Sunday, September 15, 2013

Making friends by being kind

  After my first two weeks at college, I am proud to announce to all that yes, I am still alive and doing well. It's been a crazy whirlwind of activity: orientation, classes, and trying to figure this campus out has been a little hectic to say the least. Due to that I have neglected my readers, and for that I am very sorry. Now that I am properly installed in college, I should have a lot more time to blog.
  Today I want to talk about making friends simply by being kind and nice to as many people as possible, and while hard, it is certainly worth the effort in the end.
  As a young girl, my mother told me about a classmate of hers in high school named Christy. Christy, sadly, was not a very pretty girl for the first three years of high school. She had a condition where her eyes were permanently crossed. To make up for this, she had to wear thick "Coke-bottle" glasses. On top of this, she also had braces.
  Many popular kids (not my mom) would make fun of Christy day in and day out because of her funny looks. However, oddly enough, this didn't let Christy down in the least. She was nice to everybody, even the people who taunted her constantly. She put her head down and worked as hard as she could at school to keep her busy.
  The summer between junior and senior year changed everything. Christy had surgery to get her eyes corrected, so her eyes were fixed and she no longer needed the glasses, and her braces came off over the summer too. When Christy came into school her first day of senior year, her classmates were amazed. Christy was beautiful! And what stunned them all was that Christy, even though she was pretty and could now get revenge on her tormentors, chose not to. She was still kind to everyone who had been mean to her, even though they did not deserve it.
  Christy became Homecoming Queen and still continued to be kind to everyone. She left high school with many friends, and the last my mom heard of her she was working in Washington D. C., happy and still being kind to all she met.
  Aspies, we have a chance to be like Christy. We can be kind to all: the hurt people because we understand how they feel, and the unkind people, because we know they might simply be jealous at heart and meanness never wins in the end. I encourage you to be kind to all you meet, even if they don't deserve it, and someday, you, like Christy, will be able to reap your long-deserved reward.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My Brother's in a Relationship

  As many of you know, I have two younger brothers. The sixteen year old one, "Connor", has had a girlfriend for almost two years now, and she's amazing. She's smart, funny, and an all around great person. I consider myself very lucky to know her.
  However, it wasn't always this way. When Connor announced to us that he and "Erin", after months of being just friends, were going to become an official couple, I was nervous. What was it going to be like? Would Connor tell her about me? Would she understand? Would she even like me? To tell the truth, I was desperate for her to like me because Connor means so much to me, but I wasn't quite sure how to get her to like me. Over time though, I came up with some tips that worked really well when dealing with a sibling's significant other that I thought I'd share with you.

  1. Remember, sometimes they are as anxious for approval as you are. Be as nice as you can.
  2. Let the two of them alone, but if they invite you to join in their activity, it's fine to say yes if you want to.
  3. NEVER EVER take sides in a fight. Be Switzerland. It is THEIR problem, not yours, so they shouldn't ask you to judge or take sides.
  4. Invite them places. Ask if they want to come to a movie with the family, or even to dinner sometime. People really appreciate this.
 5. Compliment them. If the two of them are dressed really nicely for a dance, say "You look great." Girls especially like this.
  6. If your sibling decides to tell their significant other about your Asperger's, have them communicate to their significant other (or you could do it yourself) that if they have any questions they can feel free to ask them.

  I hope these tips help you, because after trial and error, I have found them to be quite true. I have found I actually rather like my brother's girlfriend, and we share a lot of the same tastes.  She's a fun addition to outings and is always ready for anything. She has turned out to be a good friend, and I hope you Aspies can learn from these tips and actually come to like your sibling's significant others as much as I do Erin.
"" Denotes a name has been changed

Monday, August 12, 2013

New Things

  In a few days, I will be ready and packed to leave for college. I will say goodbye to my family and friends where I live and journey to another state to attend University.  To say the least, I am scared.
  Those of you going to college, to a new middle school, high school, or even a new town know exactly what I'm feeling. Yes, it's definitely a terrifying prospect to have to deal with. Making friends seems daunting, finding your way around seems challenging, and heaven forbid if we have to talk to strangers.
  Yet, an older, more experienced friend of mine told me being scared is normal. Everyone freaks out in an unfamiliar setting. He told me several things that helped him in his first year of college, and as they are good tips, I am going to offer them to you guys going to new places, because they really are helpful:

