I proud to say that since my initial diagnosis in 1990, society has come a long way from the “dark ages of autism”. Growing up, I had only a few options: be institutionalized, spend the rest of my life with family, or spend my adult life in rehabilitation centers. I dreamed of going to college, not spending all my school years in special education, enjoying independence, and pursuing a career in whatever passion I desire. Only a handful believed that I can actually achieve it. Back in the 1990s, I don’t recall having heroes on the autistic spectrum. Sure you have the savant on films, but that’s about it. There were no real-life autists and aspies in my book. The world seemed unprepared for dealing with people on the spectrum, because they weren’t as many supportive programs.
In 2014, I admit that it’s actually a great time to be an aspie or autist. You can be the IT whiz, writer, professor, artist, activist, athlete, musician…any passion you love, you can do know with little objection. I see more people on the spectrum attend mainstream classes and excel at post-secondary institutions. We don’t have to rely on just Raymond Babbit for inspiration. There’s Stephen Wiltshire, Sondra Williams, Donna Williams, Dr. Temple Grandin, and others who are role models for the autistic community to follow and emulate. More efforts are being made to employ people on the spectrum. We can live independently and even go to groups that are tailor-made for our needs, without relying on parent-oriented orgs like Autism Speaks.
I’m liking the chances that I have today, but I feel like I’m still an outcast to my own community. Perhaps it’s because that not only I’m autistic, but also African-American. I wish my ethnic group can be more supportive of the African-American autists. I don’t why autism can be a taboo subject. Maybe my community was taught that autism is the devil and it needs to be fixed, considering that the African-American community is built on Judeo-Christian beliefs. For some believers, the autist is a gift from God and needs special care. Sometimes for black autists who are capable of independence, this could mean facing constant overprotection from family and friends.
I think this fear also have to do with the notion on trying to “be normal and cool”, like the entertainers and athletes. Or perhaps being autistic can suck for an black person like me because intelligence and geekery equals “acting white”. Talk about your crab in the barrel situation!
Also consider the access to health care centers and schools that can help autistic people. In the inner city, or any area that is primarily of African descent, health and autistic programs are not as abundant, accessible, and adequate as ones in other neighborhoods are. In Atlanta, for example, 40% of autistic children in the metropolitan area were diagnosed at only schools. Basically, you can only afford the school psychologist to try to evaluate the autistic child.
By the time black autists enter adulthood, like me, they are totally screwed. Black unemployment is general is a pain, on top of all the other pressures that the black community already have to face, like lack of education, broken families, drugs, gang culture, etc. Unemployment and underemlpyment is still an issue for people on the autistic spectrum in general. Throw in the struggles to interact with people and the odd reactions to certain mannerisms, and you witness the negative cloud that is over the black autist.
But no worries, it more hopeful for the black autist than you think or see in the media. I thought I have no autistic hero to emulate in the black community, until I read about Maurice Snell. He graduated from college and now holds a position at Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago. If he can rise up to get the job that he loves, then so can I!
Black people on the spectrum can do it too. But it will take plenty of love, willpower, and support. Families should look more at the positive sides of the autistic spectrum, or matter of fact, accept the autist or aspie more instead of nick-picking at their ways of life. I wish that my ethnic group can buy into more autistic ACCEPTANCE than AWARENESS. Geekery is fine; it doesn’t “strip” my blackness or African-American heritage. We should form self-advocacy groups specifically for the black community.
But more importantly, we, the autistic people in the African Diaspora (including myself) should not worry about those who try to derail our dreams. We can take examples from the Stephen Wiltshires and Maurice Snells of the world, and be shining lights in our community. Furthermore, we should know that the autism community at large has our backs. Besides, we are all bond by a condition that non-autistics still can’t grasp and understand the benefits that comes from it.
- Citizen Autistic screening October 19 in Redwood City, California (leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk)
- Five Assholes Arrested in Poop-Filled “Ice Bucket” Prank on Autistic Kid (joronomo.com)
- Cyber-Bullies Targeting Autistic People on Facebook for Using ‘Âû’ Suffix (news.kron4.com)
- Daniel Tammet, an autistic savant who speaks 10 languages… (crazyfacts.com)
- 5 Year Old Girl With Autism Creates Extraordinary Paintings That Belong In A Gallery (collective-evolution.com)
- Author Temple Grandin to lecture on autism at Misericordia University (timesleader.com)
When you see someone with autism, I bet you may see that person as a shy, geeky savant who is more into the sciences and mathematics than hanging out. You probably wouldn’t think twice about seeing the aspie as an avid football fan.
