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Anonymous Questions on Life with ASDs

I have a text file I maintain with question and topic suggestions for each of my blogs. Many of the questions to The Autistic Me open with, "I didn't want to post this publicly…" and then proceed to ask questions that range from the obviously personal to those I suppose relate to a private matter. Most of these questions are not about my private life — but asking the question reveals what someone else must be struggling with in life.

Allow me to post a few of these topics and some short responses.

Q: I am being bullied at work/school/local club.

Ask a friend or family member what they suggest. I am the least qualified person imaginable to answer that question, since I tend to simply leave situations I dislike. If I don't like my work space, I leave the job as soon as possible. If I felt uneasy with a teacher, I would try to take a different course. If I don't like a social group, I stop attending the meetings. My method isn't the best approach for most people.

If you are in a larger company or university, there are human resources departments and disability specialists. I would go to HR with any concerns in a workplace. At a university, contact the office that oversees disability services. I have gone to both of these in the past. Sometimes they help, sometimes they do not — but at least you can try to resolve issues before they get out of hand.

Q: I don't like going to {blank} but my family/friends/spouse love it.

Trade discomforts. If my wife is willing to go to a play with me, then I should trade her time doing whatever she loves. Yes, that's my real-life example — I like live theatre, musicals, opera, and other "cultural" events. She doesn't like them. I've dragged her along to too many places she'd rather not be. Try to trade that time, somehow.

Thankfully, my wife doesn't like many things I don't enjoy. I'm lucky. Both of us would be happy to spend hours in craft stores, bookstores, history museums, and wandering gardens.

Q: Do people think you are normal?

You'd have to ask them. I have no idea what "normal" is — but I certainly don't think I'm that odd. I am not "disabled" in my mind, simply a bit awkward at times. I have some physical limitations, but they also aren't obvious most days. I assume most people think I am as "normal" as an over-educated teacher, writer, programmer, geek, can be.

Q: Do you have many friends?

I have a few, but we left friends and family behind in California and Minnesota. We're still new to Pennsylvania. I believe we have a few friends here, but that might be presumptuous of me.

Q: Do you like Big Bang Theory?

I've addressed this several times. No, I do not. I haven't seen a complete episode, and I don't really care to.

Q Part 2: What do you read and watch?

Most of my books are non-fiction: history, economics, philosophy, religion, art, graphic design, and computer programming. The last book I read was a history of economics and I am currently reading a programming text.

My wife and I just watched "Pillars of the Earth" and I enjoy historical fiction. I actually liked the old 1970s and 80s miniseries, like "Roots" and "Thorn Birds" for some reason. I have lost track of how many times I've seen Jane Austen adaptations, especially the BBC/A&E version of "Pride and Prejudice." I love classic films, too, including silent films and foreign films.

Q: Do you have children?

No, but we do consider our cats family.

Q: Have you tried {fill-in-the-blank} to treat your symptoms?

I've addressed this before, too. I'm probably not interested in treatment X. I'm not going to change my diet, I'm not going to take any pills, and I am not going to see any specialist promising a "cure" for my traits. I have seen doctors for my other medical issues, such as migraines and my palsy.

Q: Why do you dislike the terms "Aspie" and "Autie"?

They don't work for me. I am not "proud" to have an ASD diagnosis, it is simply something applied to me by some specialists with a book of labels.

Q: Do you disclose your ASD to people?

Not unless I have to — or if they read this blog. I am not an activist, and I don't really see how the ASD affects 90 percent of my daily life. (My wife might disagree.) I know my limits and try to avoid situations that would exacerbate my autistic traits. If I don't feel well, my wife tries to convince me to stay home, knowing everything will be a trigger. I'm not compelled to discuss autism with most people I meet.

Q Part II: Don't you speak to groups about life with an ASD diagnosis?

Yes, I do speak to groups, but that's different. A support group or people attending a conference are seeking information for a purpose. If I can help, I will. But, my students don't need to know about my ASD. Most of my colleagues don't need to know. If someone asks, I'll answer questions, but to me it is like living with any challenge — it is simply a part of my life, not my entire being.

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