The Dictionary of Psychology defines autism as, “a brain development disorder characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior.”
When I was 12, I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, which is a high functioning form of autism. I had “impaired social interaction and communication” problems that I dealt with. My biggest social interaction problems were not giving eye contact to people, being unable to focus on more than one topic during a conversation, and not understanding sarcasm.
First, I had a difficult time maintaining eye contact with people because, when I was talking, I was busy thinking. While talking, I would either look up or to the side. I also didn’t understand that I should look at the other person when he or she was talking. People wondered if I was really listening to them.
Second, I had a difficult time keeping a conversation focused on more than one topic. My topic of conversation was always on movies. The conversation would start out with one topic, and somehow I would always find a way to link it back to movies. I didn’t understand that people want to talk about other topics besides movies.
Third, I had a difficult time understanding sarcasm. People would say something sarcastic, and because I didn’t understand vocal tone, I thought they were being literal. Some of the guys I grew up with understood this weakness and would convince me to repeat – literally – what they said sarcastically. And then I’d get in trouble.
One aspect of autism that God has blessed me with is the ability to memorize facts. People with autism generally have a good memory. My mom uses my memory all the time when she can’t remember dates and other facts that are worth remembering. I am also able to remember all the classes offered at Corban and what time they are offered. This comes in handy when people forget their schedule. Growing up I didn’t understand that people didn’t posses the same kind of amazing memory.
Since my diagnosis of autism, God has helped me by means of the people in my life: counselors, teachers, professors, students and my mom. For example, autistic people also do not do well taking tests in the classroom, so the schools have allowed me to take tests in a resource room to avoid distraction. I am also able to read my questions aloud so I can understand them better.
Since I have arrived at Corban University, I have decided to major in psychology and communication. I want to pursue a career in public speaking for an autism organization. I hope to be able to speak to parents and teachers of autistic children and encourage them that, even though having a child with autism is difficult, in some areas it is also a blessing. God has given me the opportunity to speak to future teachers about autism in both Professor Angela Mooney’s and the late Dr. Beth Bartruff’s Teaching the Exceptional Child classes.
God has also given me hands-on experience with autistic people throughout my junior and senior years of college. Last October, I was able to attend an Adults with Autism convention in Portland. This year, during the month of September, I helped out at a game night for autistic teens in Salem. I noticed the varying levels of autism and I was able to observe the population of parents that I hope to help.
Nine years ago I was diagnosed with autism. If someone would have told me what I would accomplish regarding autism, I probably would not have believed them. Now, God is showing me what he wants me to do about my diagnosis. After I leave Corban, I plan to attend Portland State University and obtain a certificate in Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Studies.