Monday, December 30, 2019

I'm 22 years old right now (will be 23 on April 15th so less than 4 months away now) and I was born in Savannah, Georgia but grew up in a small city an hour away called Hinesville until I was 13, which is when I moved to Minnesota and I've lived in Minnesota since then (2010 so 10 years in either may or June).

I am  Currently I'm a caregiver in a group home for people with disabilities (aka healthcare/medical work, the home I work in serves 4 residents), to answer do I like what I do is a bit mixed because healthcare has never been an interest of mine (I took this job somewhat spontaneously, I started in September 2018 so been at it for almost 1 year and 4 months), finance is my career "passion"/interest (which I have dabbled in so far, for the 2018 tax season I worked at H&R Block as a professional tax preparer and loved it) so while this job doesn't align with my long term interests and goals it has been extremely rewarding to me in multiple ways.

I would say that one thing that surprises people once I tell them is that I wasn't born male, I'm transgender (female to male/FtM, I've been on testosterone for over 4 years and 3 months now) and I'm very lucky to have had a mostly positive experience with disclosing that to people, it's been very rare that I've had negative feedback/harassment about it compared to how often people are supportive of it (or even just neutral/indifferent) and I recognize the same unfortunately can't be said for many others like me.

 I would say I consider my biggest accomplishment in life has been how far I've come in life, all the progress I've made in different facets of life despite circumstances dealt to me (my life story I'm pretty open with but for the sake of the interview won't open up that novel right now 🤣), in particular 2019 has been an immensely progress-filled year for me socially (as in I made a good chunk of social skill progress this year, particularly with women)

 How do I want to change the world or myself seems like a bit of a broad/open ended question but as for the world I'd say I try to educate others on diversity of topics related to me such as being transgender and having autism by sharing my life story, since I'm very quiet/shy/reserved by nature I don't see myself ever becoming like a big public speaker and therefore I see it as even if it's just educating a few people here and there it still makes a difference. As for me, I'd like to continue trying to overcome the severe social anxiety I face with women (one of the big hurdles I've focused on this year) but aside from that I don't think I have anything else I really want to work on right now.

I wish more NT people knew that nearly everyone (whether or not you have autism) has or exhibits at some point autistic traits in their lifetime, however it's the severity of those symptoms and the frequency and how it impacts the person's life and the origin of those symptoms that distinguishes what is autism vs things like "oh it's just an awkward phase", in essence to understand more the validity of autism and the impact it has on those who experience it rather than brushing it off as if it were something that's easier to overcome.

I was diagnosed in January 2011 at the age of 13 (not long before turning 14, this is prior to the change the DSM made to using the umbrella term of Autism Spectrum Disorder/ASD and I often still reference my autism as my original diagnosis of Asperger's) and the forms of intervention I've had since then include therapy and pharmaceutical medications, for therapy once I found a therapist I liked and could connect with and as long as the appointments were consistent I do think it was a big help, for the medications I was on a variety that changed over time (anti-anxiety, antidepressant, mood stabilizer, sleeping medication) and I know medication is a bit of a hot topic in the sense of people are opposed to it as well, personally I'm not opposed to medication because I see it as sometimes people are born with or develop conditions that create an imbalance in their body so if medication can help that then by all means take it if you think it can truly help you, however I ended up transitioning to using marijuana medicinally instead which I think has given me equal (if not greater) benefit than pharmaceuticals did (not to be cliche there).

What do I tell others on the spectrum? Honestly in the past year I've been focusing on my autism a lot and letting it get so me negatively so sometimes that affects my outlook on things but overall I'd say that it is possible to make progress, it is possible to achieve goals you have (even if you don't achieve the exact result you want or getting there the same way) and while this is advice I really should listen to myself, while everyone is different in general I believe for autistic people any social progress will take us. Much more time than NT people it really is true that patience is key, that our results will come in time if we can wait it out and continue putting in the effort (which for me is hard because I definitely don't have a lot of patience, I never have despite trying to work on it)
  How I got diagnosed: When I met my brother's mom (after my dad introduced me to her) and began to get to know her, she was the one to notice and have me begin therapy to receive a diagnosis and she later told me that it's not that she thought that anything was wrong with me, just that she saw I was very different than other teenagers my age and that I seemed to struggle a lot socially and was awkward to the point of social detriment. The way I received my diagnosis was after a few therapy sessions my dad and my brother's mom gave me a book (I've always liked reading, I get into phases of reading and then not reading much for a while and at that time I was reading a lot) and told me to read it and after I read it (the book was Look Me in the Eyes by John Elder Robison, very good book I highly recommend it) they asked me what I thought of it and they told me I have the same condition the author has, Asperger's and after that my brother's mom bought me like 8 or 9 books on autism so i could learn more and I read them all and once I learned more about autism I learned more about myself, I finally felt like I understood so much more about myself and my life and to this day knowing about my autism helps me navigate life and express my needs.

When I first was diagnosed i felt neutral over it, then for a while I was somewhat excited thinking it was a cool and unique trait to have, but as I've gotten older and the struggles i face due to autism become more prevalent, lately I've felt more resentful towards my autism and sometimes wishing I could be NT because even though autism is part of what makes me unique and who I am, I just wish I could know what it's like to not struggle so much socially and with anxiety.  Considering I was diagnosed at 13 and will be 23 in a few months and due to my detailed long term memory I can remember my symptoms beginning around the age of 3, that 10 year gap between 3 and 13 I don't see as huge but I do think that if I were diagnosed as a child then maybe today I'd be even farther along socially and possibly have less or even no social anxiety (such as with women).

