my friend should have been “un-diagnosed” by her doctor. Anyway, it’s OK if you dress plain and don’t act eccentric all the time. It’s fine if you are outgoing and like to be around people, though that’s not for me. It’s certainly OK if you have no “special” abilities, narrowly focused interests or any or all of the other allegedly stereotypical autistic traits. If you’re autistic, you’re autistic, and no one else’s prejudicial assertions can change that. Be you, not what someone else expects you to be.

Timothy Kiley

Responding to Stereotypes About Autism

I’m 49 years old, and I’ve been autistic for three years now. Actually, I have been autistic all my life, as are all autistic people. I just didn’t know it early on, like many of you may have. A person doesn’t just suddenly develop autism, nor do they leave it behind when they turn 18 (or 21 if you apply for an extension). I am what might somewhat inappropriately be referred to as a non-typical atypical. I think most of us are, hence the idea of inappropriateness. Though there are commonalities throughout the spectrum, there is no cookie cutter from which we are created, nor is there a pigeon hole in which we can be kept. I currently have a small group of about 80 fellow autists, most diagnosed as adults. No two of us are alike. Most of us share similar values and some common interests, but we are all different in significant ways. My interests are many and varied, as are those of most people, autistic or otherwise. I am not exceptionally intelligent. I have no Rainman-esque superhuman abilities. I do not like “The Big Bang Theory,” and I have never been to Comic Con. I have no more interest in trains than the next person. I am able to decipher sarcasm and other subtle forms of humor. I can (and do) eat almost everything. I have worked in retail sales management and even automotive sales. I do not like being confined in tight spaces. I could go on, but it seems in typical fashion (for me) I already have. The point is, we are not all the same. A friend of mine, who also does not fit the societally-imposed stereotypes of autism, was at her doctor’s office for an unrelated issue. The doctor told her he doesn’t believe she’s autistic. How do you accurately judge that in a 15-minute encounter, especially enough to contradict not only the person herself, but the actual expert who diagnosed her? I had similar issues during the process of my diagnosis. Several highly un-qualified persons told me that because I was fairly well spoken, could make eye contact, and had emotional empathy, I could not possibly be autistic. Autism is not a condition which inherently requires a specific set of behavioral characteristics. It is a different way of processing in the brain, much like different computer or mobile phone operating systems. You can do most of the same things on the different platforms (with certain exceptions), and you’ll often come up with the same outcomes, but the information gets processed uniquely. You can’t usually identify an autistic person at a glance. If we are stimming (calming or centering self-stimulation) it may be too subtle for someone to notice. After all, we’ve had a lifetime of others telling us to stop shaking our legs, or tapping that pen, humming, whistling and talking to ourselves. We’ve often found less obtrusive ways to regulate. We learn to mask, and we spend a lot of time and effort doing so. We observe and reflect what non-autistic people (often called NTs or neurotypicals) do. If you’ve ever been in a dramatic role on stage, you have some idea how that works. It requires continuous concentration, and it’s draining. Some autistic people are excellent public speakers, great sales persons, musicians, artists, mechanics, pilots, teachers, athletes, or almost anything you can think of — though perhaps not politicians. I am currently a specialized mechanic of sorts, assembling, customizing and repairing mobility equipment for physically disabled people. I’ve worked full time all my adult life. I have a wife of over 27 years now, and had a foster son who recently went out on his own after three years. I play bass and guitar by ear (though not much of late), and I have even sung and played with the musical team at my place of worship. As for “special interests,” I have more than a few. I am quite frequently referring to Nile Rodgers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hal Blaine and the other members of the Wrecking Crew, the Swampers of Muscle Shoals, and background singers like Merry Clayton (as featured in the documentary “20 Feet From Stardom”). I like to notice and identify samples (little clips of older songs) used in modern music. I like to find rare cover versions of songs by other performers. Though I have my favorites, I am always evolving in my musical tastes and listen to a local public radio station which features a very diverse playlist. I went to a technical college to learn to become a radio broadcaster (which is kind of no longer a thing), and to learn audio production techniques (also now long since outmoded, until the “hipsters” revive cart tapes and analog 16 track reel to reel tapes). I like many genres of television and film, and by the time I was 18 had seen “The Blues Brothers” over 108 times, when I introduced the young lady who is now my wife to the film. I enjoy comedy, and I have patterned most of my social life around it. In fact, it’s a bit of a crutch, and without it I’m lost, it’s become so ingrained. Why am I listing all these things? I want to show you that you can be you and no one can tell you “you can’t be autistic” because you don’t “obsess” over Arctic penguins, model train layouts or philately. And if you do, that’s also great. Incidentally, why is it neurotypical people have “hobbies” and for us it’s “obsessions?” I’ve encountered plenty of “normal” people who fixate on things far more than I do. I don’t diagnose them as autistic on the spot any more than my friend should have been “un-diagnosed” by her doctor. Anyway, it’s OK if you dress plain and don’t act eccentric all the time. It’s fine if you are outgoing and like to be around people, though that’s not for me. It’s certainly OK if you have no “special” abilities, narrowly focused interests or any or all of the other allegedly stereotypical autistic traits. If you’re autistic, you’re autistic, and no one else’s prejudicial assertions can change that. Be you, not what someone else expects you to be.

