For most of my life, I was terrified of the world around me. To most people reading this, what I just said sounded insane. But if you have autism (specifically Asperger’s syndrome in my case) then this is a normal sentiment.
You see, when I was three years old, I lost my ability to speak. That sounds hard to believe especially if you know me in person, but at that age, my parents took me to Yale New Haven to get me tested and it turned out that I had Asperger’s syndrome.
What would follow would be going to preschool and being abused by my teacher who would take my shirt off in public and throw chairs on the ground if I or the other students wouldn’t listen to what she had to say. The only silver lining out of that experience was meeting my friend Ben who is one of my closest friends to this day.
My home life wasn’t much easier as my parents divorced when I was five. Funny enough, it happened on Halloween out of all days. What was scarier than ghosts and goblins however was the anxiety of having to pick a side and deciding which parent I liked better. I ultimately chose myself because the yelling I received from both of them had me crying too often.
Going to elementary school in the suburbs was ok. I tried to connect with people about movies and sports, but ultimately I was an outcast because while everyone was enjoying hot lunch and talking about Pokemon, I had to attend multiple forms of therapy which included speech, physical and occupational, whatever that means.
Apparently I needed physical therapy because my grabbing skills were that of an arcade claw. I also needed speech therapy because I had trouble pronouncing words (I still have trouble by the way, especially with th sounds.)
Once I reached middle school, life started to go downhill. When I was 13, I had my first episode of suicidal thoughts. At first I didn’t know why I was suicidal, but when I was 18, I later realized that I wanted to die because I felt so out of place everywhere I went.
The placebo for making feel with it was running track. Even as I won races and got into the best shape of my life, I still felt like an outsider. Maybe it was the fact that I spoke to myself in public and yelled adlibs in class that made me weird. I still do both of those things by the way and I’m proud of it.
High school was interesting for me. I didn’t go to any parties, rather, I would play Mario Party with my friends at the time while also ranting about how the special education teachers treated us. Looking back at it, they did their best, I just did not like going over algebra. Funnily enough, I was a part of the drama club for a majority of my high school career and I even got to play Officer Krupke in “West Side Story.” My unusually loud voice was perfect for the vicious police officer.
Even with the acting and the friends I had, I still felt like an outsider and I saw my classmates driving their cars and ripping their Juuls in class. It wasn’t until I went to Norwalk Community College where I started to find out who I was. As my home life was getting more chaotic, I took joy in making and seeing movies around the area. It also helped that NCC had film classes which, though they were hard as hell, gave me a way to geek out about movies and not seem too weird.
The highlight of my time in community college was when I became the assistant editor in chief at the college newspaper The Voice. Given how a year prior, I had stormed out of meeting for not listening to an editor, I realized that in order to be a good editor, I needed to contain my rage and try to work with my condition. It wasn’t always easy, but thanks to my friend and also editor in chief Edison, I was able to remain calm while also working on articles.
Eventually, I would transfer to the University of Connecticut where I would go to the Daily Campus and start off as a campus correspondent and later a staff writer. Admittedly, I felt out of place at first given that not only was I a junior transfer student, but that I was also autistic. No one gave me any problems for my condition, but sometimes, I would take edits on my articles too personally and consider quitting many times.
As a person on the spectrum, I feel like I am living in a world of my own. Whenever I talk to myself in public I feel free to express myself and to let out the energy I hold in from masking all day. Most days I wear two masks, one to fight COVID-19, the other to fight the stigma of my condition.Ian Ward
As a person on the spectrum, I feel like I am living in a world of my own. Whenever I talk to myself in public I feel free to express myself and to let out the energy I hold in from masking all day. Most days I wear two masks, one to fight COVID-19, the other to fight the stigma of my condition.
The hardest question I have ever had to answer is whenever someone asks me what autism is. You would think that I would immediately have the answer, given that I live with it every day. I always describe the basics of the condition to someone, like how it’s a neurological condition and how vaccines DO NOT cause it. But I always struggle to say anything else because it’s like a fish describing being in water. You’re just living through it and unless you’re on the spectrum, you won’t know what it is like.
Some of my biggest struggles today include the anxiety of being too excited about certain people or being too distant with others. I also have a bad habit of running away from an argument or situation if it scares me. This obviously doesn’t excuse any of my actions but I’m working on making sure I can handle other’s points of view while also expressing my own. I
Not everything about being autistic is bad however. I have been able to narrow in on my interests and find people that are also alike. I have also been able to make more time for myself instead of trying to fit into circles I know wouldn’t fit my best interests.
What I have learned over the past 23 years is that at the end of the day, it is my job to work on myself and be the best version of me that I can be. At the same time, it’s ok to ask for help and to reach out when things get tough. Shoutout to my friend Kevin for always being there and understanding me so well.
The most important lesson I ever learned however came back in October of 2020 when I was seeing a friend and we were talking about this bad habit I had. She said that I shouldn’t quit doing it for her, rather I should quit doing it because I want to do it. The moment I heard that, it changed everything.
For the longest time, I felt like I had to do everything for someone else. Whether that be getting good grades to impress my parents or volunteering at a homeless shelter for my resume, I always felt like I was subservient to someone other than myself. But after that conversation with my friend, I began to shift my life toward working on myself so that I would not have to feel bound by anyone’s expectations.
I have also been more accepting of my condition and I now realize that as long as I am not hurting anyone else, I can pace around outside my dorm, I can talk to myself and most importantly, I can play a Sporcle quiz on NBA starting lineups while replaying a song five times in a row.
If you have any questions about me and how I live with autism, feel free to ask. I’m not afraid of who I am anymore. There will be moments where I struggle with my identity and I will question my worth, but ultimately, my condition is not an anchor to my potential. To anyone on the spectrum reading this, you are more than your condition and remember that you have my support to be who you are. As long as you’re not a bigot or hurting others of course. To anyone who is not on the spectrum reading this, you are also special and I thank you for taking the time to read my article. It really means a lot.