The obstacles I've faced in life can turn into a very very long story but some of the more significant events (aside from autism) are my mom passed away in 2007 when I was 10 (my first tattoo out of currently 7, is on my left forearm and is dedicated to her as well as my 7th/most recent one is also a tribute to her), my dad over the years became abusive (emotionally/mentally, verbally, physically) to the point where I eventually entered the foster care system (which turned out to be a blessing for me in the end), a brief (almost 3 week) episode of homelessness last year (which was part of what nearly drove me to suicide), a myriad of smaller things here and there or reoccurring things such as the social anxiety, and while in the moment of something I do face stress I think deep down I try to think of everything I've already overcome and how far I've come and that if I can push through whatever I'm going through right now, to stay optimistic and try thinking of positives, that nothing bad lasts forever and eventually things will get better (which again for me is sometimes hard to hold on to since patience is not a virtue of mine)

 With being transgender although I'm lucky to have had a mostly positive experience, it does still pose a great risk to my safety in a sense so even though I'm open about my transition i still have to be careful who I disclose it to, as for race/ethnicity I'm half Puerto Rican (aka among the Hispanic demographic of people) by my dad's side of the family and then white by my mom's side so I'm mixed, however I got my mom's very fair/light skin tone so even though I have naturally dark and very curly hair and dark brown eyes I basically look like a regular white guy, and considering the unfortunate state of American society today it's twisted to say that I'm glad I took more in appearance after my mom than my dad because I know if I got darker skin like my dad and his family that I'd instantly be that much more at risk to prejudice that many people of color face in the country today, and as for my autism I feel lucky to say that I don't think anyone has really ever belittled me over it


19. Born and raised in China and moved to Canada as a teen.

I’m still a student supported by my parents. I also have scholarship and have internships when I’m not in school, most of which are coding jobs where I get to experience different specific positions in the industry. I enjoy my program so far.

I don’t know how I want to change the world. Right now I’m trying hard to unlearn all the negativity I associate with being different, or being myself.

Something I wish Neurotypicals knew about Autism is that  Autism is a spectrum. The more visible ones are on the ends but there are a lot of people “in between” and they are just as diverse as neurotypicals. They aren’t necessarily in special education or geniuses.

I want to tell fellow people on the spectrum this: The society is very good at making people who are different from the “majority” feel broken. You are not broken. And we are not obliged to always make the accommodation by masking.

Since I came to Canada, many people(from different cultural backgrounds) have told me that I was very likely to be autistic. Some of them are complete strangers who just know me online because we are in the same chat group. Some are closer and know me in real life . And many of them already have ASD diagnosis and told me that my “signs” were much more obvious than theirs.

 Signs that indicated I was on the spectrum were Communication, Social, Sensory & others.

Communication: Others told me that I always make the conversation about myself and my interests(I'm already conscious trying not do that but still …), take words literally and ignore most nonverbel cues. Even when chatting in my native language I often fail to tell when others are mocking me or annoyed by me or I talked inappropriately until someone explicitly tell me so. My style is very straightforward and rational and “unusual for my age”. Now in university, I still often have to ask my NT classmates if the professor is being serious or just joking in order to understand assignment instructions. I hate eye contact, only started to force myself doing so after learning that not doing this brings a lot of negative consequences. And I still avoid having eye contact whenever possible, and physically not able to do that when I’m tired.

Social: I’m always commented as “abnormal” “weird” or “crazy” from daycare to high school. Always rejected/excluded by groups. No friend or only one friend. Always alone,  rejected or being extra. Now I have 2 friends. I never understand why.  And I feel more comfortable interacting with those who already have ASD diagnosis and honestly think they are the most normal people in the world. Had a lot of trouble in school due to my inability to understand non spoken and non written rules.

Sensory: I get overwhelmed easily in malls, especially in crowded ones. My energy gets drained quickly in them no matter how good I slept before. I hate films or basically anything played on screen with loud voices and intense visual stimulation. And I cannot do two things at the same time. Trying to do any work that requires the least amount of brain energy with music turned  on almost always makes my brain collapse.

Others:  Ever since I was a little kid I have to assign an eating order to food before I start to eat. My parents believe it's terrible table manner but failed to train me not do this through punishments.  I now understand that it's disturbing for others to watch me break a “whole piece of food” into parts and arrange them in my plate according to my preferred order of eating so I try my best not to  do that when eating with others but this makes me feel very bad. In fact I often feel I have to choose between being rude and feeling sick. And I have many weird routines in other aspects like walking stairs. If I say I go out at 5 then I go out at 5,  not 4: 59 or 5: 01. 
           I stim by combing my hair with hands, rocking and jumping. I was disciplined throughout the entire elementary school for rocking chair since it’s “bad manner and disturbing” but I still rock today, and when I watched a video in which a non-verbal autistic girl rocks I realized that I do the exact same.
        I enjoy writing down hundreds of names from one of my areas of interest in an order of generations or geographical locations,  and repeat doing this again and again. I'm also sensitive to dates. My interests are all very intense though they can change from time to time. This intense interest makes me learn related stuff quickly. Most of them are unusual for my demographics,  like enka.
      My empathy is also very limited. My reasoning may tell me that you feel bad, but I don't know how bad feels. It's just a word with 3 letters and I know it is negative. Again negative is a concept hung up high somewhere in the sky. I'm kind so I hope you don't feel the negatives. Occasionally I can feel the “bad” itself,  on average less than once a month,  often with the assistance of music or my love towards someone. By the way I can only either have intense friendship or barely feel any emotions at all, just like how I feel about my interests.

Interviewer: What is something  that you think your culture poses a specific challenge for you? Culture as in area of residency, gender, religion, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, age and, etc.

When I was in China, the culture expected me to catch a lot more non-verbal cues in communication and “read between the lines”. As compared with Canada, people were less likely to “say things straight” which made their words challenging for me to understand, even in my native language.

