“A Different Perspective”

What a person on the spectrum wants you to know about other people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

We have always had a passion for working with individuals of varying exceptionalities. When we left our teaching jobs in 2016 to open a We Rock in our area we started to interview potential employees. Among many applicants we met an amazing young woman who is living with ASD herself and was interested in working as a counselor for us. It took five minutes and we knew she would be a perfect fit in our “We Rock” Family. It ALL made sense, it just felt right!

This was a whole other avenue of support we had never thought about, employing and training adults on the spectrum! There is very little support for adults living with autism or some other cognitive difference in our community. There has definitely been an increase of support since the 1990’s, but the more opportunities the better, right?!? We have since hired other individuals on the spectrum, and when we thought we couldn’t learn anymore, these employees’ have not only touched our hearts but taught US so much! We want to give a voice to this community and share important information we have learned! Here it goes!!!!!

*Sagi*-  She has volunteered/ trained with  us and now is one of our employees .

Can you explain how you feel you may be different from someone else? I understand things in a different way than other people. This brings me a lot of creativity in my daily life. For example, the way I color code my daily planner, some people might not understand it but it works wonders for me. I also feel my sensory system has allowed me to open my world views and understanding of people who don’t like to be touched or in loud crowded places. I feel I am different because I have this pressure to “pass” as a neurotypical person to “fit in” or even to have people take what I have to say seriously.

What are your strengths? I am very creative. This helps me in many ways. I am able to problem solve in a different ways. For example, I am able to be creative in social settings. While going to social gatherings, if there is loud music I can wear ear plugs and not feel over stimulated. A lot of “adult fun” environments like clubs, bars, concerts can be very overstimulating for me due to the lights, sounds, smells and crowds. I have to be creative when being social and meeting other adults my age.   I am very friendly and talkative. I feel that loving kids is a strength of mine as well.  I am a fast learner and I am willing to step out of my comfort zones at times.

What is something you tend to struggle with? I have a hard time making and keeping friends. For me, I struggle with the unexpressed and expressed “social rules.” Sometimes I may take things personal or too literal like if I am the only one calling, I want friendships to be a “two-way” street so I might stop calling. I have a difficult time navigating my physical surroundings. I rely on my GPS a lot! I might get flustered while driving if I don’t know where I am going. Even routes I drive on a regular basis I use my GPS.

How does having Autism affect your daily life as an adult living in society? I am not capable of sitting still for long periods ex.) dinner, passover, concert, movie. I need sensory input throughout the day so I do physical jobs where I can move around. I get extremely anxious about things like going to the dentist or people touching me when I don’t want to be touched.

What would you like others to know about yourself and other young adults that have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder? It’s not a “DISORDER” it’s a different way of seeing the world. Some things are a struggle and others are a pleasure like everyone else. Every culture and country has different customs  or “Rules” that are obvious to most but not to us Aspies. (friendly term used for people with Asperger’s)

Is there anything else you would like to share with us? I was diagnosed at age 27 with Autism and it has been a blessing. My parents and others finally understand why certain things are impossible  for me or keep happening to me and I don’t get yelled at for things I can’t help. My parents often say “There is nothing WRONG with you! Your outlook is unique- it makes you the wonderful person you are.”

I hope to urge parents to empower their children to stop bullying so others don’t end up being victims for years on end.

*Julie* The next interview is from a previous employee  of ours. She now has a full time job as a paraprofessional in a classroom.

A Little about me: I was diagnosed at the Age of 10 with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I was nonverbal until I was 6. I had trouble making eye contact. I was showing signs of multiple diagnoses. I was self-injurious to feel more control. I always wanted others to have faith in me, get to know me, and want to spend time with me. I realize now that how I was viewed made me feel isolated and caused depression.

What are your strengths? I am patient, smart, kind, passionate, and compassionate.

What is something you struggle with? Math, communicating in relationships, any changes that happen in life, managing negative thoughts, lack of feeling in my body- can get injured and not even know it, & sensory textures- I sometimes change 10 times to find something that makes me feel comfortable to wear.

How has Autism affected your daily life living as an adult in society?  It takes me longer to learn basic life skills. I also tend to be more anxious than others.

What would you like others to know about yourself and other young adults that have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder? We are still human. We deserve to be treated like anyone else. We might be different but that’s ok. We shouldn’t just be accepted but also understood.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? We are WAY more than our diagnoses. I want people to think about it as a “different ability”. I can do anything others can do it might just take more time.