  1. The first two weeks in a new place are always the weird ones. You're figuring out your surroundings, navigating through this place, and just getting a feel for the people. After the first two weeks, you will find a routine, and it will feel immensely better.
  2. I cannot promise you it will be easy, but I can promise you will eventually make friends. It may take some time, but do not despair, there are people just like you who are hoping for a good friend. Don't give up hope. 
  3. Talk to your teachers. Tell them you need help, lay it down for them, and they will go to great lengths to help you. They WANT to help you, it's actually their job.  Some may laugh when they read this, but I swear it's true, it's happened to me too often for me to write it off as a rare thing. 
  4. Join clubs. Go out if people invite you to movies or such. It's hard, I know, but that is how you make friends.
  5. If you don't know what to talk about, ask people about themselves. People love to talk about themselves, and it takes the spotlight off you for a bit. But don't be an interviewer. Input your own opinion occasionally. 
  6. Try new things. Be crazy enough to say yes. You may surprise yourself.
  7. Be yourself, don't wake up one day and realize you don't know yourself anymore. Live the life you want to live and the rest will follow.
   I hope you all found this as useful as I did. Best of luck to all of you off to new experiences. I hope this school year is full of blessings for all of you!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Spock Effect

Sorry it's been so long, guys! I've been really busy recently, but I will try to keep up with my blogging.

  Some of the greatest compliments of my life have been indirect ones. But one of the greatest compliments of my life came from my mother a few weeks ago after seeing Star Trek: Into Darkness. She told me that she thought I really resembled the half-Vulcan and half-Human known to most as Spock.  I felt beyond flattered.
  To some, this is a surprising reaction. Spock, they might point out, is cold and seemingly unfeeling. He is an unbending rule follower who can sometimes come off as quite irritating.
  However, I feel I understand Spock and can therefore see him in a different light. Yes, he comes off as a bit cold, but that is because he has trained himself to keep his emotions in check, and emotions seem to run even deeper in Vulcans than they do in humans. His logic and rule following guide the Enterprise and reign in Captain Kirk from irrational decisions that could have dire consequences. In fact, without Spock, his brains and his ingenuity, I highly doubt the Enterprise would last very long. He is essential to Captain Kirk, not only as a First Officer, but as an extremely loyal friend.
   I think a lot of Aspies resemble Spock. We are children of two worlds, a touch of autism and a touch of the typical world.  We understand each and try to analyze where we belong in both. We seem cold on the outside, yet we are fierce rule followers and even better friends. We each steer our personal Enterprise out of danger zones so we can have successful missions and be able to discover the world and ourselves a bit more each day.
  Aspies, take heart in Spock's example. He is strong, intelligent, and able to get out of sticky situations. Think of yourself as part Vulcan when you need your strength and Spock will be there to show you how to be simply amazing.

Live Long and Prosper

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Dealing with Stereotypes

    Most of us have probably come up against stereotypes in our lives. Over time though, and through much experience, we learn that some stereotypes usually aren't applicable to everyone the stereotype concerns. For example, the stereotype that blonds are all dumb. I'm sure you, as I have, come across blonds who are not very smart and others that are very smart. My point is, a stereotype is not necessarily always the truth.
   People with Asperger's Syndrome have a lot of stereotypes that we have to go up against, many of them not so favorable. There are those people who lump us together with autism. While we are on the autism spectrum, we are very, very high on it and not necessarily considered 'autistic'. Many writers get this wrong, and represent Asperger's as a more violent type of autism, which is incorrect, which brings us to another point, representing Aspies as violent. Any developmental doctor can tell you Asperger's doesn't make a person violent, as writers and the media often like to represent.
   If a lot of people don't understand something and cannot see it in themselves, they like to lay the blame at the foot of something different about other people. When that man in Newtown, Connecticut, shot those poor children, many in the media quickly jumped to conclusions that the shooter must have Asperger's, when, in reality, the shooter was never confirmed to have Asperger's and several leading professionals say he probably did not. Just because we are different and sometimes even loners does not make us violent or insane, it just means we are different.
   People say things all of the time that are not true. Just because they say them doesn't make them true either. I am not going to sugarcoat it, Aspies, there are a lot of barriers for us to conquer and stereotypes that are how many in the general public. However, we are the future, and we can change things. We can show people that Asperger's isn't autism, and we are not violent or stupid, but rather we are different. We see the world from a different angle and can show the world how it can be made better if they just look at it differently. How can we start? You already have. You're changing your family and friends' perspective of what Asperger's is because you show them what it truly means to have Asperger's: to be truly liberated from being normal and yet wanting to show everyone else our world so they, too, can experience the wonder we feel. That is what it truly means to have Asperger's Syndrome.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

