Category Archives: Autism Positivity

Outpouring of Words ~ By Emma Zurcher-Long

Three Haikus By Emma Zurcher-Long for #AutismPositivity2014

*Emma writes by typing on a bluetooth qwerty keyboard attached to her iPad.  For more about the way Emma communicates, read – How we Got Here

My writing blossoms
greeting welcoming smiles of
 encouragement gladly.


Green with envy you
strain to jump as far and high
daring to come close.


Lashing down, I run
to find shelter but there’s none,
laughter, roaming, I stay.


As the parent to a child who has been described as “verbal” but who was thought to be unable to understand much of what was said to her because she could not answer with spoken language questions such as, “How old are you?”  I will never be able to adequately describe what it is like to read my daughter’s words.

This blog began as a document of hope for our daughter, but it has evolved to become a message of hope to parents who feel the kind of despair and terror I once did.   As Emma wrote, “I am smarter than most people think.  So many kids are just like me.”

This post is dedicated to the Autism Positivity Flashblog going on all day today.

If you would like to submit to the flashblog, here is the submission form.


For those who missed the fun, yesterday was the #AutismPositivity2013 Flashblog where people sent in thoughts about the theme “1,000 Ausome Things” in an effort to counter at least some of the ongoing negativity surrounding autism and those who are autistic.  All the posts have been compiled ‘here‘.  I helped tweet, share, google+ and pinned the posts as they came flooding in and WOW!  It was exhilarating to read so many words written by Autistic people, young and not so young, non-autistic parents, Autistic parents, siblings, cousins, educators and everything in between.  There were bullet points, numerical lists, stories, photos and even a couple of videos!

It was wonderful to see so many coming together over a shared idea.  A moment when the common goal was to rejoice.  A tiny moment when it wasn’t about anything other than what was AUSOME about a neurology we have come to call autism.  And it reminded me of something.  It reminded me of a time in my marriage when a therapist suggested Richard and I make a note every night, not of all that was wrong, or a list of our grievances, but a list of all the other had done right.  A list of all that was ‘good’.  These are subjective words, but we understood the goal was to look for the positive in the other.  And guess what?  It was the single best advice anyone ever gave us!  When we concentrated on that which the other was doing that was kind, took notice of the little gesture made, the loving glance, the dish that was put away, the trip to the store for the milk that no one had remembered to buy, all those little acts each person did, when those were noticed, they added up to something bigger.  They added up to an expression of love neither of us could have voiced.

That’s what yesterday’s Flashblog was about…  love.  Self love, love of another, hundreds of voices expressing love.

This image was created by the very talented Lori Miller Degtiarev of the blog A Quiet Week

Lori Miller Degtiarev

Emma’s Hope Book Celebrates 1000 Ausome Things #AutismPositivity2013

Today is 1,000 Ausome Things ~ The Autism Positivity 2013 Flashblog Event!!

For those of you who want the history of the Autism Positivity Flash blog in all it’s glory, this post from Outrunning the Storm is essential reading.

This flash blog event asks that we focus on “ausomeness” to counter all the negativity, fear, and very often, misinformation that surrounds autism, our Autistic children and Autistic people.  There is no way I can detail all the Ausome things about autism I’ve learned in the last year, let alone last nine years, since my daughter was first diagnosed.   So instead of using words, I am using images. Please enjoy this scrapbook, all taken in the last two months.

Larry Bissonnette (star of Documentary film – Wretches & Jabberers) taking Emma’s photograph

Larry takes Em's photograph

Emma types with support from Pascal Cheng.  Tracy Thresher (star of Wretches & Jabberers) and Harvey Lavoy sit to the left.

Harvey, Tracy, Pascal & Em @ USF

Emma with her friend Henry

E&H -Friends

Barb Rentenbach (author of the book, I might be you) – cheering Em on 

Barb Rentenbach

Emma laughing with Ibby (of Tiny Grace Notes)

Em and Ib

And this… just this… which if I could only send in one image, one snippet, it would be this – Emma soars and yes she and everyone else pictured above are the very definition of the word – AUSOME!


