Monday, August 5, 2019

Hello my name is Robert Butler and I am age 56. I was diagnosed by TEACCH at age 40. I'm proud to say I am the first person who got a diagnosis of autism from a (self referral) at TEACCH in Chapel Hill, NC USA University of North Carolina -- yes, where Michael Jordan went to college.

I am legally disabled since 2004. I currently live in a very nice low-income apartment building with 37 residents. I am content with my life although since December of 2017 my health has been poor due to aspirating stomach fluids into my lungs which more of less killed me. I ended up on life-support and in an induced coma. After I awoke I was told I was a miracle since it was a miracle . My family was planning to take me off life-support and even took my "last picture".

You might be surprised I traveled on my own in the United States east of the Mississippi River and in Texas, Arkansas, and Canada from Toronto, Niagara Falls east to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia..

My biggest accomplishment has to be graduating college with Magna Cum Laude honors in Therapeutic Recreation. While in college I was involved in the Student Senate one year as their Events Board Coordinator.

I don't know about changing the world but I hope I can make a difference in people's lives now a an Autistic Advocate..

What I hope NT's and Autistics to know is that other than to protect our children from self-abuse and the harm to others our autistic children have the right to grow in this world without being told to stop being different or even made to be different (ABA).

Getting help :: Well other than the autistic support group which I started I have never been given help although I had a Personal Assistant who made me feel more comfortable socializing than anybody ever has. Growing up I wish I had speech therapy because I am monotone, have a flat affect, and lack body language.

I have had many silly/awkward events. The first silly event that ever happen to me was at the Boy Scout Halloween Costume Party. I don't know what got into me but for some reason I let loose and without a question was the funniest I have ever been in my entire life. Yes, I won the funniest award that night. .... Awkward? This is probably not my most awkward moment but I always remember it. One day riding my bike a saw a pretty girl walking towards me. When we passed each other I continued looking back at her. Before I knew it I rode right into a telephone pole..

 I don't need to be an advocate to hope you all learn to become content (to have peace of mind). Most of my life I was angry and depressed. I even felt I needed to feel this way because it made me feel that what was done to me was wrong and I had the right to feel angry and depressed. Well finally I don't know if I learned this was only harming me or my body got to the point of being so stressed that it just gave up itself..

 The only person who thought I was "Special" was my supervisor at my last full-time job.

After my diagnoses? I got into a car accident the next day on my way to work. No one was hurt..As to compare with others after my diagnosis. Heck, I went around telling everyone I am autistic. It was the others who didn't believe me. Initially some things were hard yet my life was hard before my diagnosis and ever since. I have learned to be content. I no longer beat myself up about everything.

