Wednesday, March 20, 2013

1 In 50: Why Using Numbers Hurts Autism Awareness

I've been meaning to write something like this for a long time. It's just been rankling me for years, so I'm just going to come right out and say it:

Stating autism rates doesn't help awareness or acceptance. It just scares people.

That's all there is to it. Shouting out numbers isn't going to help people understand your child with autism or Asperger's. All it's going to do is intimidate and frighten people. I can throw out numbers all day about the prevalence of autism, but it's not going to do anything except make people afraid to have children in case those children end up having an autism spectrum disorder.

We don't want that to happen. It'd be rather nice to have a next generation.

There's better ways to get people to notice and care about people with ASDs. I personally explain my Asperger's to people when it comes up in life, helping them to understand how autism spectrum disorders work a little better through their contact with an actual person with one. I also make sure they know that I'm one person with Asperger's and not representative of the autism spectrum as a whole, but now a lot of people who know me come to me when they have questions about autism spectrum disorders. This is because I put a human face on those numbers.

We can't just shout out numbers at people if we want them to accept us as a group of human beings. We need to make sure people realize that autism has a human face, and that it's us, our children, our friends, our siblings - people. Groups like Autism Speaks use the numbers to raise money, playing on fear to get people to donate money to their research. This is a problem because if we all use fear, nobody's going to understand because we fear above all else what we do not know or understand.

Do you want people to understand the autistic people in your life? Don't scare them with numbers. Just explain to them what autism really is. Show them that it's something that affects the lives of people, not just a statistic. In my life, I use statistics for baseball, not my self-advocacy. I use myself for my self-advocacy, and I find it works a lot better. The people I interact with understand autism and Asperger's better after they've met me because I am nothing to fear. I'm just a person, like they are.

Stop using the numbers to try to raise awareness. Use actual autistic people and show the world that they should be accepted just like other humans.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I managed to lose my wallet...

...and it led to a minor breakdown wherein I sobbed on my couch for a good several minutes.

I haven't made a misplay in my adult life in some time, so this discouraged me pretty severely. I felt like I was doing really well there for a while.

We've already canceled the credit and debit cards to get new ones, but I'm not looking forward to that trip to the DMV to get a new driver's license. I'm really not thrilled about losing work time. I guess I can do grad school readings whilst I wait. I also need to get a new school ID, which is going to cost me a hefty sum of some variety, so that's really discouraging, too.

I think I felt like I let my parents down since my credit card is currently attached to their credit card account. They took it a lot better than I did and helped me out, and that calmed me down considerably. I just need to pick my head up and not feel like such an idiot over an accident that was beyond my control. Then I remembered that they're old pros at things like this. I'm still relatively new to adulthood. They've dealt with problems like this before, but I don't have experience in this area yet. I suppose that experience will come (starting now).

I just wish adulthood wasn't so discouraging sometimes. Can I go back to being ten again?

UPDATE: A Good Samaritan found my wallet and brought it home! What a relief! I'm going to buy him a nice gift card as thanks.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

I Actually Tried Flirting!

On Wednesday, I was riding the PATH train from school to Hoboken so I could go home. When I got on the train, a cute guy around my age sat down next to me. He had other seating options - there were plenty of seats on the train - but he chose to sit next to me.

I smiled at him.

This genuinely surprised me because I generally panic when attractive men around my age are near me. I don't know what to do and I'm afraid they'll reject me just like the boys in my middle school who told me how hideously ugly and horrible I was. For whatever reason, though, on Wednesday I had the courage to look at him and give him a smile.

I shot him a few sideways glances as the train shot underneath lower Manhattan and the Hudson River, too shy still to look at him outright except for our reflections in the window on the other side of the car. I could see that he seemed to have a headache, as he kept massaging his forehead, looking rather tired. I felt a sudden pang of regret that I didn't have any Advil in my saddle bag to offer to him. At the same time, I noticed my heart was pounding in my chest in a way that I hadn't felt it do since I was a freshman in college. I was feeling physical attraction towards somebody in real life.

As we neared Hoboken, I decided that I might as well try to give him one last smile before we went our separate ways. I decided to use the pratfalling abilities I'd picked up back in my theatre days (which were in middle school and didn't last all too long). I stood up as the train closed in on the station, holding onto the pole near me. When the train stopped and he too stood up, I let go of the pole and shifted my weight slightly to allow myself to stagger in front of him. I said, "Sorry!" and gave him one last big smile before we separated and went off to our own lives.

I giddily hopped into my dad's car and spent a good portion of the ride home feeling proud of myself. I had made an attempt to flirt that didn't scare a guy away - I wasn't told I was gross or ugly or creepy. The guy even sat next to me - so close that we were bumping elbows the entire train ride - when he could've sat next to someone else or even not next to anybody. That night, I cried myself to sleep with relief knowing that maybe, I might not be undateable after all.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Grad School and Asperger's: A Match Made In Heaven

Spring Break starts for me at the end of this week. It's also starting for my kid brother, so I get to go with Dad to pick him up on Friday and bring him home. It's nice to have the same week off from school.

Graduate school is the first place I've ever felt like things aren't scary. I've loved every minute of it, and it's just getting better by the week. I think what's nice is that it feels safe - there's no judgment there. We're all adults here - people aren't cliquey, a lot of us commute in and out, and we're all there for the same thing, so we might as well help each other out.

I was scared when I started back in January that I wasn't going to fit in yet again. It had been the story of my life, after all. But it turns out that things are a lot different in graduate school - it's a great place for people with Asperger's to be. Everyone who goes to grad school is interested in a more specific field, for one, which slots in very well with special interests. My interest in becoming an archivist is shared by other people, which is really exciting for me. Quite a few of us are nerds, too - people think it's cool that I draw two webcomics and script a third instead of making fun of me, and we can have generally geeky conversations (last night a few of us chatted about Transformers). It's a place I actually feel at home for once.

I can't imagine I'll ever want to graduate at this point. I'm quite happy to just stay in school with these people for the rest of my life. It's such a joy to be somewhere you feel like you actually belong. Before this, the only time I got that feeling was whenever I was at a baseball game - I knew I intrinsically belonged at the stadium because I felt so good there. I get that same feeling whenever I arrive at Pratt for my classes each Tuesday and Wednesday. It's wonderful to feel accepted and like you were meant to be somewhere.

That being said, anyone know of any scholarships for graduate students with Asperger's? I'd kind of like to be able to avoid student loans because archivists don't exactly make the same money that Wall Street executives do...