A unique perspective of the world through the eyes of me, a girl with Asperger's Syndrome.
PLEASE feel free to leave comments and ask questions.
(Note: While I realize that not everyone has a Facebook or a Twitter, these are the best ways of getting in contact with me.)
Please note: I am available for presentations on autism awareness/advocacy and can be booked and hired by contacting me as mentioned.
Twitter: FOLLOW! (@AspergerSadie)
Facebook: Subscribe! (Erin Clemens)
YouTube: Subscribe! (Erinclem)
Great big THANK YOU to everyone who helped me with my book funding! My book, titled I Have Asperger's, has officially been published and can be found on Lulu.com in paperback or eBook format!
|Posted by Admin on August 11, 2014 at 6:10 AM||comments (2)|
Bullies are difficult to handle when you are in school, and especially on the spectrum. But I was able to find a way to get through it. Basically, I had to remember that what they said or did that was mean wasn't important. I kept telling myself not to sink to their level....but inside I would come up with hilarious comebacks to their taunting. (NEVER said them out loud.) Just knowing that I had the comebacks made me feel smart and stronger and I knew that what they said or did didn't matter.
Of course, sometimes I would think of the comebacks a bit too late, but they still made me smile. One time, I was walking home from school, and a group of kids were walking near me. One of them yelled out "Hey, those sandals make you look short!" I ignored them, and they went off in their own direction. A few minutes later (after they were gone, of course!) I realized how silly of a statement that had been. I mean, I'm not the tallest person in the world, sure. But I've also never worn high heels or any kind of shoe with a height. So I couldn't help but to laugh out loud, wishing I could have asked them "How in the world do my sandals make me look SHORT?"
Another incident was when I was actually in school. We were waiting for the class to start, and I was sitting near a friend of mine. I had been learning a little bit of Sign Language, and so I had also shared some of the alphabet with my friends. I don't even remember what the bully had said, but it didn't (and still doesn't) even matter. Because I looked over at my friend, and she started to sign "La, la, la" as if she were not listening to the cruel words of the bully. I began to smile and tried not to laugh out loud. The bully had no idea what my friend was saying, and could only recognize the letter "L" in the language. So they tried to be even meaner and responded "Yeah, 'LOSER' to you, too!" This only made me smile more! They had no idea, and they had just proven it! Once again, we had outsmarted the bully and kept our emotional strength.
No, these bullies' statements hadn't been exactly nice. But when I realized how silly they were, it made me feel so much stronger and smarter. Emotional strength and intelligence were my secret "weapons" when dealing with bullies. I honestly don't think they realized what they were up against. In the end, it was a battle they lost.
Because I'm here now, stronger and smarter than ever.
|Posted by Admin on June 23, 2014 at 6:50 AM||comments (0)|
This photo....this "word cloud", in my opinion, represents the autism community. Or, at least, it represents the IDEAL autism community. I asked a simple question to those I know in the autism community: Describe in ONE WORD what you are advocating for. As you can see, some of the words seem to be polar opposites of each other. What I love even more is that the word "acceptance" was placed right next to the word "cure". Why do I love this? Because I truly feel that it is the closest our community has been...symbolically. See, not everyone in the autism community will be advocating for the same thing. But that doesn't make them any less a part of the autism community! However, if we begin to fight against each other, the words will separate. We would no longer be a "word cloud". We would no longer be a community. What we need to do is agree to disagree. No, we don't ALL want EVERYTHING described here. In fact, I would be surprised if anyone wanted everything. But the point is, everyone wants SOMETHING. And it's important to respect that. Let's come together and form a community. Speak for yourself, respect others' opinions, and unite out of one main thing: autism.
|Posted by Admin on June 19, 2014 at 2:30 PM||comments (1)|
A few weeks ago, I saw a blog post featured by The Autism Onion that caught my attention. It was titled “Speak For Yourself…”. And, as a self-advocate for my life on the autism spectrum, I was initially annoyed. I figured it would be yet another person talking about some organization that they disagreed with. Finally, I decided to read it. Boy had I been wrong! Instead, it talked about how too many advocates themselves were speaking for others.