In the small Chinese city  I was raised, most people did not have an awareness of ASD when I was very small. Even today a lot of them understand ASD as either:
  1. A debilitating condition. An “illness” whose patients do not speak and have severe developmental delays.
  2. “Children from the stars” as portrayed on media and by some advocacy groups. Similar to 1 but with more adorable characteristics like “having a pure heart”.
  3. Silent or weird genius, cannot social but especially talented in certain ways like math or music.
I’m none of the above 3. I have above average math skills but not enough to be counted as 3 lol.

Another thing might be more cultural. In China school and parents focus more on academic success. My verbal language and cognitive skills are unimpacted, and I even got selected to enter a  program for gifted children based on intelligence tests. So although I had behavioral/social problems in school in China, those issues were largely tolerated, or ignored, due to my grades. Students also typically don't bully classmates with good grades, so although I was always socially isolated school, I didn’t experience a lot of bullying.

I’m also homosexual and the queer community I’m in contact with are super supportive with lots of individuals especially nurturing. It is a good thing, but sometimes the kind & warm social interactions make me anxious because I do not know how to handle them and I'm unable to reciprocate.

Barriers I am facing at the moment on getting a diagnosis is that: I don’t have insurance in China since I don’t live there anymore, and in Canada my insurance as a temporary resident is not high enough either. My parents refuse to believe that I might be autistic and thus do not financially support my diagnosis either. Even after a change in my university’s policy that raises my coverage starting from next year,  I still have to wait and try to get my diagnosis process spread from the end of one fiscal year to the start of a new one so I can enjoy 2 years’ coverage.

Most of my obstacles are from communication and social interactions. I learned how to greet people and understood that if I don’t people will perceive me as rude and don’t like me so I better do it in high school, but I still do not really understand why people do it and don’t really like doing it. And I still struggle to say goodbye without feeling very weird and uncomfortable. And I don't like eye contacts at all. This kind of basic stuff. Trying to be not rude by forcing myself into those “normal” behaviors takes lots of energy and still I feel awkward or mess up very often. And in job interviews I often cannot tell whether a question is a serious one or just small talk so I guess I just ruined a lot of opportunities this way. And I often have trouble interpreting people’s facial expressions. I can visually see a change in their facial muscles so I know something is going on, but do not understand what that means, and that gives me very bad anxiety.

Something positive: Autism actually benefited me too. When I was 20 months old my family started potty training by reading me stories when I sat on the toilet. After reading a story once,  my mother tried to “tell the story in her own way so it's not boring” but she made me mad by doing that. I remembered the original wordings,  and insisted that stories have to be retold without changing one word. Feeling very frustrated, my mother read stories again with her index finger pointing to each character as she read. And that's how I learned to read. I was able to read independently by the time I turned two. Being able to read opened up a new world for me to explore.

    I was born in Osaka, Japan on the 29th of April, 1971. I am currently 48. At 6 months old, my family moved to Lima, Peru due to my father's job. He studied Spanish in University and the trading company he worked for asked him to open branches for the company in South America. Two years later we moved to Quito, Ecuador and back to Japan 3 years later. 4 years in Japan and we were back to Ecuador where I went through school at an American Christian school and later an American International School. During my early childhood I was lonely because of language barrier and the fact that I was a tiny bit weird didn't help. I had a book on hobbies for kids and I was very interested in the section about photography. I indulged and wanted to find out everything about how photography works. All I had were the few point and shoot picture machines that my parents had, but it was a start. I later had a pin hole picture box and learned how to print photos in the lab from a magazine and a professional photographer when I was around 10. High school was the first time I was actually taught about photography and became the yearbook photographer. My first year in University was a nightmare... new place, new routines, new climate... I couldn't do it. I pretty much had a breakdown and was allowed to go home, and took a year off. During my year off, I worked at my old school and I kept taking photos for the yearbook. Decades have passed since then, and I'm still taking pictures, and for the most part they are pretty much the same type of pictures that I've been taking for yearbook. Before they were candids from school activities and now they are candids from community activities. So I'm a photographer and I get jobs every now and then. Let me go back into the past a bit... After high school... to make a long story short, I majored in film production at USC in Los Angeles and officially became a filmmaker. I worked in the film industry for over 10 years and after a few meltdowns I needed to quit. It was an ongoing thing since my university years. During school, I had to produce my own student films and I found it extremely challenging. Producing meant making lots of phone calls, and phone calls are very scary. Phone calls give me extreme axiety and takes me to a very dark place... Producing meant that I had to audition actors, talk to location owners... in other words I had to deal with an awful lot of interpersonal communication. It's all very awkward and confusing. In the end I got them done, but can't say that I did my best... If I had an ASD diagnosis back then perhaps I was entitled to some sort of help to deal with all the issues that come with the autistic neurotype. The same goes for actual work after graduating. It came to a point where I was no longer able to interact with people, with coworkers, and even friends. I was also having trouble with my relationship, and one day it all turned into a series of meltdowns. They were bad enough to have me institutionalized twice. They really couldn't figure out what was wrong with me, and I also wanted to leave the place. I pretty much had to do something uncomfortable, which was to lie, and say that I was feeling well. I was allowed to go home. All that basically ended the relationship, but I was ok with it. It was a relationship with a girl and I'm not into the opposite gender. I told her that earlier on and she found that as something attractive. It was a time when I was sure about my sexuality, but I kept hearing that sexual orientation is a choice, or a few would say that being with a girl would change me... I didn't believe it, but decided to try it out, not that I wanted to change... was just curious. So, I made the choice to be straight and get myself a girlfriend. It didn't go well and came to the conclusion that sexual orientation is hardwired and not a choice. A few years later I was approched by a guy and we ended up going out for six years. It did come to an end because of many things, but it was mainly me. I had to have things a certain way, and if things weren't the way I thought was “correct” I was very insistent on having it “correct”. It was just too much for him. It all ended, but we are still very good friends.