Want to Know About Autism? Ask An Autistic

There’s a blog I love, written by E. called The Third Glance.   I found it last winter.  Written by a PHD student, E. describes her life, her passions, her studies, while detailing her thought process while socializing with friends during an afternoon at a café or memories of growing up with abusive parents who didn’t understand her.  E.’s compassion for humans and their neurological differences is striking as one considers the stigma she experienced growing up Autistic.  The Third Glance was one of the first blogs I found in my search for Autistic Adults.  E’s compassion and kindness shines through all her posts no matter the subject.  Her determination to give people the benefit of the doubt was something I was astonished by, particularly during those first few months of my discovering Autistic blogs and reading that so much of what I’d done was not as altruistic as I’d believed.

When Em was diagnosed, the words “Autistic adults” were not uttered.  Ever.  We heard about how imperative it was to immediately implement early intervention, we were shuttled off to get an “independent diagnosis,” we were advised to start investigating ABA therapy, we were inundated with ABA therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, a social worker came to our home once a week, team meetings were held regularly, we were trained to continue Emma’s ABA therapy after the last therapist had gone home.  We were advised to put Em on a gluten free/casein free diet, we were encouraged to read the thousands and thousands of pages of material thrust at us from a wide variety of well-meaning and well intended people.

In that first year of Em’s diagnosis, I was well versed in various theories regarding gut issues, lead levels, mercury levels, toxicity in our food and water, and I could reel off at least six different unpronounceable ingredients in vaccines.  I’d read at least 30 memoirs written by parents of Autistic children as well as books with titles such as A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Answers to the Most Common Questions, The World of the Autistic Child: Understanding and Treating Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Handbook of autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders and  Biological Treatments for Autism and PDD.  I’d taken Em to cranial sacral therapists, homeopaths, lead specialists, developmental pediatricians, nutritionists, allergists and a DAN (Defeat Autism Now) doctor.  I knew about ABA, VB, RDI, PECS and DIR therapies.  I read and reread Catherine Maurice’s Let Me Hear Your Voice with the same dogged, determination and devotion evangelicals read the bible.  I knew about sorghum flour, rice flour, garbanzo bean and fava bean flour.  I honed my cooking skills on perfecting a gluten-free/casein free birthday cake for Em’s third birthday with platters of tasty GFCF finger foods, which Emma refused to touch, let alone sample.

Autism, seemingly overnight, had become my focus.  I was set on fighting it.  I was engaged in nothing less than a war.  My weapons were my determination, my tenacity, my stubbornness and my love and devotion for my daughter.  Everything else came to a screeching halt.  Everything else fell into line behind my research.  I was on a quest.  To my way of thinking, I was on a mission to save my daughter’s life.

When my husband, understandably alarmed by the fervency with which I threw myself into my research, suggested I was spending too much time searching, I was furious.  I railed at him, enumerating all the things I was doing with the sole intent of saving our daughter.   I was furious that he seemed unable to fully understand the battle I was waging.  It never occurred to me there was another way.  It never dawned on me I was battling windmills.

That Autism was the enemy, something to be vanquished, defeated and destroyed, I did not question.  I didn’t have time to question, I was too busy dealing with the Board of Education, therapists, Doctor’s appointments, tracking down every “cure,” and baking foods my daughter wanted nothing to do with.  Every time I turned around someone was sending me a link to a new “cure” a new treatment, a new therapy, a new “miracle worker.”  Countless people would begin a conversation or email with, “Have you tried…”  “Have you heard of…” and I would grab a pen and begin taking notes.  Doggedly I pursued each and every tip.  Determined not to leave a single stone left unturned, my days and nights were filled.  I was busy.  There was no time for calm contemplation, there was no time to sit and consider the path I suddenly found myself.

The Seven Year War.

And then…  what happened?  What changed?  Everything.  I began to question the “truth” about autism.  I began to question the dogma.  I began to question the “facts.”  It was inevitable, I suppose when you read as much as I do.  But the single biggest change occurred because I found Autistic Adults like E.  I’ve written about this before, ‘here‘ (the post where E. first reached out to me in the comments section) and again ‘here.’  I won’t go on about that process, except to say this – there is something about the immediacy and the interactive quality of a blog that no book can replicate.  In addition, a blog written by someone who is Autistic is far more interesting to me than anything I’ve heard from researchers, specialists, therapists, teachers, doctors because Autistics are talking about their lives, it’s not a theory, there’s no speculation.

Want to know about Autism?  Ask Autistics.

Thank you E. for reaching out to me.  Thank you for generously holding out your hand to me in kindness and friendship.  Should all parents be so fortunate as I have been.