This post started out by mentioning a few phrases I’ve seen used often in the autism community. One statement, I noticed, I had even used myself.
“I don’t suffer from autism, I enjoy every moment of it.”
And while I look back and can obviously say that it’s not ALWAYS true, that isn’t the point. The point is the fact that I forgot to add a few important words to my statement. I forgot to mention that I can’t speak for everyone. I can only speak for myself.
I can’t speak for anyone else but myself, just as no one else can (or should) speak for me. In my opinion, part of being an advocate should include respecting others’ opinions. Whether I agree with them or not. I don’t have to like someone else’s opinion, but I need to remember to agree to disagree.
That’s why, I’m hoping you will join me on Sunday, June 22, 2014 in a flash-blog about what YOU advocate for. Please remember NOT to speak for others (IE, try not to use words such as “*WE* feel” or “it makes *US* feel”, etc.) Rather, use the statement “In my opinion”. Make sure to include in the title of your blog post the hashtag #InMyOpinionFlashBlog2014
|Posted by Admin on June 7, 2014 at 1:40 PM||comments (3)|
I just love making these communication books for others on the spectrum. If you or someone you know could use one, please let me know! I have to charge at least $45 for material fees + extra for shipping. But I am happy to laminate and put it together for no cost. See the photo for an idea of what a book looks like. You can have up to about 240 pictures in a book! .
To order a communication book if you live in the USA, please send a money order of $60 (I can only accept money orders due to personal financial reasons. PLEASE make sure you fill out the money order completely or the bank will not accept it.) along with a computer typed list of the words you would like in the book to:
P.O. Box 1873
West Chester, PA 19380
Also, please use a return address label or print your address very neatly, as I cannot read handwriting very well.
|Posted by Admin on April 3, 2014 at 10:20 AM||comments (2)|
Here is a video of my latest presentation! Check it out!
|Posted by Admin on February 13, 2014 at 8:25 AM||comments (4)|
I think I've finally figured out my issue with reading....AND I am starting to read better again! My issue is with my reading speed. I really enjoy reading things quickly. Sometimes, though I read it TOO quickly, and I miss words or even skip an entire line. This is sort of like trying to have a conversation on a cell phone with REALLY bad reception. I can read some of it, but without reading enough of the material I lose the context. This makes me have to re-read it. Over and over and over again. However, if I read too slowly, I get bored and my mind begins to wander. (I think this is where my ADHD plays a part in the issue.) I'm reading every single word, but I'm not connecting them because these other thoughts are interrupting the connections. It's as if I would read "See Jane run." as "See 'I need to email' Jane 'my Mom' run." I'm trying to read the sentence, but I'm thinking about the fact that I need to email my Mom. Instead, my brain tells me that Jane needs to email her Mom, and the word run is completely out of context.
So, as you can see, I do not have dyslexia. (At first I thought I did because I didn't know why the words were getting so mixed up in my head.) The reading too fast also explains why I may read whole words out of order. Instead of reading "See Jane run." I may read "Jane run see." because I realize I've missed a word and I go back to read it (even though now it's out of order).
The solution? When I start to notice that I'm not reading well, I need to slow myself down. If it gets too slow, I carefully adjust the speed and focus in on the word I'm reading. Then I think about the word I've read, form a picture of that word in my mind, and read the next word until I start to comprehend the text again. Once I start to understand what I'm reading, I can speed up a bit more so that it doesn't get too boring.
I'm still practicing this, but I was able to read a full chapter of an adult size novel on my own! I haven't done that in a few years.
|Posted by Admin on January 22, 2014 at 6:35 AM||comments (1)|
I think this blizzard has gotten to me. I've noticed that I started some vocal stimming. My vocal stimming usually consists of CONSTANTLY stating my thoughts out loud without thinking it through (even if they don't make sense). It also usually includes a lot of scripting. (Scripting is when you repeat things you've heard or seen, and it's often word for word.) I can be alone or with others when I do this. I didn't even realize that I had any vocal stims until about a month ago....but now that I know what it is, I realize that I've done it my whole life. It helps me to process my thoughts better. (Very similar to repeating a song that is stuck in your head until you get it out.)
|Posted by Admin on December 31, 2013 at 8:15 AM||comments (3)|
While growing up, I remember many times where I would see a picture of a large bin with a person putting a piece of garbage into it. Or I would see a picture of people separating items to their appropriate recycling containers. I walk by trash cans every day. I hear the trucks coming to collect it every week. I know what to do with trash at these times.
