Job Interview

Dear Hiring Committee:

I made it through the screening process. You only know what I put on paper so far. Now we meet for the first time. You seem like an affable group. Smiles and handshakes all around. Then, “What’s your dog’s name?” A harmless question, really. But you noticed I use a service dog. You seem okay with it as she settles at my feet ignoring everyone.

The interview goes well. We have a sheet of prepared questions, ten in all including the ultimate “Do you have any questions for us?” I answer them easily, gauging your interest by the notes you take, or don’t take. I see you watching me and hope it’s because you’re hanging off my every word and not wondering what’s so wrong with me that I have a service dog.

Oops. I “forgot” to mention I’m Autistic. I can pass off as NT pretty well. I’ve been doing it most of my life. You don’t seem to pick up on any of my stims (yes, I rub the skin between thumb and finger when I’m nervous) or the bit of rigidity that sometimes shines through in my answers. I choose not to disclose because I’m afraid it will bias you. I’m afraid you will only see my Autism and not all the experience and qualifications I bring to the table. I’m afraid you will judge me not worthy to work because you are not familiar with people like me. Whew, made it through the interview!

Oh wait. I “forgot” to attach myself to the bag of IV fluids I run all day using a pump. It’s a bit obvious, you see. It makes me look fragile. The pump’s clicking noise is like an adding machine. Ka-clunk. Ka-clunk. Ka-clunk. Every 8 seconds. In a quiet room, you can hear the pump doing it’s job. I don’t want you to be distracted from ME. I’m the focus here. Can I do the job? YES, I can. Do you need to worry about my pump? No. I can handle it. The fluids make it possible for me to ask for this job. You see, they keep me out of the hospital.

It’s kind of funny that the job is with Disability Services and I’m afraid to disclose my disabilities because they might disqualify me. That’s how strongly I sense the stigma of being disabled. Sure, this will all come out if you hire me. I’ll deal with that when it happens. At least I know you hired me for ME and not out of some misguided sense of filling an EEO place. Yep, we’ll have to work around appointments, perhaps more so than an “average” employee but not so much that I can’t do the job.

There you have it. You didn’t ask and I didn’t tell. There’s a certain beauty to this dance. We both have to take risks and hope the payout is worth it. I’m sure you didn’t disclose everything about the job. I quite sure you didn’t tell me about the personalities I will have to “fit in” with in this position. So, I don’t feel bad about leaving out a few things that really don’t impact how well I can do the job. That’s what this whole process is about, right? Finding the most qualified candidate to do the job.


Oysters and Life


Bully Me 2

Thirteen in the thick of a cornfield
I learned to fight, keep roads tied, and not chill
Never did change, stayed strange, hopped a train
My first chance I got out of Smallville
Life has it’s way of movin’ you on, don’t it?~ Kenny Chesney, Don’t It

My daughter asked me a question a few weeks ago. How did I deal with the bullies in school? Bullying has become a front stage issue. When I was much younger, it was tolerated as long as no blood was shed. Boys will be boys and all even though girls are sometimes much wore bullies.

Truth is, I did learn to fight. Most of the time I used words. Trust me when I tell you that using words is challenging, especially when you have an extensive vocabulary. I fluently spoke three languages…the Queen’s English, American and Sarcasm. Unfortunately, Sarcasm only works if you use words the recipient understands. Otherwise it just goes right past them.

I threw a fair few punches at school. By the time I was in Junior High, the pack of bullies drew immense pleasure from teasing me. My locker was broken into. I was tripped in the classroom. I was shoved to the ground in PE. So, I learned. I learned how to fight back. I shouldn’t have needed to, but the teacher’s didn’t stop the physical threats. So, I got suspended. Before school, in school, after school. I was a regular on the circuit. By eighth grade, we were back to just words.

By high school, I had learned to just avoid the bullies. Head low, mouth shut. Move along and stay invisible. By my junior year, I had checked out. I started attended college and working. Not much time was spent at the actual high school. My senior year I had 3 classes, including two teacher assistant slots.