On Being Different

  For those of you who have ever watched Disney Channel, I want to call to mind a Disney movie series from a few years ago. The Halloweentown movies centered around a girl named Marnie Piper and her discovering her abilities as a witch and constantly saving her grandmother's home, called, you guessed it, Halloweentown, where all the creatures of Halloween live the rest of the year.
  It's a really good series to watch around Halloween, but that is not why I bring it up. In the first movie, simply called Halloweentown, Marnie's mother, who is against magic, is arguing with Marnie's grandmother, who is a witch for magic. Marnie's mother demands to know why she won't leave the children alone so they can lead normal lives, and Marnie's grandmother replies with a quote I will never forget: "Oh, being normal is vastly overrated".
  I could not have said it better myself.  If you look around at other people who claim to have normal lives and actually take a peek into their lives, you will notice a pattern that reoccurs very often. People who are 'normal' usually have very flat, dull, and boring lives. They are average, need nothing and have zero drive to do anything in their lives. They have nothing and nobody to really care about except themselves, which is actually rather sad.
  Aspies, on the other hand, have something. We are vibrant, and truly live life to the fullest. Due to the fact our lives are a little bit harder than most, we have drive, some might even call it a need, to succeed. For those who are kind to us, we care about them and love them fiercely, even though we might not always show it. We inspire, we create, and we change the world every day just by being a part of it.
  No, we aren't normal, thank heaven we are not. We have things and people we care about and the drive to succeed and change the world as we know it. Without Aspies, the world as we know it today could not possibly exist. So people claim being normal is better, I ask you, how has 'normal' revolutionized the world? Believe me when I say I truly and honestly believe in the old and cheesy Disney movie quote "Being normal is vastly overrated."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Body Language

  There's many things about other cultures that you may know from being told about them in a textbook. However, some of these things are impossible to understand, especially as an Aspie, until you experience them first hand.
  One of these things that was definitely initially out of my comfort zone when the Argentinians were here was how affectionate they are. Living in the United States, people have definite "personal bubbles" and don't really hug or touch a lot. Not so with the Argentinians. I was really out of comfort zone initially when they came. My Argentinian student told me it's common there to kiss someone on the cheek when you first meet them, even between different genders. It's just how they greet each other and is considered normal. He also told me the first few days they continued greeting each other in this manner and thought most of the boys at the school probably thought they were gay.
   Even as funny as that was, it was initially hard for me to handle the affection. It wasn't normal for the other families, but because of my Aspie sensitivity to touch, I was really freaked out when, upon meeting the other Argentinians the first time, they all started hugging me. I'm more used to shaking hands, and these people I had just met five seconds ago were in my personal bubble and touching me.
  I had to find a way to handle this. I decided to try to force myself to relax into the hug and smile, after all, I didn't want to offend them. And if I really was not wanting to hug, I put my hand out quickly, and usually they understood, even if they might have been a little confused. However, as I managed to become friends with the Argentinians, it became easier to hug them and I was fine with greeting them that way.
  Some people out there, like my Argentinian friends, are more touchy than what some people are used to. It may freak you out, Aspies, the idea of hugging a complete stranger, believe me, it freaked me out, but try to relax and and smile. It may offend the other person who may not understand your love of the personal space. And eventually, you may even come to enjoy it as you become closer to the person. As crazy as it sounds, it became almost normal for me to hug these kids, and if I can do it, so can you!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Our" Party

