Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Line That Changed it All

I got asked a thought provoking question on Monday when a person asked, "That website you read that gave you no hope; how did you come to realize that autism is a vast spectrum and not everyone is you?"

That question, well, the timing couldn't have been more perfect as I was able to talk about my Rumor blog post, which if you haven't read it I do suggest reading it after this. Anyway, after I talked about the rumor post, I went back to me beginning with Asperger's and the website I found after an internet search as my doctor proved to be clueless and I found a site that said, "People with Asperger's will never have a job, will never have friends, and will never be happy."

Why do I so often refer to that website? If you're a longtime reader you've probably seen that mentioned at least a hundred, if not two hundred times. So why do I keep mentioning it? I do so because there has been no other moment in my life in which my life changed. It wasn't the diagnosis that was bad, in fact I feel knowing is much more important than not knowing, but reading those dire words gave me no hope and I stayed that way for a long time.

Then, in 2009, the organization that would eventually become known as Easter Seals Midwest asked me to go through their parent training program. I agreed to do so because I hadn't done anything relevant for a long time, which probably wasn't the best of reasons, but anyway early on in the multi-week course the trainer said this, "And people, there's nothing more important than you can know over knowing that, 'if you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism.'"

I have since used that line many, many times on here, on Facebook, and in my presentation and while some people have credited me with coming up with that line I did not. I actually don't know who first said it, but regardless of who did first say it I know that line changed my life. You see, after reading that website and also seeing autism depicted on the news I believed that my life was going to be fruitless, pointless, and full of aggravation. And why wouldn't I believe it since I didn't have the understanding that it is a spectrum and two people can have the exact diagnosis and yet be polar opposites in terms of likes, dislikes, and skill sets.

The dangers of not knowing this all important statement is that one can be defined by their diagnosis and the news they hear about it. This goes back to my rumor post in that a box will be formed. The counter to any of those rumors is this all important line. It took me over five years to learn this, five very long years, and I do wish I would've known this sooner.

To add just a little bit more to this; if there isn't understanding of "if you've met one...", then the autism spectrum can be a scary and sometimes confusing place as if two people have the same diagnosis and one person is exceptionally skilled at math (and this is what the media often depicts. Math or science, actually) and the next person isn't then what is the person not good at math going to think about themself? If all people with Aspergers' are math geniuses, and they are not, then just how big of failure are they? That would be the thought process and if that person were good at art then that would be irrelevant because they haven't heard the fact that a person on the autism could be good at art because they're, according to "they" are supposed to be good at math.

Once again, I don't know who coined the term but I know it wasn't me so don't give me the credit. I just share the wisdom of it because I feel, and I was told this but believe it firmly, that there is nothing more important than knowing this line. We use words everyday, we'll speak in sentences, in paragraphs, but there aren't many times when words change a person's outlook on life. I went from hopeless to having a cause all because of this line. I went from being defined to wanting to help make the definition, but most of all I went from being simply alive to living life all because I finally realized I wasn't stuck in a box, I wasn't destined to failure, I was myself! an unique individual and I had the power to live my own life. Did I still have Asperger's? Yes. And did this mean the challenges vanished? No, it did not. However, I realized failure wasn't my destiny.

1 comment:

  1. The part of that line "people with Asperger's will never..." that bothers me the most is the assumption that they'll never be happy. What a brazen assumption on the author's part. How about saying instead that different things will make them happy. You know, like everyone else in the world today. Things that make you happy may not do a thing to improve my mood but happiness, or any emotions for that matter, are so entirely subjective that anyone who would make a statement like that instantly loses credibility with me. You have obviously proven that statement wrong in so many ways but it still grates that you came across that before you found any words of encouragement.

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