Obstacles? First was school and socializing with these strange kids, then my parents divorce, years of sexual abuse as a pre-teen, imprisonment during my teen years, to live as an outcast once I returned home, my attempt at suicide living with a mean step-parent, using alcohol and finally drugs to cope, gaining lots of weight during my college years, being alone here in Raleigh because my cousin who told me to come stay with him and his family until I find a place complete flipped and told me minutes before I traveled from my home state of Maine to North Carolina where he lived. Once here in Raleigh, NC I struggled holding jobs because I always start out slow anywhere I go but once I settle down I actually tend to accomplish much more than the average co-worker. Unfortunately "my first impression" causes my boss and others to carry a negative impression of me and that is despite any good I would go onto do. That has lead me to get a judge to claim me legally disabled. Since then life has continued to be hard yet thank God I am content now.........................Since December of 2017 my health has been very poor yet I give thanks and praise to God that no matter how much people have used me and abused me my true identity has never changed.......I am that strong!
27, from UK I’m coming to the end of a masters degree. Yes, I enjoy it though it’s a lot of work. Something someone would be surprised to know about me: I’m not sure. I taught food security over in India for a month several years ago and loved it. In my opinion my biggest accomplishment thus far is:Completing my undergraduate degree with a first, dancing on stage with others… There’s plenty I want to change about myself! I don’t think there would be enough paper to cover all that! Changing the world – I think I’d want more peace, more acceptance of others, more respect. I wish others NOT on the spectrum would understand That what you see isn’t always what you get. Not to write people off based on what you perceive or observe about them. That sometimes you need to listen in different ways. That communication isn’t always verbal. That difference is okay. That autistic people are not less than or stupid, they have their own talents and strengths. Biggest supports were: People taking the time to listen to me and having the patience to stand by me. Often autistic individuals have been through a lot of trauma, so will be naturally more defensive. People that stuck by me and showed me that I could trust others have probably helped the most. Practically, those who have taken an individual, person-centred approach – thinking outside the box – have worked best. Those who work with me, around me, not just with the system. Also, acknowledging that me not attending, say, lectures, wasn’t due to laziness or because I was skiving and sending me notes etc, giving me an equal opportunity to learn. What I want to tell fellow autistics: It is okay to like yourself and don’t see yourself as being defective. Embrace difference. Like (or even love) yourself. I know autism comes with a whole host of stresses – and the world does through lack of understanding etc – but stick with it. You deserve compassion, understanding and kindness. My social worker suspected I was on the spectrum when I was 22/23. I mean, at 14 I ended up in hospital and it says “social difficulties” or something on my notes/discharge letter but autism wasn’t suspected. Perhaps it wasn’t known about in my ways of presentation back then. I think my social worker suggested it because she realised that there was something additional to trauma that was going on. If she was late calling me, for example, even by a minute, I would become extremely distressed. Change was difficult for me, I over-thought in every social situation and I had high levels of fatigue. I also had eating difficulties that didn’t fit the ED-services mould. When I first received my diagnosis I felt: It was a lengthy process. There were feelings of grief, anger towards others that I was missed, anger and hurt at all that I’d gone through and how understanding could have changed my life. I suppose I’m replying with hindsight… but I think initially I thought that having the diagnosis was proof I was defective or deficient or wrong in some way. Today I feel about my diagnosis: That perhaps I’m not evil. I still feel useless and defective sometimes, but I’ve come a long way. I am more assertive now and surround myself with healthier people, which helps me not see myself as so ‘wrong’. Sometimes I am glad of being autistic, sometimes I wish I wasn’t. I still feel grief and anger, but perhaps less than I did. I’m not sure if being diagnosed would make a difference if people still didn’t understand. I self-harmed and attempted suicide due to feeling evil and knowing I was wrong. I tried to change everything about myself to ‘fit in’ – starvation, purging, speaking certain ways, wearing certain things. Maybe I’d have accepted myself a bit more had I have known. Maybe my friendships would have been more successful as I had mental health issues as a result of being invisible and neglected in the system. Maybe professionals would have been less likely to get frustrated or tell me everything was my fault (the world told me that) and would have just helped me with my different way of processing everything. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so tired and had a burnout for so many years due to the strain I was under for so long. Obstacles I overcame: Quite a few! I don’t really want to go into anything too personal because those experiences are mine but I have been through different experiences of trauma. I became very defensive, suspicious of others and I had anxiety/panic attacks and flashback effects as a consequence. I self-harmed in order to cope. This is less now, though I am not immune to these things. Now, I try to dance or run or go for a walk to help. I am more pro-active in my responses. I make better choices in people I surround myself with. I am beginning to accept they might like me for who I am. This is a long process. Just having someone – and I have had a few people – believe in me, made such a massive difference. I was lucky to have that.

My name is Chris Whelan, I’m a 27 year old diagnosed autistic man from Fort McMurray, Alberta.  I am a registered social worker operating as a case manager in the Housing First program, and a co-founder of Neurodiversity YMM; a collective of neurodiverse (autistic, ADHD, OCD, dyslexic) self-advocates supporting each other in our city.  I’m the proud dad of a lovely and affectionate cat, a big fan of science fiction and futurism, a transhumanist, and a computer gamer with my favourite games being Factorio, Satisfactory, Overwatch, and Stardew Valley. I have been living independently for the last two years.

I learned that I was autistic at age 25, at the end of a long, dark period in my life.  When I moved to Calgary, alone, to begin university I was given a wonderful condo to live in by my parents.  But just weeks after the last time seeing my parents, I suffered mental health shutdowns. I was unable to connect to the people in my classes, and my university had no clubs for my interests.  That means that introverted, shy, and unbeknownst autistic Chris could not make friends and felt unwanted where he was. I began to shut myself indoors, playing Xbox all day and night, staying up all night until 7 in the morning, and eating whatever could be microwaved in two minutes.  I stopped answering my phone, and I ignored my family’s attempts to contact me. For weeks I would go without brushing my teeth, and I drank two litres of soda a day. I skipped my classes, sometimes for weeks. I couldn’t keep up with the new material being thrown at me in university and my studies lagged behind.  Finally, I began to self-harm by cutting myself as a form of release. During this time, I thought I had failed a “life test”. University, particularly September, was supposed to be a time of partying, making friends, potentially meeting the love of my life, and enjoying my newfound freedom as a real adult. Instead, I was eating microwaved noodles alone with no friends in an unfamiliar city.