I’m autistic, shy, and nerdy alright…and I’m geeked about American football! It’s the only sport that I follow all year long and watch games. I tweet and post Facebook statuses on about football all the time. I watch many NFL documentaries, such as A Football Life and Super Bowl highlights, repeatedly without tiring myself out. I write about football, take pictures during football games, and play pick-up games. The game is my wife that never lets me down.
I’ve been a football fan all my life, and I thank my godbrother, uncle, and father for introducing me to football. My father always talked football around me. Though I didn’t get to see him as much during my childhood, football bridged the gap between us. My uncle showed me moves to shed blockers and get to the quarterback; he also took me to some of my junior varsity games. My godbrother is an avid fan of football. I used to come over his family’s house to watch Bears and Super Bowl games. We love to debate NFL topics like the greatest running back of all time, which is Walter Jerry “Sweetness” Payton (sorry Barry Sanders fans). In addition, I recalled pretending to be Neal Anderson when I was around five or six, carrying the football and wearing a miniature version of his uniform. And though I didn’t know how they really work until high school, I would emulate formations I saw from the Game Boy game, NFL Football, by putting small toy figures in their places on the floor.
Football is the best sport for me to play, watch, and get involved in. For starters, it’s an exciting game of explosive offenses, innovative strategies, hard hitting, and surprise endings. But that’s not the only reason why I like the game. It have taught me many life lessons, such as teamwork and rising up from adversity. It kept me fit for most of my teenage years; it opened doors for me in writing and event photography. I’ve wrote several feature stories on the Atlanta Falcons during the 2013 season. As a freelance photographer and fan photographer for FanPhotos, I followed the miraculous championship run that Auburn University had that year.
More importantly, football is my favorite sport because it helped me interact with peers and family members and it molded me from a shy kid into respectable man. As mentioned earlier, I have high-functioning autism. I excelled academically throughout my schooling and I lived independently for most of my adult life. In fact, I have just received my MFA from SCAD-Atlanta in this March, and I recently turned 27 in October. However, I have difficulties interacting with people. For instance, I struggle with maintaining friendships or making friends because of my narrow interests and inability to read complex emotions. I’m also sensitive to bright lights and popping noises.
I was a quiet, aloof kid at first. It didn’t stop me from participating in social activities or doing the things I wanted to do as a child. Though I’ve been a sports nut since childhood, starting with basketball, it was football that gave me the most joy. I played kill-the-man on school grounds during recess and impromptu games of football in the backyard after school. I also enjoyed games of flag football and knee football while attending an after-school program at Foster Park. Sports, especially football, were the first activities where I felt like I was just one of the guys instead of an oddball. I can just run around, catch, throw, hit, and be myself on the field. Peers didn’t seem to mind picking me to be on the team. And even when I was just watching or talking about football, I wasn’t greeted with strange looks. I was always welcomed to join in on football conversations, whether it was with my peers or coach Ron Crenshaw, one of my first coaches.
The game of football had the most impact on my life during my high school years. I tried out for the freshman football team when I first entered Hyde Park Academy in summer 2002. I was picked on a lot by the varsity squad, because of my squeaky voice, my tendency to stay to myself, and my inexperience in playing organized ball. But I eventually gained respect of my teammates once I developed a knack for blowing past offensive lines and going after quarterbacks. I played two years with the JV team, as a defense end. By the time I was promoted to varsity, I’ve already made some good friends on the team and gained the respect of coaches. I played in significant amount of games during my junior year. When I was a senior, I was given more responsibilities. By the end of the 2005 season, I started most of the games as a defensive tackle and played on special teams as well. I was also becoming a fan favorite and one of the most academically sound players on the team. Overall, football transformed me into a more confident person who can be depended on, and thanks to the sport, I have learned how to interact with more people.
I don’t know what my love of football would take me next. It may open doors to inspire autistic athletes to try their hands in college and professional football. Alternatively, that passion may lead to me debating football on “First Take” or “Numbers Never Lie“.
Nevertheless, I’m glad to have football as my buffer to the social world.