 These last two weeks have been very memorable, to say the least. Showing our Argentinian student, let's call him Joaquin, around has been an absolute blast, from him trying his first smoothie to presenting him to my little brother's class has been really fun.
  However, two Thursdays ago, I was not so keen. Every family is required to 'host' a gathering for all the Argentinians and their host families. We had decided to go bowling because it was something everyone can do and is really fun. However, I was nervous to be surrounded by my brother's friends and families who I didn't know so well, and their Argentinians. There was no way I could get out of it, so I was dreading it.
  We were the first ones there, so my youngest brother and I started bowling while my other brother, Connor, and Joaquin started playing pool. Soon, all the families began to arrive, and my 'freak out' nerves started working.
   However, I had no reason to be afraid at all! As soon as they came, the kids started bowling, which made it so I didn't have to talk to them. However, I struck up a conversation with some of the Argentinians about how to work out the scoreboard. We gave up, but kept playing, cheering each other on and high-fiving each other when we hit a large number of pins. By the end of the night, we all had become pretty good friends and I discovered how nice and polite they all were and how they were just as nervous as I was to meet the other families. They were all amazing and great people and at the end of the night, I was so glad I had been to have met them all!
   If your parents are forcing you to go to a party and you think it might be the end of the world, trust me, it's not. Even if you don't know anyone, try to find something fun for you to do. People may join you in your activity, be it bowling or karaoke, and you might be able to strike up a conversation with someone and be able to make a new friend. As scary as this sounds, I know you can do it because I was terrified of talking to the Argentinians, but in the end we became friends. I know you, Aspies, can do it, just have faith in yourselves, because you are fantastic and interesting. People will want to become your friend, but you have to give them the opportunity to get to know you first.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Argentinian

   My sixteen year old brother, let's call him Connor, is known around our house as "the talker". He talks a lot, and not just about himself, but everything going on around him, even secrets he is supposed to be keeping. Never will I forget the year we were getting our father a bike for his birthday. It was going to be a huge  surprise and my mother had sworn us both to secrecy. But the instant my father came home from work, Connor was on him, screaming: "Dad! We got you a bike for your birthday, and it's a secret!"
   So, talker as he is, it was a shock last December when Connor announced that he had forgotten to tell us that he signed up for an Argentinian exchange program and we as a family had one day to decide whether we wanted to do it or not. We eventually decided we would because it would be a great experience for Connor and something new for the rest of the family.
   However, as the exchange grew more and more real, I began getting nervous. What had I been thinking, I wondered, to have agreed for a total stranger to live in my house for three weeks, then take my dear brother off to Argentina for all of June? The kid was bound to think I was a bit strange and quiet, to say the least, and he would be invading my home, my sanctuary, and my mind palace, where I unload at the end of the day. What was I going to do?
  I was so nervous as the car pulled up to me for the first time, picking me and my mom up from the other side of the airport. (We had come home the same day from a college tour) I took a deep breath and climbed in.
  My worry was unnecessary. The boy was as nervous as I was to be meeting his "sister" for the first time. With my family around me, I was able to feel comfortable talking to him. A few days later, he patiently sat and told me about the history of his country, showed me the University he wants to go to, and talked about his future. I realized he is funny and loves to talk about history, which is also a great love of mine. Our conversations became easier and easier, and suddenly I realized this kid was now a part of my family. We talk about everything from language classes to our after school activities, and it is genuinely a ton of fun to get to know him. My whole family and I have become great friends with "our" Argentinian, and I can't wait for the next two weeks because I know all of us will have a ton of fun introducing him to our strange American customs and sights in our country.
   Aspies, don't be too afraid of any outsider coming into your home, even an exchange student. Yes, it disrupts routine a little, but it's really fun experiencing a new culture and teaching them yours.  You can make a lifelong friend out of this person and help be their guide to wherever you live and whatever language you speak. Imagine if you were alone in a foreign country, wouldn't you want someone to be your friend? I can tell you it is rewarding to help and becoming friends is easy as, as my Argentinian brother would say, un pastel*.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Miss Montana