But when it comes to everyday life, I have no clue. At least not right away...
There are a couple of nearly empty boxes of stale cereal sitting on the kitchen shelf. If that cereal was still edible, and I had enough for a full bowl, that would be the right place for it. But time has passed and it no longer belongs there. So at what point am I supposed to realize that it's time to get rid of those boxes? When does that moment "click" and instead of pouring myself a bowl, I decide to throw away the crumbs and recycle the box? It doesn't. I put the box away.
There is a piece of candy that I find in my purse when I get home. I unwrap it and eat it. That's what you do with candy. But wait....there's still something left over. There's a wrapper that the candy was in. I'm so engrossed in what I want to do next, that I can't process what I'm supposed to do with this leftover piece of plastic. I either put it in my pocket or just completely drop it. I don't want to hold onto it, but I just don't remember what I'm supposed to do. I don't see it as garbage yet. I see it as a piece of candy that I've eaten. Or, perhaps I realize that there is another piece in my purse, and I might as well wait until I eat the other piece to figure out what I'm doing with these leftover remains.
This is how my mind works. I have Asperger's. I'm 24 years old, and I just finally started to realize when an item belongs in the trash or recycling.
|Posted by Admin on December 27, 2013 at 12:00 PM||comments (5)|
In 2012, I sold enough of these to buy an iPad and military grade screen protector and case for a class of kids with autism.
In 2013, I sold enough of them to provide a $1,200 scholarship for children with autism to attend a program at The Arc of Chester County, called ABBLE.
For the year of 2014, the money from the sales of these bracelets will continue to go towards the ABBLES program at The Arc of Chester County.
Please help me to sell more than ever this year!
I now have a PO box to collect orders for my Autism Awareness Duct Tape Bracelets and for the Autism Awareness Rainbow Loom Bracelets. Each one is handmade by myself. I have Aspergers. They are available by money order only in the US. They are $6 each ($3 goes to help people with Autism, and $3 helps to cover shipping and material fees, as well as to help sell more bracelets. Any leftover money will be donated as well.) Let me know if you are interested. Please remember to specify in your order which type of bracelet you are interested in! The Rainbow Loom Bracelets are one size fits all. The Duct Tape Bracelets come in Small, Medium, Large, and Extra Large. (Most women fit a Small or Medium. Men tend to fit Large or Extra Large. They go on like a bangle bracelet.) To order, please follow these instructions EXACTLY (otherwise, it's difficult for me to process your order correctly):
PLEASE use a return address label and PRINT (neatly, I cannot read handwriting very well) your name and address as well as the number of each size bracelet that you would like of the duct tape bracelets (Example: 1 small bracelet and 2 large bracelets) and/or the number of rainbow loom bracelets. PLEASE SPECIFY WHICH BRACELETS YOU WOULD LIKE. Send this information, along with $6 per bracelet (Money Orders only, PLEASE SEE * FOR INFORMATION ABOUT INTERNATIONAL MONEY ORDERS!) to:
P.O. Box 1873
West Chester, PA 19380-0131
*I have BIG news everyone! I believe I can start selling these bracelets internationally! If you are interested in buying a bracelet outside of the US, please send $10 per bracelet via international money order. The money order MUST be cashable in the US and you MUST specifically verify this with whomever you're buying the money order from. Follow all other instructions. Thanks!
A better idea for measurements of the duct tape bracelets:
Small bracelets have an outside circumference of 9.5 inches or less
Medium bracelets have an outside circumference of more than 9.5 inches but no more than 10 inches.
Large bracelets have an outside circumference of between 10.25 inches and 10.75 inches.