           After I left the film industry, I lived on a passive income. It was rent money from a property I had inherited early. I was quite happy during those years. I had an income without having to deal with people and telephones. I had a wonderful relationship (with the guy I mentioned earlier), and I had two great room mates in the beautiful city of Barcelona. I was also playing guitar in a band and things were good, but I still had issues. Having room mates, it was a challenge to keep things in their place or to schedule activities together. The good thing was that one of them was very much like myself. We often talked about our issues and he used to tell me that I'm autistic. I didn't know much about autism back then and I was actually offended when he said it. My only autism reference was the film Rain Man, which was the reference given in high school psychology class. I was definitely not like Rain Man. I didn't give it much thought and tried to find out what was “wrong” with myself. Didn't even look into ASD or Asperger's because, like I said, I had no idea what it was and was sure it wasn't autism, because Rain Man was the only reference I had. Things changed after a few years. After we all went our own way, I learned that my room mate officially had Asperger's. My relationship fell apart and was single again. I lost the tenants and lost my passive income, and couldn't find a new tenant for two years. It turned into a financial crisis. It was the darkest years of my life. I had to generate income, but refused to go back to the film industry... In the end I tried, but couldn't figure out how to do it... I thought about how I was able to get a job before, and the answer was that I had help. People set me up with interviews, gave me tips to get through the interview, etc. I basically had jobs thanks to the friends of friends who were kind enought to be helpful. This time around it was different, I hadn't kept in touch with people and couldn't find my way into the industry again. I did my research on “how to get a job” and all, but still couldn't execute the things I had researched.

   I was very lonely and sad, because everything fell apart. It seemed like everything had fallen apart at the same time. Broken relationship, loss of income, and not being able to get a job that I was qualified to do. Right around that time, I had moved to a rural village in the south of Spain to get away from everything and figure things out. I wanted to be in the village for no more than a year. I'm still here, and in my fouth year here. I got to meet quite a few people here, mostly British expats who have come here to retire. It was also the first time I was making acquaintances that are much older than me. It was all new and weird, but managed. They were the ones that helped me out with “little jobs”. I ended up teaching Spanish to foreigners in the village, work as an interpreter and translator, take photographs, make short videos, do gardening work, drive people to the airport, teach guitar, teach people how to read stock and forex charts, and make posters and flyers for local events. Every week was different and just drove me crazy and kept me in constant axiety. Even had a few meltdowns in front of people. Just difficult times, and was not happy with my way of generating income. It was a nightmare. While all this was happening, I kept trying to find out what was causing all my issues, and looked more into ASD and Asperger's. It seemed everything checked off. I wanted to find out for sure, so I talked to the GP, who refered me to a psychologist. I've been to the psychologist and psychiatrist before, and it ended up being the same crap as usual. Therapies and treatments of symtoms rather than trying to pinpoint the underlying cause. It wasn't helping so I left. I looked up an ASD specialist and got an appointment. After seeing her for a month, performing tests and interviews, I was officially diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, ASD level 1. Everything made sense finally, and was able to figure out a lot about myself.

       Basically, I'm a really intelligent person with a highly coveted film degree, skilled in many things, an understanding of 4 languages, 3 of them at native level, and knowlegable about a lot of things, but can't get a steady and secure job, can't get into a relationship, have difficulties making friends, horrible with money, can barely take care of myself when it comes to feeding myself or keeping things tidy. It's really frustrating when people think that I'm just lazy or uninterested. But despite all these negative and debilitating aspects, I was able to get a film degree from USC, move out of my parents' house, and was able to have two romantic relationships. Thanks to my second relationship I was able to travel quite a bit and get to see more of the world. I wish I could travel more, but scared to do it on my own, and really can't make travel plans effeciently. In fact at the moment, I'm supposed to plan a trip to Japan to see my mother, but I just can't do it. It's because I've never traveled to Japan from where I am now and the whole idea is very scary and confusing. In fact I was supposed to do this about 8 months ago, and still struggling with it. A good friend of mine has offered to help me organize this trip. She is great. She reassures me that it'll all be fine, and that she and her boyfriend will take me to the airport and all. I also need to renew my passport, and having trouble figuring out how I to do this. I think I have great accomplishments, but I think my top accomplishment is happening now. I got to meet a highly talented English musician here and I'm making a music video for him. It's not quite done yet, but I think it'll be the best thing I've done so far. I think I will finally be able to think that I've put my film degree to good use. I mean it doesn't compare to the accomplishments my classmates at USC have accomplished, like writing and starring in well known tv shows or directing Star Wars, but once this video is done, I know I'm going to be very proud of it, and maybe even get me more jobs.

    I wish there were more honesty and integrity in this world. That's because I find the world to be very confusing, and I think it has a lot to do with lack of honesty and integrity. I wish people could be more direct, precise, and to the point, without subtext. I wish there was less greed in the world. Greed makes too many people to become dishonest. Machination is a horrible thing. I wish everybody would just get along. I know it's a utopian ideal, and will probably never happen, but I still fight for it. I fight for integrity. I try my best to advocate for friendliness and kindness. I wish the neurotypical world would understand the autistic neurotype more. I wish they all knew that we have a tendency towards honesty and integrity instead of assuming we're weird as hell, low IQ, rude or even violent. Of course not everybody is the same but from what I know and have observed, we are a group of honest people. I wish we could participate more in leadership. I believe that our participation will make the world a better place. Look at people like Temple Grandin or Greta Thunberg. There are a lot more Temples and Gretas on the spectrum that need to be heard. The problem is perhaps our insistence on honesty, integrity and getting straight to the point. We get manipulated and cheated out of the circle through lies and lack of integrity. Nasty people know very well how to get ahead of us because we're seen as innocent and easy to manipulate, I hink. This is why I say I wish the NT world would know more about the autistic neurotype.