To answer the question…I dealt with bullies by becoming a bully. Not exactly a proud moment when you realize that. Certainly not the advice I would give my child or anyone else. We are much more aware of bullying and it’s effects than we were thirty years ago.

I did pretty much what the lyrics above talk about. I didn’t grow up in Smallville, but I left when I was 22. I remember it felt good to leave all that behind and start over. And over. And over. In some ways, my nomadic lifestyle was a blessing in that I could look forward to a move and reinventing myself. By the time we settled, I had a much better grasp on things.

Yes, it took me until my early 30s to realize I could be me. So my advice to my kids? Head up, feet forward and keep moving. Soon, the bullies will lose interest. You will learn to focus on the good things around you and the bullies will fade into the background. Does this always work? No. But about 75% of the time you are able to keep moving.

That’s what counts…being able to move forward. Each day will bring fresh challenges. Head up, feet forward and you will meet those challenges. Life is messy. You don’t need to clean up everyone else’s mess. Focus on growing into the best version of you. That’s what I would say today.

Speaking up

Today is Autistics Speaking Day. No connection to a certain organization that thinks Autistics can’t speak. It’s about Autistics telling their stories. So, here’s mine.

I went to public schools in the US. I have memories of being derided by peers, shunned, called to the office and generally “not good” times. I often wonder why my parents didn’t “crack” more often given how much trouble I got in to. Note to self: Arguing with teachers when you are the student is relatively impossible.

I had good times too. Caring teachers including Bob Cleckner, Randy Nissly and Carol Dunning. There were others who allowed me to embrace my inner weirdo. I wrote papers on Norse Mythology for Gayle Fisher because everyone else wrote about Greek or Roman. Let’s just say that not having the Internet in 1985 made that project very challenging. And yet, she let me go and learn instead of trying to force me into a box.

I still believe that is the key to my relatively successful adult career. My actions and thoughts may seem “not mainstream” but I’ve learned that’s okay. I’ve learned to express myself in ways that while “not mainstream,” are close enough to be interesting. It’s okay that my stream runs parallel to others. It makes life more interesting and certainly more satisfying.

I was diagnosed 2 years ago as an adult. To borrow some words…suddenly things made more sense to me. At first, I tried to carry on as I always had. Now I openly embrace my neurodiversity. I tell people. Not all the time, but if they comment on the way I present things, I will say that thinking differently allows me to expand their horizons. That being Autistic is challenging, but not impossible. That I can still hold a job and a conversation, even at the same time <sarcasm>.

I have been fortunate that the only abuse inflicted upon me was through the standard punishments at school. I don’t recall that I was singled out. I was in the office a lot, but so were many other kids. I spent my fair share of being grounded at home. Through the long lens of time, I actually had a pretty awesome childhood.

I feel for those who didn’t have the opportunities I did. No Autistic should be penalized for being Autistic. I do remember that we had special schools and that I did not see a person with a permanent disability in my class until about 1980. I can’t tell you what went on in those schools other than my mother volunteered at one.

I can tell you that in 1992 I worked in a school in Virginia that still had a “quiet room” that was padded. Most of the students spent some time in there every day. I will also say that it was a school for the emotionally disabled. After being punched and kicked a few times, I understood why the room was used. Students were not placed there just for verbally lashing out. It is hard to describe even now. I’m not sure that de-escalation techniques would have worked. I do remember that there were safety checks every 3-5 minutes and as soon as the student was done with physical lashing out, we brought them out and processed the what’s and why’s. No student spent more than 15 minutes in the room.

Today, I volunteer my time helping families affected by Autism. I help schools recognize the need for differentiated instruction. I speak for students who are struggling in mainstream classes. I speak for self-determination and recognition of different, not less.

So, there it is. As an adult, I am reflecting on the impact of Autism on my life. I understand not everyone shares my experiences. I do want people to understand that what shaped me as a child continues to impact me as an adult. I take the good with the bad and try to make the best of it.