For years I would call this “depression”.  Now looking back I understand that this was all due to an autistic person being removed from their environment.  The video game addiction, the two litres of soda a day, and the self-harm were coping mechanisms to deal with the unfamiliarity of my environment and being cut off from my social supports.  Locking myself in my apartment all day and not reaching out to my family for help was due to too much unfamiliar stimulus limiting what I was capable of doing every day. I stayed up all night because that was the time when there was the least amount of light and noise; and I could finally feel some comfort.  I could not make friends because I could not follow neurotypical social norms and struggled to take cues. None of this came up before because public school, up until that point, was seeing the same people every day; the same people I had seen five days a week since my family moved to Fort McMurray when I was 9 years old.  The classes were structured and flowed from one subject into another. There were extracurricular clubs and school social events where everybody knew everybody and we could explore new interests together. All of this was thrown out overnight by my moving to Calgary and starting university life.

During this time all of my social activity was online.  I was very active on Gaia Online and later on 4chan. Here I could tap into a world of people very much like me; isolated, into weird interests, and phenomenally bad at socializing with others.  I became obsessed with my online image: I wanted to be noticed when somebody saw my username on Gaia Online so I spent over half of my day responding to every thread I could fine; anything that I could provide commentary on.  After years of doing this I realized that nobody actually cared, nobody was noticing me despite all the work I was putting in to build an online image so I just stopped, and my addictions were probably at their worst at this time where I felt invisible online and offline.

Then 4chan came into my life, where nobody has a username and your relationships you make with people last until the thread you posted on falls off of Page 15 and into the archives.  It is a breeding ground for radical ideologies of every stripe due to the lack of accountability for what you type, and this was a terrible place for somebody in a low point of addiction and isolation.  I was indoctrinated with some terrifying and violent worldviews that took a whole lot of painful work to overcome, and that I’m still occasionally finding residue on my thought processes from. My worldviews became very racist, sexist, and angry.  And that feeling like I failed at life because of my lack of friends and socialization turned into anger at groups of people that did nothing to deserve it. The anger at these groups of people became another addiction, and it was one that I became entrenched with for a long time.

I did graduate from university and earned my Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice, although with a pretty abhorrent GPA that was far lower than my capabilities.  I moved back in with my parents as they had moved to Calgary themselves, and we all lived together for a few years. I worked as a security guard for a while, but could not get work beyond entry level positions.  

I eventually went back to school for social work, using references from a drop-in centre that I had worked as a security guard at.  I was placed in a nearly all-female, all-feminist graduating class who had little patience for the racist and sexist ideologies that I carried with me, and frequently challenged me on my beliefs.  Professors as well did not initially take kindly to my ideals, and I had been asked by two professors to change my major as the profession of social work was in opposition to the ideas I carried. However, I had already spent four years writing academic essays, and my aptitude for arguments within my papers in favour of the material my professors presented was beyond question.  I could write fantastic essays in favour of anti-oppressive practice that my personal addictive anger fought back against in private. Again, I could not integrate myself with my peers, but my addictive coping mechanisms caused me to be a stalwart individualist and take pride in my independence from others.

But in the spring of 2017, in my final practicum placement, I could not endure rapid change any longer.  My practicum placement had me going to new, unfamiliar locations every day and I was unprepared for what each day would bring.  Every day on this job wore down on my resilience, and my ability to cope. My anger at the world had burned itself out, and no longer provided relief.  Self-harm was on my mind again, and this time, it came with ideas of suicide. I had been feeling like a failure at life for seven years at this point, and was approaching my 25th birthday, still feeling unwanted, still feeling unaccomplished, and with a desire to just escape everything.  Killing myself was going to be that escape. I had two near-attempts in March of 2017, and after the second one, my family found out.

After the first near-attempt I had been diagnosed with ADHD and been put on daily medication which changed my behaviour.  Not in a positive or negative way, just I was not “Chris” anymore. My thoughts became very practical. I was very productive.  But I was uncreative and not interested in the things that gave me joy before. When my family found out that I had been taking ADHD medication, and that I was suicidal, my mom told me something my family had kept from me for most of my life.  

When I was in grade 5, I was given a diagnosis of “Aspergers Syndrome”.  I had been tested for ADHD and other neurodivergent conditions by provincial experts, and the only positive diagnosis was what was known as “high-functioning autism”.  The doctors gave us referrals for supports for auditory processing, which included extra time for completing exams, but nothing beyond this. My mom said that my family had not told me because they did not want me to feel different.  They did not want me to be stigmatized, and especially not to stigmatize myself. My mom believed that I was capable of anything, and that if I labelled myself as an autistic person then I would limit myself in self-diagnosis of what I could or could not do.