A quick aside, E. was also one of the creators of the Autism Positivity Flash Blog (see badge on right side of this blog) where a group of bloggers reached out to hundreds of us asking that we write a post in answer to the google search words “I wish I didn’t have Aspergers.”  If you haven’t gone to that blog, do.  It’s a veritable who’s who in Autism blogging by Autistics and parents coming together to support someone on the spectrum.

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Emma Riding Beau – 2005

It’s My Birthday and I’ll Laugh if I Want To

Saturday was my birthday.  I’m 52.  Or as my twelve-year-old son said to his younger cousin last night, “Do you understand how old she is?”  A look of confusion lingered on his cousin’s face.  Then, apparently tiring of her lack of response, Nic said in a grave tone, “She’s fifty-two.” There was a moment of silence and then to be sure he’d left no room for error he added, “Fifty two years old.”   His cousin looked at me with raised eyebrows and what I imagined to be a new-found appreciation or maybe it was horror, it’s impossible to know what an eight year old, having been given this sort of news, might think.

I figure I’m at the halfway point, though my husband would say I’m being unrealistic as he fully intends to live… forever.  Yeah, you read that right.  As in eternity.  I’m not as optimistic.  However, I like the idea of having reached the halfway mark, forget that I felt I was at the halfway point last year and the year before and the year before that too…  But let’s just say I’m right, that would mean I’ve got another 52 years ahead of me.  And I don’t know about you, but I fully intend to make good use of them!  Because the first 35 or so I kind of made a mess of.  There’s good reason I have a 12-year-old and 10-year-old when many of my same age friends have children graduating from high school and college.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for my past, I’ve learned a great deal.  I just wouldn’t want to do any of it over again.  I really like being 52.  I like being where I now find myself.  But mostly I really like my life.  

Birthdays are a time of celebration, but more than anything they’re a milestone of how far we’ve come.  At least that’s how I like to think of them.  I’ve come far in 52 years, but this last year has been more significant than any other year to date.  It has been within the last year that I have completely changed how I see my daughter.  And that change has unexpectedly altered my view of the world and my life.  I don’t know that any other single thing has changed my thinking and views of life and the world as quickly, dramatically or completely.  There have certainly been milestones – getting help for my eating disorder, stopping my bulimia and anorexia and getting sober are two examples of significant change.  And while the actual stopping of an action happens in a single moment, real change occurs over many such moments, repeated over and over.  The larger changes that take place as a result of those repeated actions or inactions can take years to recognize.  It is, as they say, a slow recovery.

My introduction into the world Autistics inhabit and talk about, was swift, abrupt and in many ways, more life altering than anything I’ve ever experienced.   I am still reeling from the force with which this knowledge has transformed my life and the lives of my immediate family.  As a result, I have never been so happy.  I have never felt so hopeful.  I have never been so sure we are on the right path.  I have never enjoyed my family as much as I do now.  Most surprisingly, my happiness is not because Emma has become a “normal” child.  On the contrary, my happiness is, in large part, because she is not.  I view her with wonder, without judgement and an open mind.  I have learned to see her as neurologically different, not wrong or broken or in need of fixing.

I no longer speak of Emma as though she cannot hear me or understand me.  When she doesn’t answer or walks away when I’m talking to her I no longer assume she’s not interested in what I have to say.  I have learned to examine all of my assumptions.  I have learned to question everything, and I mean literally everything I think or think I know.  At my friend Ib’s urging I’ve begun reading Autism and the Myth of the Person Alone by Douglas Biklen.  This book, like so many that I’ve read in recent months, throws everything we neurotypicals think and say about autism and Autistics out the window.  Judy Endow, just posted a terrific piece entitled, Seeing Beyond My Autism Diagnosis.  She talks about the lens through which NTs view Autistics and writes:  “Stereotypical views of autism are based on the neurotypical (NT) assignment of “truth” as they look at us.”

One of the greatest gifts I’ve received this past year is the joy that has come with  questioning my “truth” when it comes to Emma.  In questioning it I have found my sense of humor.  It never entirely left me, more like it had been tamped down by stress and worry.  To laugh, to really feel the absurdity of situations that used to cause me tremendous upset and concern, to feel the carefree pleasure of being with my family and enjoying them…  this is the life I had always hoped for, but felt would never be mine.