     I do need to make something clear. I'm not just saying all this for the so called high functioning autists or Aspies, I'm saying it for everyone on the spectrum. Yes, there are nonverbal people that seems to not communicate, but the truth is give them a communication tool and they will often prove themselves to be very intelligent. Yes, not all but many will. And yes, there are plenty of autistic people with low IQ's or can't function on their own. It is important to point out that low or high IQ is not something that defines autism. There are noverbal people that are very intelligent and there are Aspies that aren't so bright and even a bit mean. What I want to say is that it would be good to get rid of stereotypes. Stereotypes such as: autistic people in general are nonverbal, not very intelligent but can have genius level skills at something, or that Aspies are all geniuses that can figure anything out. Just not true, but I do want to emphasize that we have a tendency towards honesty and good integrity. There are exceptions, but you know what I mean, I hope. I believe that these negative stereotypes are what lead to bullying and mocking. And all this negativity is what leads to low self esteem of many autistic people. I've seem many autists with low self esteem and lack of confidence in online support groups as well as personally in reality. I've been through many periods of low self esteem with no confidence at all. I've even come to a point where I thought life is simply not worth it... I've recently used my autistic traits to be more positive and not be a threat to my own well being. I looked at myself in the mirror, making eye contact with myself and told myself, “you are worthy and life is worth living. Promise me you will keep trying and not do anything stupid like killing yourself.” I answered by saying, “yes, I promise.” I now feel safe from myself because I keep my promises. Believe it or not, this works for me. To all my fellow autists that are struggling or those that are in a very dark place, what I can say is that you are not alone in this world. There are ways to make it through bad times. There are ways to make things better. We all need to embrace our autistic traits, harness them, and use them to our advantage. Keep things simple and stick with the ones we trust and quickly ditch the toxic ones. Even then, there will be awkward and uncomfortable situations and comments, but just hang in there. Get rid of any shame and be proud of your difference. Be proud of that seemingly useless skill. If you can be proud of it, it's not so useless.

   So, I've been trying to write all this since mid June 2019 and it is now mid November 2019. It's just really difficult to organize my thoughts in a coherent way to cover the subject in an efficient way. Also I've been having a really difficult time... it's been a struggle to get myself to get anything done. I've mentioned a video that I've been working on. Well, the thing is it was done in a way that was just no appropriate for myself. At first, something that I came to agreement with my musician friend, the idea of “keeping things open” and not following a speific structure or deadline for a more fluid creative process seemed attractive, but in the end it stressed me out beyond belief. From now on I'm definitely working with a schedule and a deadline. The “openness” and lack of structure was a stressful experience. The video is now finished and I'm satisfied with the result, but the project which ended up lasting, on and off, for about one year, has made me accumulate quite a bit of unnecessary stress and has made me extremely apathetic.

   When the video project was finished in late September, with the help of a close friend, I was able to
plan my travels to Japan to visit my mother in late October and book flights. That was a relief, but
as I've mentioned earlier, the idea of travelling alone from an unknown airport and a route that I've
never taken was a horrible experience for just over a month until travel time. I was shutting down in
a serious way, and quite frankly, I barely made it to the travel date. It felt like I was going to “lose
it”, but in the I made it to Japan. The first week or so was extremely difficult. It meant readjusting to
a shared routine with my mother, and as awful as it may sound... putting up with her way of doing
things. I guess it's getting back to how things were when I lived with her as a teenager and into my
20's. But in many ways it's not too bad... for a very long time I've had issues with a feeling of not
being able to grow up. In the end this was something related to my ASD, and now I've given up on
attempting to become an adult, and just live and do things the way I've always done. And I'm
comfortable with it. Knowing that it's ASD related the stress of this “obligation” and pressure to
become an adult has been relieved and I'm no longer concerned with it. I no longer feel bad about
not using the living room when friends visit me. I still do it the way I've always done it. When
people come over, we hang out in my room and do the things I've always done, which is talk about
the things I like, listen to music, watch videos, and play guitar. Before receiving my diagnosis I felt
a bit of a pressure to change this behavior, but not any more and it's a relief. I guess it's also good
that my guests have no problem with it. In fact they enjoy it!

   I've been trying to “reset” since I've come to Japan, and just relax. I've been taking a lot of pictures and enjoying myself. I hope I will be able to fully reset before I go back to Spain later this month because I've got some challenges when I go back. I'm sure I'll be able to deal with them. I know exactly who to ask for help.