Extra Large bracelets have an outside circumference of about 11 inches or more.
Again, my wrist size is about 6.5 to 7 inches around, and I fit well into a medium, while JUST fitting into a small.
Add an Autism Awareness Ribbon Rainbow Loom Charm to your Autism Awareness Rainbow Loom Bracelet for only $2 more when you purchase the bracelet!
PLEASE NOTE: Purchase of charm by itself (WITHOUT PURCHASE OF BRACELET) costs $5 in the USA and $9 internationally.
|Posted by Admin on December 11, 2013 at 6:45 PM||comments (1)|
I remember being a young child and seeing the Inquirer or the Times, and thinking to myself "How will I ever be able to read that?" It looked so overwhelming with so much text, no pictures, and giant words that I couldn't understand. I thought I would be stuck reading children's books forever.
I didn't understand the fact that it's okay to want to read children's books. It's okay to enjoy pictures and not have an interest in tiny print. What I didn't understand, what hadn't ever been taught to me at school, was that reading should not always be work. That really, I should enjoy reading. And if that meant reading more children's books than adult books, that's okay. I got the impression from schools that listening to audio books was an activity which was frowned upon unless you couldn't see.
And so, with tears in my eyes, I would like to take a moment to be proud of the fact that I just read my first article from the New York Times. (Okay, so I'm still reading it.) And I'm enjoying it. The amazing part is that I didn't even realize it was a PART of that paper until I looked to see who had published it. I had just started reading.
I'd also like to take this moment to ask all schools to please allow children to read the books that they would like (appropriate ones, of course)! Please never tell them "no" just because a book seems a bit lower for their level. If they are struggling to enjoy a more difficult level, don't force them to continue, but HELP them to find a DIFFERENT book of that level they will enjoy.
I have never seen reading as fun. I have always thought of it as work. But not one teacher ever pointed out to me that it doesn't have to be work.
Now I understand.
|Posted by Admin on November 24, 2013 at 9:55 AM||comments (0)|
If you have ever been on a plane before, you are probably very familiar with the instructions for using the oxygen mask in case of an emergency. However, the importance is not just in the oxygen mask itself, but the ORDER in which the instructions are given. Look carefully at this photo.
The key is in step three. "Put on your oxygen mask." THEN step four "Assist the child with theirs."
In life, there are times when we want to help others. We care about them so much that we would rather help them than help ourselves. But the importance in putting on our own oxygen mask first is the fact that, without helping ourselves, we can't help others.
This concept applies to life in general. Whether it's health, time, money - you name it, if you don't have enough for you, how can you continue to help others?
Remember to put on your oxygen mask first.
|Posted by Admin on November 19, 2013 at 7:45 PM||comments (3)|
For some reason, no matter how much I try to say that speaking can be physically difficult to do, people don't believe me. So let me try using an example. Not everyone will be able to relate to this, but my hope is that enough people will understand.
Some of you may have played the game "Scattergories" before. If you haven't, run out and buy it or order it so that you can truly understand what this experience is like. Trust me, it's the best example I could ever think of and it's the closest I can come to explaining this situation. Let me explain how this game works:
(From Wikipedia) "The objective of the 2-to-6-player game is to score points by uniquely naming objects within a set of categories, given an initial letter, within a time limit."
So, say that the letter given is the letter "A". The first category of the first set is "Fruit". You would think that it's easy to just say "Apple" and move on. Sometimes it IS that easy, which is why I am able to speak so well sometimes. Other times, it's not quite so simple. (Especially when you need to think of a word that is unique!) Can you think of another fruit that starts with the letter "A"? I hope you've already thought of it, because time's up! By the way, that's just the first category in the set. We haven't even gotten to the next 8 or 9 categories.