Yeah.  I turned fifty-two on Saturday and I’ve never been happier.

The vanilla cake with raspberry icing Em and I made.  Nic and Emma decorated it by writing everyone’s name on it.  And yes, it was delicious!

Beautiful Em wearing one of her pretty dresses

Do We Really Believe the Things We Tell Ourselves?

There was an exercise I was told about in high school.  I was told to hold my arm out, while repeating to myself, “I am strong, I can do it, I am strong,” while the other person tried to push my arm down.  Then I was told to rest for 30 seconds, and hold my arm out again, but this time repeating, “I can’t do it, I’m a failure, I can’t do anything,” while the other person tried to push my arm down.

Have you ever tried this?  If you haven’t, do.  It’s an amazing example of how powerful self talk is.  (Richard just came in and I tried it with him.  “Wait do it again,” he said.  We did with the same results.)   I was able to push Richard’s arm down both times, but it was much harder when he was repeating to himself that he was strong and could do it.

It made me wonder how that same exercise would work if the other person said, “you’re strong, you can do this,” even if I didn’t say it to myself.  So I tried that and it helped a little, but not as much as when I said it.  As I was thinking about all of this, I thought about how Emma will often walk away if asked a question I know she knows the answer to.  Such as, “Emma what color is the 4-wheeler?”  She will walk away, as if to say, “Why are you asking me such an idiotic question?  Why should I even bother answering this question?”  I don’t know that this is what goes through her mind, but recently AspieKid wrote in a comment (he gave me permission to reprint his reaction to Simon Baron-Cohen‘s flawed Sally-Anne test) the following:

“Here is what would have gone through my mind if I were part of that study.

The researcher would set up the test, and then ask me where the other kid would look for the ball. My mind would have raced through its usual sets of combinations and permutations and a logical consideration of the question. But I would not be thinking about what researchers would have expected me to think about. I would have been thinking things like, “Why are they asking me this? Sally and Anne don’t even exist. I have no way to know where people would look for a ball, and even fewer ways to know where non-existent people would look for it. Even if the person were real, I have no information about their intelligence or their sanity, and no reason to assume they would look in any particular place. Nor do I care. Furthermore, there is no consequence for guessing the wrong answer and no reward for guessing the right answer, so it doesn’t matter what answer I give at all.

When I was a kid, those thoughts would have gone through my mind in a couple of seconds. But I would not have expressed any of those thoughts. I would have said as little as possible and probably made no eye contact whatsoever. I probably would have felt uncomfortable being there.

I probably would have thought the researcher was both stupid and insane, and he was assuming that I was both stupid and insane as well. I might have felt a little nervous about being around someone who asks such senseless questions. I might have tried to make like an ostrich and bury my head in the proverbial sand so they would just leave me alone, but that would probably not work. In that case, I would have given them any arbitrary answer that would get them to leave me alone as fast as possible so I could return to my own thoughts.

That’s mostly how I treated schoolwork too. I knew I was smarter than most people (even my teachers), but I had no interest in proving it to anyone. I was a genius (by IQ) but I did not do well in school most of the time. I did what I needed to do to get them to leave me alone, that’s all. The Sally-Anne test was based on the false assumption that autistic kids are eager to share their ways of thinking with researchers, but in reality I think most of them would rather just be left alone. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of the autistic kids who participated in the Sally-Anne test probably put almost no thought into that researcher’s question, nor did they have a reason to.

Like the old saying goes, “if you ask a stupid question, you’ll get a stupid answer”.

This comment from AspieKid was beautiful in it’s explanation of how we NTs “dumb down” our language, assume incompetence in the face of silence.  Assume someone does not understand the question when in fact, as AspieKid so eloquently states, this is not the case at all and is quite the opposite.  How do years of these kinds of interactions effect someone?  How do you believe in yourself when everyone around you assumes you’re incompetent.  How do you fight against those perceptions?  Do you even try?

How do we instill positive self talk in another?  Is it enough to tell another person they can do it?  Is our belief in them enough?  When we model that kind of belief in ourselves, are our children able to see that and incorporate those behaviors?

“Six and Three and Zero”

We are working with Emma on time.  For the last few weeks she has been waking at 5:30AM.  I’m just grateful she isn’t also waking us at 2:00AM.  It’s all relative.  She has an analog clock in her room and we’ve discussed how she isn’t to wake us until 6:30AM.  Two nights ago she appeared at exactly 6:30AM.  “It says six and three and zero,” Emma announced before claiming her place next to me in our bed.