- Autism Didn’t Stop This Teen From Becoming Captain Of His High School Football Team (huffingtonpost.com)
- Football Team Welcomes Teen with Autism as Honorary Member (whatisautisminchildren.com)
- Council Bluffs Teen Perseveres Through Autism (wowt.com)
- 4-year-old gets MVP treatment at Colts game (wishtv.com)
- Autistic Teen Scores TD, gets Win for Florida Team (wctv.tv)
- Logan gets his Jaguars football (bigcatcountry.com)
- On the Road to Autism Insurance Reform – Coach McNeill (autismspeaks.org)
- Michigan football player with autism shows hard work pays off (usafootball.com)
- Teen with autism scores dream touchdown (6abc.com)
- The ultimate USA sport event bucket list (houseoftravel.co.nz)
I didn’t write the previous post for randomness. There is a science to my madness.
You see, I’m approaching 27 on Wednesday and I’m 3 years away from the big 3-0. On one hand, I’ve accomplished more than people thought I would achieve that this point. When I was diagnosed with autism at age 2 1/2, I’m sure most people thought that I was going to spend the rest of my life with my mother or eventually institutionalized. They just hoped that I could speak full sentences. Instead, I obtained my MFA from SCAD-Atlanta this year and I think I was the youngest in my class. I have a BA in English at the University of Minnesota, while I joined Sigma Pi Fraternity International (Iota Zeta Chapter). I’m already published in several publications, including Football.com, and took photographs at memorable events like the 2013 Iron Bowl. I worked several jobs, been in some relationships, and lived on my own for most of my adult life. I maintained a few long-term friendships over the years. And I’m current writing a book on being an autistic adult and the challenges we face. Not bad for an autist, right?
I would say so, except I’m either not satisfied or I’m still prone to occasion bouts of despair. Some would ask me, “Why am I so sad? You got a degree”. Like it’s my destiny. I didn’t pursue higher education just to be a career student. I want to get the advantage I need to land a full-time position in the communication, media, or IT field. However, I haven’t found any full-time work yet. I don’t want to be the savant who’s imprisoned at home with my family. Despite being in three dating relationships, all of them failed and I’m scared to date again due to fear of failing or having something happen to me. Heck, I can’t even fit in. I’m an oddball to the “cool guys” because I don’t go far in trying to be cool, like listening to certain music or do something criminal. Can’t fit in with the nerds because I like football. Some say that I think too much. People knick-pick at any quirk that I may do. I feel that I’m behind because everyone else is married, have children, and make money but me. I am either misunderstood or not listened too because I think differently. All that plus this sad statistic: 1 out of 15 people on the spectrum may experience depression. Not a good look, for I’ve been dealing with despair for the past year due to my difficulties and struggles to succeed in a neurotypical world. All of those factors are triggering my current episode now; it’s been like that for a week. Worst of all, suicide can creep up on adult autists and aspies.
I really hope that I don’t get to this point. With writing, I hope that I can get out this whole and go back to what I love to do best: learn, work, educate, and explore. Pray for me. I normally don’t share my emotions, but I don’t want to come across as a robot who writes about only interests.
- Citizen Autistic screening October 19 in Redwood City, California (leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk)
- Adults with autism get a voice as advocacy group kicks off U.S. campaign in West Windsor (nj.com)
- Beyond Autism Acceptance (bloggingastrid.com)
Good afternoon world! My name is Timotheus “Pharaoh” Gordon Jr., and I am a polyamorous and demisexual autist.
That explains why the poly flag is now my cover photo on my FB like page.
I assuming that some are shocked at my announcement to the world. And for good reasons. For starters, some usually think of autistic people as asexual. Or let’s negate the autism for a sec. You would probably still think that I’m nothing more than a smart man who can joke around and loves some football, anime, and photography. Sorry folks, but I’m human. Aspies and autists need love too! It doesn’t have to be all sex and intimacy. I’m cool with intelligent convos, shared interest, and unconditional desire to look out for each other. As long as I’m loved.
The first identity will stir up a storm amongst my peers. Being poly does NOT mean that I can sleep with anyone that I want randomly. In fact, I’ll throw out sex for this. Being poly simply means that I have feelings for more than one person and I establish strong relationships (intimate, platonic, etc.) with more than one person. I don’t really think that the world is a monogamous society as advertised. Do you really want to love just one person and put everyone else to the side? I can’t do that. I rather care for as many people as I can and form LASTING relationships. Not to say that they will never be any intimacy. It only means that it’s not the primary goal in any polyamorous relationship. I knew that I was poly for at least a year, stemming from a bad breakup and events surrounding it, but I’m just slowly starting to embrace it.
