Do you know what it’s like to live with Autism in a world of “normal people”? I do! My name is Ryan, and I am a “normal” average teenager with Asperger Syndrome.
I always knew that I was a little different, acted a little different, maybe took things a little too literally. One day my father told me to “bring the garbage cans in” and I brought them into the house. Another time a coach told me “to steal second base” I took the base out of the ground. I had a substitute teacher in 3rd grade who changed my life from that day forward. There was an aid in our class and I never knew why she was there. That day I felt the aid was hovering me and in my 3rd grade way told her I didn’t need her help. The teacher told me “that aid is here for you because you have a disability” I had no idea what that word disability meant but It didn’t sound good.
The minute I got off the bus I rushed to my mom to ask her. Through the tears in her eyes and anger on her face she sat me down to explain what a disability WASN’T and What Asperger’s was. The key thing I remember from this whole conversation was her saying, “ a disability is only a disability if you let it hold you back. No disability can ever define who you are and what you are capable of”. But to me, I only knew I wanted to get rid of that aid in the classroom and wanted to be a “normal” kid like my friends.
Autism was and is a dreaded word for me. I can’t really identify with it because there are so many different feelings crammed within one word. Confusion and frustration are the main ones for me though. Confusion because I am a 17-year-old boy who actually feels “normal”, but still has this stigma attached to me. When autism is talked about in class or a group of people I get frustrated. Not because of the word “autism or autistic” but because I don’t tell people. It’s not that I am embarrassed or ashamed. I just don’t want people to look at me differently or feel bad for me.
So after stealing second base during that game, I realized baseball wasn’t for me. I wanted more responsibility, more action. I signed up for soccer and was put into the goal position. It was something that would change me as silly as it sounds. It was an important role for me I was able to be apart of a team where I felt accepted and just like the others and I excelled in it.
So today as you read this, what is it like living with a disability? I am a 17-year-old boy who is applying for colleges, I am the Varsity Goalie with an amazing amount of saves, I have friends, and drive. I have work harder than any of my friends know to overcome this and you know what? I realized that I am a “NORMAL” teenager!
While I still laugh sometimes thinking of that baseball game and every time a kid got on second base they wobbled, I realize I still have some things I need to work on like organizational skills, and making sure I look people in their eyes, but hey what “normal” teenager doesn’t? I can say this while I vaguely remember all the therapy my mom tells me about, no matter what colleges accept me or what colleges don’t I am so proud of myself that I never let this define me or hold me back and so thankful to my mom more than she knows for not letting it. “Why me?” is a question that I, my family, or the smartest man on the earth will ever be able to answer. At least not now. What is “normal” anyway? We are all different in our own way.
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