This morning however she appeared at 5:30AM and when I said, “Hey Em.  It’s too early. Look at the clock. Do you see what it says?” she didn’t answer.  “Look Em.  It says five thirty.”  I sat up and pointed.  “You have to go back to your room.  You can come back when it says six thirty.”

“Six and three and zero,” Emma confirmed.

“That’s right Em.”

Moving very slowly, she wandered back to her room, or more accurately, out of ours.  When Emma reappeared later she said, “Make cereal and toast?”  Then she corrected herself, “Dadddy?  I’d like to make cereal and toast, please.  May I have some cereal and toast?”

After breakfast she ran back to find me.  “Mommy!” she said bouncing up and down.

“Hi Emma.  I’m coming out.  I just had to take a shower.”

“Mommy!  I miss you,” she said, leaning her head into me.

“Oh Emmy!  I miss you too.  Whenever I’m not with you, I miss you!”  I told her.

She beamed at me.  “I miss Mommy.”  Then she pointed at me and said, “Mommy and me,” she pointed to herself, “go into the living room together.”

“Yes.  I’m coming.  Do you want to wait for me?  I’m just getting my shoes on.”

“I’m waiting,” Emma said.

I live for conversations like this.  I take for granted so many things, little quick conversations I have hundreds of times throughout a day, and yet, this one with Emma will carry me through the day like nothing else could or would.

Waiting for her school bus.

For my latest piece in the Huffington Post, click ‘here‘
Anyone can contribute! To be a part of the change, contribute to the Autism Positivity Blog click ‘here‘

Imagine What it is Like to be Autistic

The last 72 hours has seen a whirlwind of activity regarding the Autism Positivity 2012 Flash Blog and those words “I wish I didn’t have Aspergers.”  It has been incredible to witness.  To recap  –  A group of bloggers devoted days of their time and energy to come up with and create the Autism Positivity Flash Blog.  They then reached out to all the bloggers they knew, asking for each to contribute something.  New contributions were posted every 15 minutes on the last day of April, with more trickling in after that. I don’t know what the total ended up being, but it was well over 115 contributions.  As a result of their efforts, a whole community of Autistics, Aspergers, Parents of Autistics and Parents of Aspergers were galvanized and inspired to come together in support of any Autist who has ever felt – marginalized, less than, misunderstood, ignored or alone – even if for only a minute.  It was an incredible show of strength in numbers, of people working together, of a diverse and vibrant community uniting and reaching out to another (anonymous) human being.

Yesterday, Genisa, the person who typed those words commented on the piece I’d submitted to Huffington Post.   Because the Huffington Post limits comments to 250 words, you have to break your comment down into segments and submit each segment, hoping they’ll be published in the order you submitted.  As both Genisa and I found out, this was not what actually occurred.  HuffPo moderates all comments that come in and because of the massive numbers of comments they are (I’m sure) quickly overwhelmed with content they cannot keep up with.  So Part 2 of my 3-part response was never published at all, and part 5 of Genisa’s comment wasn’t either.  It was incredibly frustrating and I felt somewhat horrified when I realized that people were going to read just the last part of a very personal comment and one which made me feel incredibly vulnerable to misinterpretation that I’d written in response to Genisa’s.  About four hours later the first part of my comment was eventually published, which still did little to mitigate my frustration.  (Someone on Facebook suggested those lost comments end up with all those random single socks that somehow never make it into the light of day between the washing machine and dryer.  I kind of love that!)

Genisa wrote in frustration – “I am noticing a pattern here. They are only posting the first and last of cont. posting. I had to post 6 posts to get all of what I wanted to say out. How can anyone understand what I said if all they post is the beginning and end of what I was trying to say? It is leaving out all of the details, the important stuff. This is how it is every day living with Aspergers. I tend to not ever get the whole message people try to tell me, because I am so focused on the details. But when most of it is left out, I just don’t get any of it.”