  Before I begin, I would like all of you to know I am not exactly a beauty pageant sort of person. Honestly, I'd rather be watching Doctor Who or reading a book. However, Miss USA this year I found surprisingly interesting, and I would like to tell you why.
   One of the contestants was not like the others in this particular competition. Alexis Wineman, aka Miss Montana, is an officially diagnosed Aspie. She decided to enter Miss Montana to see if she had what it took and, surprisingly, won. She then advanced to Miss USA. "It seemed kind of ironic: a girl who was told she was different and considered an outcast by many, in the nation's biggest beauty pageant," Alexis said later. Alexis did not win Miss USA, but she did win America's Choice, a title given to the person who won the online voting poll for the pageant. She was so honored and could not believe so many people out poured their votes to a total stranger just because of her amazing story: going from an outcast to the top fifteen in the Miss USA pageant. It is truly incredible.
  However, Alexis did not stop there. She is now using her fame to promote autism awareness and teach the world to be more accepting of people who are different. She wants people to understand "Normal" is just a dryer setting and people like her deserve not to be treated as outcasts. Alexis herself says "I will be successful if just one person encounters a child who is overstimulated without staring, if one teenager invites an "outcast" to lunch or just smiles at him or her, or if one employer gives a job to someone who might not be able to look the interviewer in the eye".
    What Alexis Wineman is doing should set an example for the world today. We may be different, Aspies, but never be afraid to reach for the stars. Alexis did, and today she is Miss Montana. Never be afraid of who you are hindering what you will be, because as Doctor Seuss says: "Those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind".

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Girl Who Would Be Queen

  When Princess Sophie Augusta Fredericka of Anhalt-Zerbst was born on April 21, 1729, there were no miraculous occurrences that announced that this girl would one day rule an empire covering one-sixth of the world's land mass. In fact, if you had been there at the birth and told anybody that, they probably would have laughed in your face. Sophie, they would have told you, was a daughter of a minor German princess and an army officer. She would be lucky to marry a lord, and ruling? That was out of the question.
  However, Sophie was a born leader who envisioned herself as a Queen from a very young age, because she was smart, capable, and a natural thinker. When she was fourteen, Sophie and her parents received a letter from the Empress of Russia, Elizabeth, offering a marriage between Sophie and Elizabeth's nephew, Grand Duke Peter, the heir to her throne. The family agreed, and Sophie and her mother went to Russia to marry Sophie to Peter. Sophie had to change her religion, her life, and even her name was changed to Catherine.
    After her marriage, life at the Russian court became a prison for Catherine. Her every move was watched and criticised, and everyone she grew close to the Empress reassigned. She was not even allowed to write home without copying "form letters" word for word. Peter wasn't any better; he was rude, childish, and their marriage was a disaster.
    When Elizabeth died and Peter ascended the throne, life became even worse for Catherine. Even though she had given Peter a son, she was terrified Peter would murder her and marry his mistress. However, most people recognised Catherine would make a better ruler than Peter and six months into his reign, Catherine and her supporters organised a bloodless coup and put her on the throne. Peter died in custody six days later.
   Many thought her reign would also be short. After all, she was German with no Russian blood and was merely the daughter of a minor Army officer. However, Catherine proved all her critics wrong and ruled for thirty four years as sole autocrat of the Russian Empire. She turned the economy around, encouraged the arts, and was the first inoculated against the smallpox in Russia. She created schools for everyone around the country and even granted freedom of worship in Russia. During her life, she was offered the title of "The Great", but declined. "I leave it to the posterity to judge impartially what I have done", she said.
   So why am I telling you about her? First, even in the face of hardship, Catherine never gave up her dream, even when she was alone with no friends at all. She rose above her circumstances and was patient and in the end rewarded for following her dream and patiently waiting for it. Second, many historians guess that Catherine herself had Asperger's. She is a great example to look to for guidance, because she is a wonderful example of an Aspie who, against all odds, overcame to become one of the most famous women in all of history.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Thank You, Mean Girl