Today I met an amazing woman. She’s a foster mom with two of her own kids at home. Yesterday she received a call from social services asking her if should could take a sibling group of 4. With less than an hour’s notice, the children were at her door. As they were being dropped off, the social worked said…by the way the 7-year-old is Autistic.

It turns out that the woman works with a friend of mine. My friend gave her my number and urged her to call me for ways to work with the 7-year-old. The foster mom has no experience with anyone Autistic. Yes, she did call me. We texted over the next five hours as she observed the children. We talked about giving instructions and requesting compliance.

This morning I went to her house to observe the children before we went to the elementary school they will be attending. I had already explained to “mom” the possibilities and what the best placement might look like. As we sat in the conference room with the school staff, mom tried to keep up. The school staff kept speaking “school-ese” and didn’t even notice mom had no idea what they were talking about.

So, I jumped in. As a special education teacher, I was able to help the staff understand some of the unique needs I had already observed. Mom was able to get questions answered in terms she understood. The 7-year-old won’t be able to start school until Monday, mainly because of the many pieces must be in place for him to be safe.

I am really glad this mom reached out. She’s doing something most of us wouldn’t dream of doing….taking in children who have nowhere else to go. She’s going the extra mile to be an anchor for these kids whose lives were turned upside down. And she’s willing to learn more about Autism instead of refusing to take the kids. That is an amazing person.


Bully Me

I have so many different things to write about because of things that are happening now. But I read this article and I just couldn’t stop the words from tumbling out of my brain. You may have seen it. You can find the original here : Bullying.

In case you don’t have time to click and read….

  1. Bullying promotes Autism friendly programs. If you believe this, let me give you my Paypal info too. You can just drop some cash in there instead of supporting said “program.”
  2. Team Work: Working together as a team in partnership with you as the parent, the school’s teaching staff, aides, principal, counselors, and psychologists will provide the safest environment for your child to learn and enjoy.
    Um, yeah. I don’t know about you but no matter how hard I try, I can’t get the school to cooperate. It’s always my fault.
  3. Autism Awareness Every Month: Yep, people become really aware of how “perfect” their kids are. And they still don’t give a crap about you, your child or your family.
  4. Kids Learn Skills: The bullies become better bullies and the victims become more traumatized.
  5. Builds Strength: As your child learns defensive skills from you, his friends, and his teachers, he is growing stronger connections with everyone.
    As your child is getting either the physical or emotional crap beat out of them, I’m sure this is what we’re all thinking.
  6. More Friendships: Because we all know that other kids flock to the victim’s side and abandon the bully, who is usually seen as more popular.
  7. Overall Well-Being Are you seeing a pattern yet? I would love to know how my kid’s well being is improving as more and more peers shun my child for being a victim.
  8. Healthy Relationships: Ways to deal with bullying also help your child deal with sibling rivalry, ‘stranger danger’, or any other personal threat.
    My kid doesn’t even know what a “healthy relationship” looks like because someone is always beating the crap out of them, including the verbal abuse from the teacher.
  9. Increased Life Skills I can see this one. I’ll tell you why in a few sentences to follow.
  10. Self-Esteem: Ironically, and in spite of the bully’s goal to do the opposite, your child will grow self-confidence and self-preservation esteem. By now, I am wondering exactly what corner of this fair land the author hails from.

This is just a “kids” version from the author. Let me know give you a peek behind the curtain….

I’m an adult with Autism. I’m 47 years old. Some of my most vivid memories from my childhood involve many of the above items. I didn’t develop “self-preservation” skills. I survived. I survived the forced teamwork, where I was always picked last (how’s that for a self-confidence boost). My parents had the joy of dealing with the school on  a regular basis. It was not even cordial. Most of the time, my mom had to come and explain why I was in trouble. You know, because the staff was so supportive and understanding.

Life skills…I did learn to beat the crap out of bullies. I did learn how not to tick off my teachers. Yep, don’t question them at all. I learned to blend in by wearing the “in” style of clothes and mimicking my “successful” peers. I guess you could say I did learn life skills.