“This is how it is every day living with Aspergers.”  The analogy being drawn between the frustration of not fully getting everything someone is saying, whole chunks of  what is being said are erased, and trying to make sense of it all anyway, while being expected to respond was so powerful to me.  I thought –  What if it was this way when you tried to express yourself as well?  What if you had a whole idea, something you wanted to relate to another person, but then had to submit it (say it) in short segments, yet it came out scrambled and not in the right order with some of what you wanted to say not coming out at all?  What if this was your constant experience in attempting to communicate with others?  Imagine if every time you had a conversation with someone this was your experience in both receiving information and giving?  Imagine how incredibly frustrating that would be.  Imagine if this happened not once, when you could shrug it off knowing that it was a one time annoyance and while irritating not an ongoing problem, but each and every time you spoke.  Imagine that your experience of communicating was to have people routinely misunderstand you or respond to the last part of what you’d said without hearing or understanding the first part.  Imagine if when people spoke to you, you lost portions of what they were saying.  Imagine what it would be like to ask them to repeat themselves and have them lose their patience with you.  Imagine if you were scolded, ridiculed, called names and punished for not giving an appropriate response.  Just imagine how that would make you feel.

Can you imagine?

For my latest piece in the Huffington Post, click ‘here
 Anyone can contribute!  To be a part of the change, contribute to the Autism Positivity Blog click ‘here

For Genisa

Someone commented on the Huffington Post piece I wrote – (I hesitated printing it here, because I don’t want you to feel “outed” but I also didn’t want to not mention it because you’re reaching out and the Letter to You was in fact to you and anyone else who feels as you do.)

So Genisa, I hope it’s okay to reprint the comment you left on the Huffington Post here in it’s entirety so that others may find you and reach back to you.

Genisa wrote:

“Thank you for the kind words. I didn’t realize anyone can see how you get to a blog by what you type on Google or on the blogs searches. I did type in that phrase a few weeks ago around April 7th. I would feel bad to think I made someone else feel sad by what I was looking for. I was trying to find others that felt the same way or to read something that I could relate to that would help to make me feel like there was hope, beyond the hopelessness I was feeling and still do feel. I feel so alone because of my inability to socialize appropriately, effectively communicate (especially verbally), and how I always say the wrong thing and make everyone angry at me. I’m an adult, I’m a female and I have Aspegers. I’m invisible to much of society.  I love volunteering, but for some reason others don’t want me to help out.  It really hurts to feel rejected by everyone, even within a group that should understand you because they have children on the autism spectrum themselves.  I want so much to see why I am not accepted and to be able to change it, but I can only change so much.  We do have feelings and we do have abilities if people would just see past our difficulties.”

I then responded with a very long reply,  one I now regret having written as I had to submit it in three parts due to HuffPo’s policy of a 250 word limit on comments.  As of this writing they’ve only published the 3rd part, which is a little horrifying as my words will be taken out of context and people may think I am drawing parallels between addiction and eating disorders and autism, which I AM NOT!  I’m not sure where the first two parts went, but if you just read the last part of my reply, it won’t make any sense or if it does, my guess is the wrong conclusions will be drawn, so I’m going to try to respond in full again here.  I didn’t copy my response first before submitting it, so this response will be slightly different.  Please, please refrain from drawing conclusions and judging my response until you’ve read my full reply and even then do keep in mind I am speaking of the feelings which may or may not be shared and not the circumstances.   Here goes…

Genisa!  I am so glad you reached out and commented.  If you haven’t already gone to the Autism Positivity 2012 Flash Blog, do.  Because of those words typed into Google, you galvanized and inspired a group of bloggers to create the Autism Positivity Flash Blog.  I don’t know how many people have contributed at this moment, but I do know as of yesterday morning over 115 people had written a reply to your words.  Those replies are from Autists, Aspies, Parents of Aspergers and Parents of Autists.  Over 115 people, Genisa.  You are NOT alone.  Go to the flash blog read the responses from people, most of them have blogs, go to their blogs and reach out to the ones that speak to you.  Many will respond.  You have found your people!

When I was in my 20’s I was suicidal.  (This is not something I often talk about.) I felt utterly hopeless, I had an eating disorder, was bulimic with anorexic tendencies that I could not contain or control, my life revolved around eating, puking, how much I weighed and where and what I would eat next, all as a way to quell my feelings of self loathing.  To someone who’s never had an eating disorder it must sound completely insane.  And, in many ways it was.  I felt horrible about myself, I hated who I was.  And I assumed everyone else felt the same about me as I did. I was unlovable.  Of that I was sure.  Please know that I am in no way equating my addiction and eating disorder to autism.  I am simply describing the feelings of isolation and sadness that can be common in both.