  I looked around the table last Thursday and smiled at what I saw. We were on break from class, and my friends and I were discussing gun control laws. Anne, Paulina, Anna, Summer, Gabby and Ashley were going back and forth on what we should and should not own, Anne mentioning our second amendment rights, Anna claiming that was back in the time of muskets; when I smiled and turned to Anna and said: "I am so lucky to have you guys.".
  She smiled and nodded, but she couldn't have known I wasn't thinking about gun control, but a day way back in the August before my first grade year.
  I can remember it clearly: sitting in the back of the ice cream parlor and waiting to meet my "buddy", she was new to my grade school and I was asked to help show her around and help her make friends. I remember, for some reason, thinking to myself, 'This is a day that will change my life forever'.

 I couldn't have been more right.
    The girl I would meet that day I would befriend and bring into my small group of two other friends. We were all close until seventh grade, when Amy (not her real name, but the girl from the ice cream parlor), decided to turn my best friends against me. They would run away and call it a game. Then Amy began to turn the rest of my school against me. The worst day happened in the fall of my seventh grade year when I walked into math class and my name was written all over the board accompanied by the words 'the Camel', which, Amy explained, was the tallest animal she could think of with the smallest brain. The teacher wasn't there that day, just a sub who was new and had no clue the comments were directed at me. That day, at lunch, I didn't eat but went into the bathroom and cried because I felt so alone and I had no one to sit with at lunch.   I knew my Asperger's made it hard for me to made friends, and I vowed, there, on the floor of the bathroom, that I would never let this happen to anyone else like me, if I could prevent it.
   When I went to high school, I will be honest, I did not trust anyone. Amy had taught me to choose friends very carefully, if at all. However, all of that changed in freshman PE, when I met a girl who, like me, was injured and couldn't participate. We bonded quickly and she introduced me to her group of friends who accepted me immediately.  Even when they knew about my Asperger's, they still chose to befriend me.  They are the most amazing friends I could have ever asked for, they don't know how much they have changed my life, and I owe them so much.
   I never forgot my vow on that day in seventh grade, and I decided to try to made friends with Aspies like me. They, too, have enriched my life beyond words. They are gracious, kind, and unbelievably brilliant. I feel as close to them as my siblings due to the bond we share.
  What I said to myself over a decade ago is now true. Amy has changed my life forever. She brought me pain and sadness, but she taught me what real kindness and real friendship means.  Because of her, I was able to make real friends who I trust and Amy also helped me find my calling in life, to work with kids on the autism spectrum.   Even if you are having a tough time making friends, Aspies, don't worry, one day this will be a distant memory and, like me,  you may actually thank the person who hurt you because they will shape the person you become. That August day before first grade  changed my life forever, and I truly mean it when I say, "Thank you Amy."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Adapting to the interests of others

"Watch it."
"It's good!"
"I said no!"
"I won't give up until you do!"
"Fine, I'll watch the show. I didn't say I would like it!"
   This was the conversation that went on when my friend Anna was trying to convince me to watch Doctor Who. I eventually agreed to watch it, and by the third episode I was in love with the series, as I am still. If I had not bowed to watching her interests, I never could have found the love I have right now for Doctor Who.
   In addition to finding a new TV show I liked, I also was able to adapt to what Anna was interested in. For Aspies, this can be hard: we have our strict routines and don't like having them disturbed, especially by new, fast and sudden change. However, if you don't try to show some interest in what others like, you may never discover you really like something, especially if your friends are trying to introduce it to you. They are like you, so maybe you will like it too, give it a chance!
   However, there is always the time where you absolutely cannot stand something that other people, even your friends, like. It's stupid, or pointless, or both, and you cannot interest yourself not matter what you try. Don't tell them how much you hate it, but rather try to smile through it. It may not be your passion, but these people support yours, so it is important to support theirs, be it TV show, book, movie, or game. They would do the same for you.
   In short, Aspies, give a bit of change a chance. Maybe you will find you love what your friends share with you, and if you don't, try to tolewrate their obsessions, because they do the same for you.