If you think this is simple, I urge you to try the game for yourself. It's not as easy as it seems. And if you think it's difficult, then maybe you have a glimpse into my world. It's not that I don't want to speak. It's that I literally cannot. It's not that I don't know what apples are. (By the way, another fruit that starts with the letter "A" is an Apricot.) It's not that I don't know what fruit is, or how to play the game itself. It's that my brain doesn't process it well. And when I'm under that much stress or I feel pressured in some way, I just can't speak.
|Posted by Admin on November 17, 2013 at 3:50 PM||comments (3)|
A lot of people tend to believe that people on the spectrum can only think in "black and white". That there is no room for a "gray" area. Maybe some people on the spectrum are like that. I can't speak for everyone. But I see things differently. It's not that I CAN'T think in "gray" terms, it's that I don't KNOW there are "gray" areas.
Imagine if when you were growing up, you were taught that the colors green and yellow were the same color. So when you are driving, all you see are the "stop" and "go" colors. There is no such thing as a "slow" color, because you have been taught that it is the same color as "go" (Slow is yellow, go is green....but you have been taught that the two colors have the same meaning.) Now, after years of knowing only the stop or go, someone asks you why you don't slow down. Why don't you see that "gray" area? It's not because you can't. It's because you never knew it existed. What is this "slow" color that they are talking about? You never heard of it that way.
It's not that I CAN'T see the "gray" area. Sometimes, I just don't know that it's there. Or maybe I just don't know specifics, like at what speed am I considered to be going "slow"? So don't get mad at me for not seeing it. Just teach me about it!
|Posted by Admin on November 11, 2013 at 4:15 PM||comments (1)|
It's just as important to teach someone on the spectrum to recognize when they are getting upset as it is to teach them to calm themselves down when they are already upset. Being proactive about a meltdown can be the difference between a small bump in the day and the end of the day. If you are a caregiver to someone on the spectrum, let them know if you think there may be a trigger up ahead. Then help them to see the options on how to deal with it before they are too upset to do so. You can even have them make a list with you! When the trigger arrives, remind them of these options again and show them the list. This process is a really important part towards independence!
|Posted by Admin on November 3, 2013 at 10:55 AM||comments (3)|
I don't like people touching my head. It's just something that makes me uncomfortable. This means I also can't stand getting my hair cut. I can't really see what the person is doing. I feel little hairs tickling me all over. My arms are stuck underneath a cover that is keeping more hair from getting on my clothes. I can hear the scissors. I feel the heat of the hair drier. I can hear the sound of the hair drier. I smell the hair care products. Top it off with the endless chatter, and it's just not my favorite event.
So this is what I do: I get my hair cut once a year, by the same person. This person knows me and knows that I like the same cut every time. (Which makes them a pro!) I have them cut off as much as I can stand while still being able to tuck it behind my ears. I do this in the Spring so that my hair is nice and short for the warm weather to come. Then, I donate the hair to Locks of Love, and I'm set for the year.
|Posted by Admin on October 21, 2013 at 10:35 AM||comments (2)|
Many, many people experienced Facebook's technical issues this morning. Many people were unable to post, comment, or like anything on Facebook. The community panicked. How are we supposed to connect? How are we supposed to communicate? Lots of us headed over to Twitter or Tumblr instead.
Imagine if this was our life everyday. Facebook wouldn't get a lot of business, would it? But what if Facebook was the main way the whole world communicated, and you were the ONLY one experiencing the issue? THAT is what it feels for me to be unable to speak as someone on the autism spectrum. People are talking. I can maybe get in one or two words, but then I freeze. Everyone starts wondering why I stopped. It's not that I don't want to talk. It's that I can't. My Facebook is down.
This is why it's SO important to have other ways to communicate. For times when I crash. I may not always need to use Twitter, but when Facebook was down, I know I wasn't the only one to headed over there. I may not always have issues with speaking, but when I do, please be willing to communicate with me in other ways!
|Posted by Admin on October 1, 2013 at 4:25 PM||comments (4)|
There is a saying in the autism community that “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” It’s another way to say that no two people on the spectrum are exactly the same.
As an autism self-advocate, I’m always looking for ways to spread awareness. Entering the photography contest in the local fair inspired me to delve further into the art. It wasn’t long before I took a photo of a puzzle piece in hopes of combining the advocacy and photography into one. (Puzzle pieces are recognized as a symbol of autism awareness, representing the mystery and complexity of the autism spectrum.) However, my end result wasn’t quite what I had imagined. My goal was to show how everyone was different. I thought about the idea of coloring in each puzzle piece a different way. Even better, I thought about letting others color in their own individual pieces to make one giant collaborative puzzle. Thus, The Puzzle Piece Project was born.
