Sunday, September 15, 2019

I am 47, and I live in Elko, Nevada, USA.
I am a vocational rehabilitation counselor. I help people with disabilities get and keep jobs. Yes. I love my work. Something people would be surprised to know about me:
I am an international archery champion. If you think about it, excellence in a particular field or event goes along well with autism. You have to do the same thing again and again for hours on end. It's soothing. My biggest accomplishment thus far: My children are both autistic and happy. I am raising them the way I wish I had been treated as a child.
How I want to change the world-I make this world a better place for all people with disabilities, and by so doing I make this world a better place for my children.

Resources that have helped me- Positive role models who are #ActuallyAutistic. Seriously. I have gone through most of my life thinking I was broken. In a paper I wrote on Neurodiversity I wrote "Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus, and I'm from Pluto--which isn't even a planet anymore." The way I interact with and perceive the world is within normal parameters for an autist.
Something you wish neurotypicals (those with not autism others) knew about autism-When I point out that my behavior is like that of someone else in a given situation, please have the decency to explain to me the difference. Whether it happened in grade school or in a professional staff meeting, the response is "We aren't talking about Chris, we are talking about you." That doesn't tell me why my behavior was wrong and Chris's behavior was acceptable. I model my behavior after the behavior of others. If you don't explain it to me, I will never know.
Funny/awkward story about me--I have twins. They both have autism. When the first was diagnosed at age 11, my thought was "That makes so much sense." When they were 14, we were in an IEP meeting for the other. The teachers kept sharing examples of what I later learned to be classic autistic behavior, and I kept saying, "Yes, but she learned that from me." At the end of the meeting the school psychologist diagnosed her with autism. I was probably the only person in the room surprised by this revelation.
Something I want to tell to the rest of the people on the spectrum-You are not broken.
My journey getting diagnosed-once both of my daughters were diagnosed, I sought a diagnosis for myself. To get my diagnosis, I had to convince my therapist, who is licensed to diagnose such things. We went around in circles for awhile, and finally I sat down with my copy of the DSM-5, my LD assessment, a vocational assessment I took in grad school, and the "Unofficial Checklist" of females and Asperger's from The Art of Autism. I wrote a 14 page paper in APA format called "A Case Study on Quirkiness: Why I have Autism." I presented it to my therapist the same way I presented my thesis. He agreed that I meet the diagnostic criteria.
Today I feel about my diagnosis-I was diagnosed at 46, earlier this year. It explains so much about me. I'm quirky. The biggest change for me has been at home and in therapy. I stim freely in front of those who know. When I am feeling anxious in session, I get out a fidget and use it freely. One time I asked if I looked autistic yet. Yep. I sure do.
Obstacles that I have overcame--As a small child, I learned to look around and to mimic the behavior of others. Sometimes I can pass as human, and other times I have failed spectacularly. I told one of my higher ups at work that having undiagnosed autism (or even sometimes now, with a diagnosis) is like the TV show "The Greatest American Hero." I have the super suit but was never given the manual. Sometimes I save the day, and other times I crash into the side of a building. Either way, it's entertaining to watch.

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