It took a long time for me to get the help I needed in order to stop.  But once I found people like myself, (and this is where the similarity in our stories lie) I was able to see, finally, that I was NOT alone.  I remember thinking  it couldn’t be true.  But it was.  There were hundreds and hundreds of people, in every city all over the world, some were suffering just as I was, others knew what it was to suffer, but had moved beyond those painful feelings.  That was the first step out of my personal hell and into another way of living.  A way of living where I could look at myself in the mirror and finally, finally like what I saw staring back at me.  Over time, with a great deal of support, I was able to begin behaving in ways that were honest and true to myself.  I was able to slowly stop trying to please all those other people that I felt condemned me, saw me as a failure, as a “bad” person.  And now, (I’m in my 50’s) my life is better than I ever could have imagined.  I have a wonderful husband who knows me and loves me exactly as I am, who loves me even when I’m angry, sad, irritated and feeling grumpy.  I have two beautiful, amazing and unique children, one who is considered neurotypical and one who is autistic.  And I am a very, very happy human being.  But thirty years ago, I was not.

You are beautiful, Genisa.  Let us love you until you can love yourself.  (Someone said that to me early on in my recovery from bulimia – I had no idea what they were talking about and I didn’t believe them, anyway.  But they did no matter what I said or felt they loved me and eventually I was able to too.)  Reach out as you have, again and again, find those you feel comfortable talking to, develop a relationship with them.  You are not alone, Genisa.  You are so not alone.  And you ARE beautiful.  Please reach out to me anytime.  I, like so many others, am here.

For my latest piece in the Huffington Post, click ‘here
To contribute to the Autism Positivity Blog click ‘here

A Letter to You (who wrote – “I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers”)

You are beautiful.

It doesn’t matter that we’ve never met.  It doesn’t matter that you do not know who I am.

You are beautiful.

You are beautiful exactly as you are, at this moment, no matter how sad, how angry, how confused or lonely you may feel, you are beautiful.  We live in a world and in a society, which fears that which it does not understand.  The majority of those people are different from you.  That does not make you wrong or bad or any other derogatory word that you may have heard directed at you, it simply makes you different.

You are beautiful.

There are others, others who are similar to you who also inhabit this world.  My daughter, Emma is one of them.  Emma is ten.  Emma does not know what google is or if she does, she cannot communicate that she does.  She, like you, is wired differently.  Emma is autistic.  She has many challenges.  There are things that are much, much harder for her to do, like reading and writing and speaking.  She has lots of sensory issues that cause her tremendous discomfort and even pain, but there are other things that are easy for her.  She is honest and full of love.  She is without guile, she does not bully or condemn, judge or gossip.  She is without inhibitions.  Emma loves music.  I think music speaks to her in a way that conversational language cannot.  When she dances to her favorite songs she becomes an extension to that music.  She incorporates it into her being and it brings her tremendous joy.  She is a free spirit and her beauty emanates from her without censorship.

She, like you, is beautiful.

Find your place in this crazy world.  Speak out and while many may not want to listen or may even try to silence you, do not let them.  Do not remain silent.  Add your voice to the chorus of others who are here with you, who are like you, who also have Aspergers.  Say what you feel.  Say what it is like to be you.  We need your voice, I need your voice.  My daughter cannot tell me these things, so I listen to others who are like her, but who can speak.  Each one of their voices is beautiful.  There are many, many people, like me who want to hear from you, who want to listen.

You are beautiful.

If people say things to you or about you that are cruel and hurtful, do not believe them.  Their words are not a reflection of you, they are a reflection of them.  There are many sad, angry, troubled people in this world who hurt others because of their rage and sadness.  No matter how much they may want you to believe that you had something to do with their unhappiness, you did not.

You are beautiful.

Someone typed into google – “I wish I didn’t have Aspergers.”  From that google search they found the blog Outrunning the Storm, a blog written by a mother of an  Aspergers child.  A number of bloggers got together and reached out to many of us, asking that we each write something, which will be posted on the newly created – AutismPositivity Day Flash Blog.  The above is my contribution.

For my latest piece in the Huffington Post – Running With Mermaids

To read Emma’s profile in The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, click ‘here.’