As far being demisexual, think of it as following the general rule of “getting to know someone before you date or sleep with that person”. My best relationship that I ever had stem from forming a great friendship first before any emotional or intimate feelings came about. I don’t like the idea of developing a dating relationship out of just feelings and urges alone, or else it will spell disaster. With my close friendships with females, some of them are not romantic/intimate at all. But all of them involves a strong friendship first, then emotional feelings. I just started to claim my demisexuality today to be honest, though I have plenty of evidence of practicing it already.
But I just had to say it on National Coming Out Day, because I do want to be honest with my peers and followers. Some stuff you can’t hide forever. At least know that there’s more to sexuality/intimacy in the autism spectrum than lack thereof.
Good evening everyone and welcome to another edition of Pharaoh’s Principles!
Recently we lost a great actor and comedian due to suicide. Though we may have thought that Robin Williams should have been happy with all the success he had. But we’ve learned otherwise; despair still strikes regardless of how successful you are. Depression and pain is no joking matter, and it cannot be dealt with conventional means like blowing someone’s feelings off or telling the person to get over it. Depression is not like a cold that can be killed with quick remedies and over-the-counter drugs. The person really needs love, support, and understanding. Sometimes the support may mean giving that person space or not argue about why he or she is upset.
I can understand what Robin Williams or any one with depression go through, especially those who are depressed and have autism. I may not be clinically depressed, but I have experienced increased despair over the last couple of years. My depression is not frequent, but when something drastic does happen, it hits me like a sledgehammer. I tend to retreat to my own world and not communicate with a lot of people. I can ban myself from the social world, diving deeper into my obsessions, like watching Super Bowl highlights and watch my favorite movies & clips over and over again. I may even sob and question my place in the world.
Depression also affects adults on the autistic spectrum. According to a 1998 article, 65% of a sample of Asperger syndrome patients had symptoms of psychiatric disorders. The suicide rate among the aspies and autists are high. I understand why. Some neurotypicals don’t understand how difficult it is to live in their world day after day. We try to fit in with our family and peers, attempt to play normal by hiding our “autistic tendencies” like rocking and avoiding eye contact, find work, form friendships and relationships, deal with overstimulation, read social cues properly, etc. But it can become a pain in the ass after doing those things constantly and not getting the results you want. In my case, I’ve been struggling with unemployment/underemployment for a year, along with a failed relationship, legal issues, and the growing issues with being an adult with autism (e.g., reading people’s intentions without concrete and obvious clues, not being listened to, struggles with relationships). If all that come to a boil or bombard me at one moment, then I can meltdown and go into a depressive state.
However, I don’t think people are equipped to tend to the needs of the aspie when the person is depressed. In some places and cultures, depression is a sign of weakness. Or you may run into people who wants to try to talk you, in hopes of “curing the depression”. And of course, there are others who either run away from the depressed or over-medicate them. I’m not weak; I’m just going through a dark period in my life and I need a lot of support from I loved ones. If I was to go to a doctor, then I am afraid that taking medicine won’t cure the depression completely. And just because I’m sad doesn’t mean that I’m always a threat to society. Negative people can increase chances for potential harm. To make matters worse, I’m not good with expressing complex emotions verbally and sometimes I am misunderstood. Thus I, along with many autists and aspies, resort to staying quiet during sad times.
I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t give you medical tips on helping an autist who is depressed. But I do have some practical advice if you come across an aspie or autist going through a depressive state. The primary thing to do is to give the person some space if he or she requests it. Don’t ask the person a lot of questions on the cause of the depression or bring up things that can trigger further pain. Checking up on the person every once and while is good, but don’t question or upset him or her. Also, be sure to be in the person’s shoes and tend to HIS or HER needs. Dealing with depression won’t work if you looking at the autist from YOUR viewpoint. Try to understand what he or she is going through; listen to what the person is saying. Lastly, we may need understanding and space at times. But without love and kindness, the healing process may stunt. Hanging out, making inspirational cards, writing poetry, sending gifts and food, and prayer are some of things that a loved one can do to brighten one’s day. Jokes help too, but be careful because some humor may trigger certain painful emotions. And I like embraces too, though some on the spectrum may not like it.