   One of the troubles I've had in writing this is that my thoughts tend to “jump around”. It goes from one thing to another in tangents and writing a coherent way that everybody will understand is somewhat challenging. Short things are no problem and it can be fun, but long things, like what I'm writing now, can be difficult. Which is why writing essays was a major task in school. I needed to start days before everybody else... if I had that luxury. Something I wanted to mention, but couldn't quite figure out how to “weave it” into the text is about my earlier passions, and went ahead and wrote about my film school experience and the such... Can you hear me out? My earlier passion, apart from photography and art in general, which I din't mention either, is science. I was especially passionate about medicine. I wanted to be a surgeon up until high school. I needed to decide what to study in university and my mentor in high school, who was a biologist, was suggesting I pursue my interest in medicine or anything sciencey. I gave it a lot of thought and it at the moment it felt like studying medicine to become a surgeon was a complete waste of time. Spending over 10 years to practice medicine seemed outrageous and unreasonable. I wanted to be out in the so called real world helping humanity as soon as possible. I especially wanted to help young people and children, because they are the future of humanity. I had some wonder experiences during high school with elementary school kids. I got to be friends with the third grade teacher and she showed me what a wonderful profession teaching was. She even gave me some hands on experience with her students, and I absolutely loved it. That's when I abandoned the idea of studying medicine and switched to elementary education, and I waas quite determined. It was a much quicker way to contribute to the future of humanity. But I had a major obstacle, my dad. He was a businessman and despised the idea of me giving up on medicine to become a teacher. He tried to discourage me and placed a lot of obstacles saying that I would never make it in life as a teacher and that I would be piss poor... For me it wasn't about the extrinsic merit of earning figures, it was about the intrinsic merit of making a contribution to the future of humanity. He didn't let me go to Clark University, the school of my choice. I was accepted into Boston University, which was my backup school. It was a more reputable university in many ways. In fact the school of education there was “better”, but it just wasn't my first choice for many reasons. Being in a smaller school in a quieter surrounding was one of them. I even had an agreement with my best friend to attend Clark if we were both accepted. I had to break the agreement because my dad forced me to go to BU... it made me feel horrible, and it was before the school year ended that I had a meltdown and had to drop out. Back home I had to see a psychiatrist for a while and take medication. It's a bit more complicated than that since the whole medication thing had started just after high school with the first comflicts with my dad, but let's just leave that part out. My dad was still adamant about the whole becoming a teacher idea, and in a verbal confrontation I had with my parents I had one of my biggest meltdowns in my life and went non-verbal for a few days and was pretty much bedbound for about two weeks. I did recover and felt like I had to do something... I decided to go toward my other passions... art and photography, but I could just hear my dad saying something along the line of artists being poor. I did some thinking and decided to go to film school. I was able to convince my dad quite easily by explaining to him what a big money maker the film idustry is, and how the school I wanted to attend was one of the most competitive on the planet. So competitive that statistically it's easier to get into Harvard Law and that not even Steven Spielberg was accepted. My dad was happy with the argument and let me go. It felt like a victory, but I wasn't exactly happy... I still wanted to be a teacher. The rest of what happended you have already read. What I didn't mention because it was irrelevant was that my passion for teaching pushed me to helping young people at an individual level. I was always in contact with younger people, in part because I was quite child-like, and I still am, but more because I wanted to help. I helped them with their homework and the such. When I graduated from film school, I was able to set up a business and took in interns so that I can teach them... I still enjoy looking after kids and teaching Spanish once a week. I believe that if I would've pursued elementary education instead of film, I would've been truly happy now with a steady job.

   I have no idea what I need to do to have a secure income at the moment... I wish I could somehow get into something like special education and work with autistic kids. This is something that has been growing on me ever since I got my diagnosis, but I have no idea if it's something I can pursue. Apart from not knowing where and how to start, a part of me feels that my age, the number not the personality or attitude, is too high... it's just really confusing at the moment. I also constantly regret not having gotten into medicine. I would've been a surgeon with many years of experience by now. Dear parents... please respect the passions of your kids. Please let them pursue their interests. If they fail, let them fail because of their own actions, not because of yours. If they fail because of their own actions, they will probably get back on their feet and try again. Please let them try again, and support them during that process. Dear parents, please let your kids be themselves. Please don't be like my dad. I do love my mother, but please don't be so passive like her either. Please fight for what what your kids want to pursue in life.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Editing Policy & Interview Tips

About the Editor

Danielle Ryer, editor of UVoA

I edit your story for conciseness and professionality. I work on sentence and grammatical structure, paragraph formatting, and spelling. Your message will not be changed: I am not editing any of your authenticity, by no means. Your voice is your voice - we won't censor something we disagree with.

This site is a work in progress as far as editing goes, and new profiles are added frequently, and are sometimes posted sooner than I can keep up with, so it may be several months before I have a chance to edit your article.

I f you are interested in professional editing services, feel free to reach out.

Tips for completing the interview:

1) Don't spoil the mystery! Just give us a glimpse of who you are, and prioritize the most important things people should know about you, your conditions, and your life.
2) Keep in mind you're writing for an audience that might have a short attention span, and for accessibility reasons, it should be limited to about 875 words, but can be shorter (quality over quantity!). If it's longer than that, consider what you most want to say, summarize it, or provide links to other pages with further information about you or things you've created.
3) You can skip questions, especially if there's nothing you want to or can say about a topic.
4) Please be conscious of ambiguous grammar/spelling, so our editors don't get confused.

My coaching practice:

Comedy & More About Me


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Monday, November 25, 2019

Anonymous 6


Age 34
Anaheim, CA, US

I am a business owner that helps people master themselves and their energy so that they can live the lives they want, and leave the world after creating a positive impact. I absolutely adore what I do!

People would be surprised to know that I can’t ride a bike or perform “normal” things people do, but I am also able to experience the vibrations. Vibrations of sound, to see other dimensions, realms, and much more. 😉

In my opinion, the biggest accomplishment thus far is being asked to consult on two biomed research projects, as well as on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) 4, 5, and upcoming 6.

Every day I try to change myself into a less rigid, more loving version of myself. Whether or not I succeed every day is arguable, but I try. Because of my energy, I do lots of energy healing daily. With hate and ignorance as the global norm, I argue that we have a pollution of “bad vibes” in this world…that’s a gentle understatement.

Working with mothers, I am helping spiritually gifted children retain their natural abilities and help these little healers come into their own, as well as the adults who pay me to work with them.

My biomed projects are a huge love of mine, but so is the outreach I do for non-substance addicts in nearly 100 centers around the globe. I teach local classes for victims of domestic violence to get themselves and their lives back. I also volunteer at church charities with my grandfather; though I’m not religious, I enjoy helping the church help others, as long as there’s no bible-thumping involved. I enjoy assisting at food and clothes drives, delivering food for homebound elders, and help to heal at centers for elders, and vets.

I come from a family with two serial killers in it so I have always felt this strange responsibility to balance all the bad karma in the bloodline by volunteering like a fiend.