Timothy Kiley

Responding to Stereotypes About Autism

I’m 49 years old, and I’ve been autistic for three years now. Actually, I have been autistic all my life, as are all autistic people. I just didn’t know it early on, like many of you may have. A person doesn’t just suddenly develop autism, nor do they leave it behind when they turn 18 (or 21 if you apply for an extension). I am what might somewhat inappropriately be referred to as a non-typical atypical. I think most of us are, hence the idea of inappropriateness. Though there are commonalities throughout the spectrum, there is no cookie cutter from which we are created, nor is there a pigeon hole in which we can be kept. I currently have a small group of about 80 fellow autists, most diagnosed as adults. No two of us are alike. Most of us share similar values and some common interests, but we are all different in significant ways. My interests are many and varied, as are those of most people, autistic or otherwise. I am not exceptionally intelligent. I have no Rainman-esque superhuman abilities. I do not like “The Big Bang Theory,” and I have never been to Comic Con. I have no more interest in trains than the next person. I am able to decipher sarcasm and other subtle forms of humor. I can (and do) eat almost everything. I have worked in retail sales management and even automotive sales. I do not like being confined in tight spaces. I could go on, but it seems in typical fashion (for me) I already have. The point is, we are not all the same. A friend of mine, who also does not fit the societally-imposed stereotypes of autism, was at her doctor’s office for an unrelated issue. The doctor told her he doesn’t believe she’s autistic. How do you accurately judge that in a 15-minute encounter, especially enough to contradict not only the person herself, but the actual expert who diagnosed her? I had similar issues during the process of my diagnosis. Several highly un-qualified persons told me that because I was fairly well spoken, could make eye contact, and had emotional empathy, I could not possibly be autistic. Autism is not a condition which inherently requires a specific set of behavioral characteristics. It is a different way of processing in the brain, much like different computer or mobile phone operating systems. You can do most of the same things on the different platforms (with certain exceptions), and you’ll often come up with the same outcomes, but the information gets processed uniquely. You can’t usually identify an autistic person at a glance. If we are stimming (calming or centering self-stimulation) it may be too subtle for someone to notice. After all, we’ve had a lifetime of others telling us to stop shaking our legs, or tapping that pen, humming, whistling and talking to ourselves. We’ve often found less obtrusive ways to regulate. We learn to mask, and we spend a lot of time and effort doing so. We observe and reflect what non-autistic people (often called NTs or neurotypicals) do. If you’ve ever been in a dramatic role on stage, you have some idea how that works. It requires continuous concentration, and it’s draining. Some autistic people are excellent public speakers, great sales persons, musicians, artists, mechanics, pilots, teachers, athletes, or almost anything you can think of — though perhaps not politicians. I am currently a specialized mechanic of sorts, assembling, customizing and repairing mobility equipment for physically disabled people. I’ve worked full time all my adult life. I have a wife of over 27 years now, and had a foster son who recently went out on his own after three years. I play bass and guitar by ear (though not much of late), and I have even sung and played with the musical team at my place of worship. As for “special interests,” I have more than a few. I am quite frequently referring to Nile Rodgers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hal Blaine and the other members of the Wrecking Crew, the Swampers of Muscle Shoals, and background singers like Merry Clayton (as featured in the documentary “20 Feet From Stardom”). I like to notice and identify samples (little clips of older songs) used in modern music. I like to find rare cover versions of songs by other performers. Though I have my favorites, I am always evolving in my musical tastes and listen to a local public radio station which features a very diverse playlist. I went to a technical college to learn to become a radio broadcaster (which is kind of no longer a thing), and to learn audio production techniques (also now long since outmoded, until the “hipsters” revive cart tapes and analog 16 track reel to reel tapes). I like many genres of television and film, and by the time I was 18 had seen “The Blues Brothers” over 108 times, when I introduced the young lady who is now my wife to the film. I enjoy comedy, and I have patterned most of my social life around it. In fact, it’s a bit of a crutch, and without it I’m lost, it’s become so ingrained. Why am I listing all these things? I want to show you that you can be you and no one can tell you “you can’t be autistic” because you don’t “obsess” over Arctic penguins, model train layouts or philately. And if you do, that’s also great. Incidentally, why is it neurotypical people have “hobbies” and for us it’s “obsessions?” I’ve encountered plenty of “normal” people who fixate on things far more than I do. I don’t diagnose them as autistic on the spot any more than my friend should have been “un-diagnosed” by her doctor. Anyway, it’s OK if you dress plain and don’t act eccentric all the time. It’s fine if you are outgoing and like to be around people, though that’s not for me. It’s certainly OK if you have no “special” abilities, narrowly focused interests or any or all of the other allegedly stereotypical autistic traits. If you’re autistic, you’re autistic, and no one else’s prejudicial assertions can change that. Be you, not what someone else expects you to be.