March 2017 was the month the old Chris died.  I survived a suicidal meltdown, but I began the process of killing the old Chris that had lived in anger and addiction, and became a Chris that loved myself, loved the world, and was a positive, empathetic person.  I began to see my own gifts, and that these gifts were not developed in spite of autism but because of it. I began to listen to the feminists that had berated me for my hateful ideas, and listening to them helped me to conceptualize how my hate had been what’s called “internalized oppression”, where a person who is forced to live inauthentically because they want to mask themselves and pass for a “normal” person, takes their emotional pain out on others.  I am proud to say that I have been living authentically for two years now, and no longer live with the emotional pain of masking and being inauthentic.

I moved back to Fort McMurray, my hometown, to start my first job as a Housing First social worker in May 2017.  My family was understandably cautious that I would isolate myself again, and go down an unhealthy road once more.  This time has been different; I love my job and I feel like my work is important to my community. I feel necessary.  I feel like I belong where I am.

I am angry at the world again, but now it is not anger directed at people but anger directed at our living conditions.  I could have lived a happy and healthy lifestyle from age 17-25, if I had been given adequate social supports and if there was no stigma attached to having a neurodiverse condition.  I believe that this is a healthy anger. There is anger that causes discord and division between people, and anger that brings people together to make a better world. For the rest of my life I will do what I must to avoid the former, and everything I can to incite the latter.

My newest project, Neurodiversity YMM, is an effort to show a model of a healthy autistic and neurodiverse community: unashamedly proud, living authentically, and in supportive solidarity with each other.  The gift of an autistic perspective was denied from me for many years, because the world was going to stigmatize me and tell me my accomplishments would be limited due to autism. We are here at Neurodiversity YMM to show our community and the world that there is no basis for stigma against autistic and neurodiverse people.  Together as a community of neurodiverse self-advocates, we will combine our voices together to push for adequate social supports for us based on our individual needs, so that we all have equal opportunities for health and success.

I am 18 and I’m from Kentucky, USA.

I’m currently a college student studying neonatology.

I love to help people, play my musical instruments and watch tv/YouTube.

I like my current lifestyle right now and would not like it to change.

Most people don’t know that I’ve been gifted in music vocally and instrumentally since I was around 7.

My biggest accomplishment is making it through high school. I really struggled with bullying, grades and more so to finish high school was a big deal to me. I would like to be able to focus harder on subjects that I struggle with and be more organised.

I wish people without autism knew that it doesn’t change who I am. Just because I gained this diagnosis doesn’t mean I’ve changed. It doesn’t make me stupid or “special” it makes up my personality.

I’ve benefited from speech therapy ( before I even had a diagnosis), physical therapy( also before I had a diagnosis), and occupational therapy.

My most awkward and silly story is the time I did not like this one boy in elementary school so me and my mum agreed that I should change schools because he would distract me and the teachers didn’t seem to care about that. I went to this new school the next year super nervous and the first person I see when I walk in is the said boy who would distract me. Apparently he didn’t want to hear me complaining about him distracting me any longer so him and his mum decided he would move schools.

My words to anyone else on the spectrum is that don’t see it as a major problem in your life, see it as just something that makes you stronger. It has personally made me have to try harder at certain things so I tend not to take things for granted.

My parents knew that I struggled with playing with other kids because I didn’t want to be near the other kids to share other them my belongings and it made me anxious. Towards my early teen years I started to have personality problems because of masking for so long which caused me into a state of depression. I knew something was up personally but I didn’t want to have a hovering title above my head at all times. My friends started to notice burnouts frequently and I decided on my own to see a school psychiatrist. The school psych at first thought it was just anxiety but that is because I didn’t notice that I was masking. Then he gave me a test after me continuing to struggle day to day to figure out what’s up. It came up that I have Aspergers. We were both surprised. At first I thought it was a mistake so we went over my answers again and when reading it allowed I kind of had an epiphany that I actually do have Aspergers. For a whole week I didn’t want to accept it because I didn’t know much about it except the stereotypes. But after watching a ton of videos I realised that it’s true and that I need to tell someone else.

I’m happy I know my diagnosis now because now family and friends know that meltdowns aren’t me being spoiled ( what they told me after I got diagnosed), they also know that burnouts when with people isn’t me not wanting to be with them it’s just been a lot for me to deal with. If I didn’t have my diagnosis I could possibly still be struggling majorly with my personality issues and even with suicidal tendencies. Going through my whole childhood without my diagnosis makes me often wonder how others can go 20-50 or more years without knowing.

I struggled just with my childhood not knowing so I struggle to believe that there could still be people in there 40’s even that don’t know they’ve got autism. I’ve faced many obstacles in my life. Some of them are suicidal tendencies, extreme anxiety, meltdowns galore, and personality issues( not understanding who I even am anymore). I would love to change the worlds beliefs that all autistic people are the same and that females can’t have it too. I would also love to stop the horrible autistic kid memes.