Hopefully, more adults on the spectrum can educate people on how depression affect us and ways that loved ones can help us without causing meltdowns. I pray that neurotypicals read and share this to those who may not understand what autists go through on a daily basis.
- Understanding depression (mb.com.ph)
- Lesser-known things about Asperger’s syndrome (bbc.co.uk)
- If you were suicidal, you’d just go ahead and do it! (jenniferjacksonblog.wordpress.com)
- Coping with Autism: My Perspective, Part 2 (2yearbackblog.wordpress.com)
- Marginalized in the Middle: A Rebuttal to the NYT Article on “Beating” #Autism (profmomesq.wordpress.com)
- Awkward in Person, Graceful on the Page (psychologytoday.com)
- Empathy in autistic people (booksonaspergersyndrome.wordpress.com)
- I’m Impatient. (spectrumperspectives.wordpress.com)
- An introvert or an aspie (booksonaspergersyndrome.wordpress.com)
- Depression (davisbrotherlylove.wordpress.com)
Good afternoon Karen,
My name is Timotheus Gordon Jr., also known as Pharaoh or T.J., and I am a freelance writer, blogger, and event photographer in Chicago. I’m also an aspie…well technically I have high functioning autism because my communication abilities regressed around age 2 1/2.
I read your post, “Moving Forward in Life with True and Real Friends“. I was so moved by your post that I decided write a response/commentary to it. Being autistic myself, I definitely can relate to struggles with finding and keeping true friends. The following quote in the blog stood out to me:
My advice to you on this subject is that be on the lookout and be careful because people deserve to have friends that treat you right, accept you for who they are, and they give you a chance to socialize. A real friend is someone who accepts you for who you are as a person, they’re always there for you, and they treat you with respect. If someone doesn’t treat you right and be respectful to you, that person isn’t worth your time and not a real friend to you.
I should take advice and apply it to my own life. I agree with you wholeheartedly that real friends accept their friends for they are and be loyal to you. They don’t try to change people just because they don’t like lifestyles or ways of thinking that are different from their own. And true friends support you no matter what, even if they have to be honest and tell you the truth out of love.
Your post speaks to me. I go through a similar thing with my friends. In each stage of my life, I end up with only a handful of loyal friends. I start off with a lot friends and associates, but by the time I transition to a new phase of my life, my friend circle shrinks dramatically. I don’t know why. Perhaps most of my “friends” were only people who used me for my knowledge or wanted that chance to interact with someone on the autistic spectrum. Maybe I was unfit to hang out, because I rarely get invited to stuff. Or possibly life just happens and sometimes things happen. In some cases, my friendships did end with disagreements or conflicts-of-interest. I really don’t know why my friend circle is small, but I don’t worry about much. I know who would go to war with me and lead me to the right direction. Those are my true friends.
We, as people with autism, struggle with finding and keeping friends. They can be cruel to us or use us for our talents and information. Sometimes, we may not understand why some friends don’t want to deal with us. It can be due to our struggle to understand unspoken & complex social cues or follow certain social norms. We can’t read people at times. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t know about finding and keeping loyal friends. In fact, I would like to add something to your advice: a real friend is someone who can tell the truth and cares about your well-being. He or she doesn’t lie to your face or say things just to make you feel good.
I pray that you continue to blog and inspire those with autism; we sure need more voices in that community that can speak to the masses about what we go through on a daily basis. It’s time for us to tell OUR story on autism acceptance. I’m sure that you are inspiring people through your blog and book; I know that you’ll continue to do so after the book hits stores.
P.S.: I am looking forward to your book release. In fact, I think I’ll write a review for you once I get my hands on a copy of the book. :)
- Moving Forward in Life with True and Real Friends (karenwillisbooks.wordpress.com)
- My Aspie’s Valentine blessed my heart again! (daciawilkinson.wordpress.com)
- Encouragement from a fellow aspie (aspiesblog.wordpress.com)
- Pharaoh’s Principles: Navigating Worlds (timotheusgordon.com)
- Why can’t we be friends? (nickisamuels.wordpress.com)
- 10 things not to say to someone with Asperger’s (catastraspie.wordpress.com)
- Aspie to Aspie: Relationships (aspergersgirls.wordpress.com)
- Sensory, empathy, fight and flight (alienhippy.wordpress.com)
- How to love an Aspie (aspiewarrior.com)
- being #aspie (yablovh.wordpress.com)