I wish neurotypicals knew that most of your heroes are surely autistic… Jesus Christ. Leonardo DaVinci. Marie Curie. Nikola Tesla. There’s no way in hell any of The Philosophers were neurotypical. A vast majority of the greatest minds of any time period have been autistic. We’re normally GENIUS smart, can sing very well, and are excellent leaders because we don’t care much about “normal.”

Occupational therapy helped me a ton, mostly because the team I had really knew their stuff. Thy taught me the value of the Ego to the NT and the ways we can accidentally bruise it, which has made socializing much easier. I was  also trained in various conversation styles and can mimic most of them well.

My advice to anyone else on the spectrum? Do you. Yeah, some people aren’t gonna like it. That’s fine, they’re not your people. Your people will love you just as you are, pinkie promise!

Funny story about me… oh my, there’s many. In my house, we’re Cuban, so we don’t really do the Santa thing like traditional Americans. Meaning it wasn’t until first grade when we started “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” that my world shattered.

Wait. You’re telling me some stranger danger old dude WATCHES ME SLEEP every night and he stalks me while I’m awake, he sees that too, AND THEN HE BREAKS INTO THE HOUSE!?!?!?!? My six-year-old self began bawling in fear and couldn’t speak. I was sent to sit with the principal, Mrs. H., to be consoled. I adore Mrs. H. to this day, she’s such a kind woman! Years later, they both told me they never thought of Santa as creepy until the day I had a meltdown about it, which still cracks them up.

Years later, my teacher told me she had the hardest time ever trying not to laugh.

The next year we had catechism class, so we had to learn to treat the Eucharist correctly. In the Catholic mythos I was raised with, once an incantation is said by the priest, the bread and wine become the ACTUAL body and blood of Jesus. Well…there was more crying that cracked the adults up. Although I didn’t know what cannibalism was yet, I refused to eat a person, ESPECIALLY JESUS. Eventually I got an honorary pass because they never could get me to cave on the cannibalism.

Signs that indicated that I was on the spectrum? Now that I’m older I’m like “Well, being so literal about both Christmas and catechism was kind of a biggie…” Also, I was a little adult as a child. By age two I was reading, by age four I was teaching myself Latin and English, never wanted to play with kids, as I was just happy in either intellectual conversation or a book. Very spiritually connected, I had more unseen friends than human ones. I connected with almost no one, and I hated talking. Still do…

My family was just like, “You were easy, we basically just had to make sure to have books and food available to you, and you were content.” I went deaf for almost a year and they didn’t notice because of how little I socialized to begin with! LOL.

When I first received my diagnosis, it felt like taking off a push-up bra after a long stint in it. SUCH A RELIEF. Finally free to be me, let my wounds heal, finally blossom!

Today I feel: Not much different, but I do have some guilt. I used to do walks to TACA trying to help but now I’m like, “WTF was I thinking!?” Seriously, take anything from their campaigns and replace it with “Judaism” or “Blackism” and see how messed up it sounds! "Talk About Curing Judaism" ummm....I think someone did, I believe his name was Adolf Hitler. "Talk about Curing Blackism" Well hello, Jim Crowe! Did you bring the rope? I feel some guilt now about the efforts I put towards helping these organizations with their research or “cures.”

Otherwise? I feel braless.

I didn’t realize I was on the spectrum until much later in life, and I am actually a bit glad because I had to just learn how to deal which gave me a thicker skin. It also made me much more resourceful, and a good source for information for those trying to understand autism.

Obstacles I have overcome: My mental and physical health has been terrible for a good portion of my life, thanks to intense abuse, suicidality, my relationships, and being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease at age 25. The only thing that’s helped me actually get better is all the psych, energy, biohacking knowledge I now teach.

Anonymous 7

Foley, Alabama, US
I am originally from Colorado. I work as a kennel technician for a living. I love working with animals because they love you unconditionally, and don’t mind the fact I have autism. I have been with the same company for 12 years. I wish that my job was full time and offered me more perks than it does, though.

My biggest accomplishment so far is getting over 100 feral cats spayed and neutered on my limited income of $12.50 an hour, especially considering it costs between $75 and $100 per cat to be fixed and receive a rabies shot.

I would like to find a cure for autism. I believe that this would help me fit in with the world, have friends, and a good paying job with medical benefits. I know I can't find a cure for autism so I would like to educate others about what autism spectrum disorder is. I wish that neurotypicals knew that those of autism don't like change. We like to keep our routine the same and when something in our routine deviates we are prone to a meltdown. I would also like neurotypicals to respect our personal space and not be so touchy feely. I personally don't like people to touch me. I want to tell people on the spectrum to just keep putting one foot in front of the other because we never know what is waiting for us around the next corner. We are Always Unique Totally Intelligent Sometimes Mysterious. The letters in capital spell out AUTISM.

An awkward story that I would like to share is one year at Thanksgiving my husband and I were invited to a holiday gathering. I made a pumpkin pie from scratch, but he ate else's, and nobody ate mine! I took my pie home with me and was so mad at him for not eating my pie I threw it all over him in my 1991 Camaro. It took my best friend and I two weeks to clean all of the pie from the car. Every year my husband and I make Camaro pumpkin pie.
I believe not being diagnosed as a child made things more difficult for me, as I had weaknesses but did not have services to compensate for them. There were several signs that suggested I was on the autism spectrum. For one, I rock back and forth, flap my hands, and hum if I am over stimulated. When I get mad I have a tendency to hit my head or chest. I don't like people in my personal space or touching me. I am prone to meltdowns if my daily routine gets thrown off. I had very poor fine motor skills as a child. I also tend to speak thru my nose and mumble my words. I have poor balance. I believe I would have benefited from physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy. Once I was finally diagnosed on the autism spectrum disorder in my twenties, I was so relieved. I knew that as a child I was different than other kids, and when I was diagnosed the differences all made sense. Once I had a professional diagnosis, my parents and husband quit saying I was acting like a spoiled brat.