The Puzzle Piece Project is a way to show everyone just how unique each person on the spectrum is. It is one large puzzle made of many individual pieces of artwork, each created by someone on the autism spectrum. Each piece is as unique as the individual who made it. Some use words, some use photos, others use drawings or other forms of creative expression. While each one is different, they are all connected in one way: each one is on the autism spectrum.
(Special thanks to Kelli Belarde for her help with the puzzle piece outline, and to Frank Louis Allen for his help with the final project assembly!)
|Posted by Admin on September 30, 2013 at 9:20 AM||comments (0)|
I think parents need to see the struggles of autism as they would see a child burning themselves on a stove. Yes, it can hurt. But you can't keep them from burning themselves all the time. Eventually, the child will just have to learn the hard way once in a while. At the same time, getting rid of the stove (the "source" of the pain/ what parents would see as the autism aspect) leaves you unable to cook meals for the child. It leaves the child hungry. Do not try to get rid of the autism, but try to help them cope and use it in a way that helps them. Teach them how not to burn themselves, and how to cook! THAT is what autism is about.
And don't forget, the stove doesn't just represent autism. It can represent any difference in a person.
|Posted by Admin on September 30, 2013 at 9:15 AM||comments (0)|
You know, it's not JUST that I don't understand the world around me. It's that the world around me ALSO doesn't understand me. It's a two way street. And one of the issues is that society doesn't realize that in order to meet in the middle, I have to work HARDER to get to the same place. So rather than meeting in the middle, society meets me after I'm PAST the middle (thinking they have done the same amount of work), and then wonders why I'm unhappy with the amount of work they are doing. It's like having a race between a monkey and an ant climbing a tree. Even though the tree is the same height, the ant needs to work a lot harder to get the same distance in comparison to the monkey.
|Posted by Admin on September 17, 2013 at 9:20 AM||comments (6)|
Are you one of those people who has a fear of public speaking? It's not that you can't talk all the time. It's only when you get up in front of a crowd. Maybe you have clinical depression, like me. You aren't ALWAYS feeling depressed, but when you do it's debilitating. This is all similar to my inability to speak due to my Asperger's.
I can talk, most of the time. I can write very well. People always tell me how articulate I am. However, there are times when I literally cannot say a word. And people think I'm ignoring them, mad at them, or just didn't hear them. They get impatient, or they get confused. THEN I have to try to explain to them what's going on....but I can't. Because I can't speak.
Sometimes, I get really anxious in a new situation, and I don't know how to talk. There are NO words that I can form, because I don't know how to apply things I've already learned to current situations. So the other day, when I was at the doctor's office, and I had to go up and give them my form to check out....I didn't know what to say. They asked me "What would you like to do?" Well, I was supposed to get lab work before I left. But this thought didn't come into my brain right away. I was trying to figure out how to form the sentence, when they said "Are you checking out or do you need a follow up visit?" Well, NEITHER of those options were my answer. What was my answer I was going to give? I had forgotten. By now, it felt like a full 10 or 15 seconds had passed and I hadn't said a word. People were waiting and getting impatient. Now I was under more pressure. I looked over to my Mom, who thought I would be able to do this on my own, and gave her a look of sheer panic. I could barely even say the word 'Mom' to get her attention in the first place. My brain was going a million miles a minute, trying to figure out my next move and what I needed to say. Finally, after another few seconds of my silence, my Mom took over.
It's not that I didn't WANT to do this on my own. It's not that I didn't know that I needed lab work. It's that I didn't know how to explain to the person that I didn't want to check out, even though I was AT the check out spot. It was that I didn't know HOW to answer her question which gave me two options, neither of which I wanted. It was that people were waiting and I was not finished. I had barely begun. It was that I literally couldn't speak.
It's not that I can't speak ALL the time. But when I don't know what to say, I can't say it.