So, here’s the deal. The author of this article claims to be an ABA professional. She claims to have helped thousands “find their way” through books and seminars. I don’t believe in ABA. Maybe it’s because it didn’t exist in my world. Maybe because I feel focusing on forcing yourself to be something you are not is a waste of time. Maybe it’s because I didn’t eat enough glue in preschool, wait….kindergarten.

I am a living, breathing human being who still has to deal with bullies. They are everywhere, including on the internet in articles like this. Why is it EVER okay to say bullying is a good thing?




How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again.
It’s always been the same, same old story.
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.~ Cat Stevens

In the song, the artist is having a conversation between a father and son. Here, I want you to think about the words in a different context. It’s no secret I have multiple medical issues. I recently had a “minor” procedure that, now entering week 3, has wreaked havoc with my life.  Combined with some medication changes, I literally have no life right now.

So what do those words mean? I’m tired of explaining myself. It’s hard enough when I feel well. When I don’t, well, it sucks to have to keep repeating myself. Over and over to different doctors because for some reason, they can’t read notes. They refuse to listen to me. They refuse to listen to each other. It’s like shouting to the vast oceans.

Part of this is my Autism. I just can’t communicate my needs correctly all the time. I assume people know what I need/want and they don’t. They no more know how to read minds than I do. I think they hear me, but they don’t really get what I’m saying. Honestly, I speak fluent English as do  most of my medical providers. Somehow, it seems to come out gibberish.

The worst part is that most doctors don’t seem to hear me. I’m told to listen and not question. Right now, I have refused treatment for one disease because of my doctors. Honestly, it’s frustrating all involved parties. But, I felt I had no choice. There was a lot of demand placed on me with no expectation that they listen. My words fell on deaf ears. So, I refuse. Childish? Absolutely. Effective? Quite possibly since outcomes drive evaluations.

I’ve also been denied treatment in these last few weeks. It seems that my doctors, even the ones who just met me in the ER, know more than I do. I went in for pain…it seems they somehow missed a 3mm kidney stone and are now calling it a fragment. Let’s just say that it’s significant and painful. Did I receive treatment? Not really. My blood sugar decided to go low most likely from the stress. So, they focused on that. They didn’t even check for stones and consequently figured I was just seeking drugs.

You can go in the archives to find more thoughts about seeking. In this case, I just shut down. Doctor’s seemed to be yelling at me. Demanding things. Angry voices. And I, adult and all, just shut down. I have to say, doctors have no idea how to deal with Autism. Yelling doesn’t help. It really never helps. But it’s what they do. So, we go nowhere. I don’t receive treatment, they don’t get answers.

So there is no win/win. It’s all lose/lose. The doctors can’t treat me. I shut down and can’t answer questions. One day, my wish is for compassionate physicians who aren’t “in your face” or “detached” from what they do. .Until then, I guess I’ll just be a petulant child.




Sing, Sing, Sing by Benny Goodman

Middle turns 21 today. He’s into music. I found the perfect song for him….

Twenty-one seems, I don’t know, young. Exuberant. Jubilant. Excited. Snappy. And jazzy.

All the rites of passage of youth are supposed to culminate on this day. I don’t feel that way because there is so much more to life than being able to buy alcohol legally. But, Middle likes to hang out with friends and he’s a tad younger than many Graduate students, so now he can actually go listen to bands at local clubs. I’m sure that is one thing he will like.

Yes, you read that right. I’m really very proud of Middle. He’s moving through college at an advanced pace, set entirely by him. I was told 19 years ago that college wasn’t in Middle’s future.

I hope you’ve read enough of this blog to know that “can’t” “won’t” and “never” aren’t words I use. Middle went further than those pediatricians said he would. He is exceeding the expectations of many along the way who whispered “just give up.” Middle took that as a challenge…genetics and all I guess.

Middle doesn’t like me to talk much about him. I’ll just say that I’m mighty happy he didn’t listen to those who would have denied him opportunity. I’m tickled that he’s making a life for himself. We still talk, but he’s the one steering the ship now.

So, Happy Birthday to one of the most amazing young men I know.