I have had numerous challenges in my life that I believe were due to my disability. For instance, I wanted to be a special education teacher and I passed the place test but didn't pass my student teaching. The first time I questioned a teacher’s authority and they took me out. The second time I didn't interact with the staff and lost control of a first-grade class when teaching them about dinosaurs. I love to hike but due to my lack of balance and poor coordination I must hike with a partner. The problem with finding a partner to hike with is I have very few friends. I am brutally honest, and a lot of people find me to abrupt.

Someone might be surprised to know that I am 47 years old and I still suck my finger and sleep with stuffed animals and my baby blanket.


Moscow, Russia

I prefer to call myself Saturn Febralski. Very few people know my real name. I was born in year 2002, on Tuesday while it was raining. This is a weather anomaly.

In childhood, I didn’t have a lot of friends. I guess people could tell I was different. Plus, I never introduced myself as a boy or a girl – I used to tell people that there’s a big colony of ants in my head, with different roles and such, and therefore, I really can’t decide what gender I am. I had a big imaginary world and I still do. A lot changed in it but it’s still there. I got diagnosed at the age of eight. The first question the therapist asked me was, “Why don’t you like this world?” and I answered, “because it’s boring.”

My mom immediately told me about my diagnosis as she walked out of the cabinet. On the next few weeks she did a ton of research about autism, and I’m very grateful for this. I was taking medicine and getting therapy, and because of that, I became “normal-looking.” There is no such official diagnosis as Asperger’s in Russia, and I couldn’t get official status of disabled person. As such, I had to adapt. People still didn’t like me, but soon, I began to understand why. I was always overdramatic, without really meaning to be, and this shocks people. If my mom was yelling at me and I suddenly started crying and blaming myself, she stopped. This became a bad habit which I sometimes struggle to control.

I barely remember being thirteen, things got much worse at that time. Teens were cruel and I was a scapegoat. I can’t really blame them for it. “Autist” for them was rather a curse word than a medical term. I wasn’t a nice person, either, with my lack of compassion. There was a lot of attempts to find myself in life. I was a musician, an artist, a writer, and now, I’m a biology student in university. People who become close to me say I’m an awesome person, and I think that it’s my biggest accomplishment so far.

My dream for the last few years was to have a voice. I want people to hear me. I want them to become engaged by my ideas and my imaginary world. I know that sounds egotistical. But, after considering all everything bad people say about Greta Thunberg, I became quite pessimistic.

I really wish that people could stop separating themselves into different groups. Cultural ones, political ones or even ones defined by their gender. This may unite people within this group but makes them distant from anyone else. It makes me sick to hear people bashing each other. Russians blaming Americans, men hating women, Christians separating from atheists… I understand that unity is not possible, but I keep dreaming about it. I escape in my imaginary utopia world because of this.

Jayne Dragon

Jayne Dragon

What made me originally suspect that I was on the spectrum was when I started looking at aspects of myself. A few of those things include how I relate to dyscalculia, PDA and genderfluidity.

I wasn’t diagnosed when I was younger because I was a quiet, shy girl and women and girls still struggle to obtain a diagnosis now. The teachers in the 1980s didn’t know to look for it in girls. I didn’t face any barriers in getting a diagnosis as an adult, it’s just taking a while. I feel frustration at how diagnosis still centers on childhood. I still have one final appointment.

I want to be warm. I can't think when I'm cold. I have a lot of problems with winter and being unemployed. I feel that we all deserve homes not just a place you have to live We can so much better if we are released from small burdens like washing up or cleaning. I would love a home, I am currently living in a flat. I want a safe place that can't be taken away and can be non-triggering.

If anyone is curious to know any adult autistics that want to be involved in any testing, I may be interested in finding out more. Feel free to contact me through Facebook.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Danielle Ryer

Danielle Ryer
New Jersey, USA

My name is Danielle – you may know me as the editor of UVoA.

I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my life, but everything I’ve experienced has taught me to exercise caution, patience, understanding and love. That it’s okay to go for what you want, so long as you’re not doing anything unethical, and that you still consider others along the way. As you move forward, life’s about lifting others up with you. I’ve gone through a lot of difficult times, but all in all it’s taught me to laugh and be mindful.

I believe in being authentically true in what you think and feel. When you can help someone, do it, while still remembering that you and your continued existence is your first, but not only priority.

My philosophy in life is inspired by the Tao Te Ching. One of my autistic special interests is in Asian culture. I’ve been to Japan in 2018, and China in 2019, for study abroad (see picture above!).

I went to undergraduate school at Rowan University, where I earned two BA Degrees: Psychology, and a second in Philosophy & Religion in 2017. I am now a part-time Master of Social Work student at Rutgers University, and I graduate May 2021.

I have many dreams about where my life may go. While I am pursuing the path of becoming a social worker, particularly an outpatient therapist/coach, I’m also dipping into the path of entertainment. I’d love to someday have a television show where I satirize the mental health field. I also enjoy being a radio personality and talking about mental health where I can. As well, I’m hoping to publish a book in 2021 or 2022. I'll have a lot more to say then, and I hope you'll follow my work and consider reading once it's published. (My FB Pages are here: [comedy, mental health], [advocacy & coaching].)

I like staying busy. I have many hats right now: I’m the editor here at Unashamed Voices of Autism, The Aspergian, a freelance editor (if you want to know more, ask), and I am also a writer. I am a life coach for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families, I also do motivational speaking on this topic and others (about my service, and my Facebook). I’m a counselor at Crisis Text Line (read my story here). I’m a former radio DJ (archive), podcaster, stand-up comedian. I’m also training in karate! Psst, free comedy about me being autistic!

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