My entire life I knew I was different. There was something about me which never quite fit in. However, it was not until I was twenty-three and student taught that I became fully aware of why I was different.
During my early childhood I was labeled as special needs. In kindergarten, my mom was told she had to send me to a special school. Experts also advocated for me to be put on Ritalin. My mother refused; she felt I was perfectly normal. She was right. For the most part, I was a normal child. Sure there were a few things which did cause me to stand out. I was petrified of the fire drill. It was so bad that my mother had to be notified of when a fire drill would take place so she could be present at school just in case. When we went to Disney World, I was terrified of the Indiana Jones stunt show at MGM studios. I could not stand the loud noises. My mom had to physically remove me from the show for me to calm down.
In addition to my phobia of loud noises, I also threw tremendous temper tantrums. I was never happy with myself. I always had to be the best at whatever I did. It was frustrating, because many simple tasks did not come as easy to me as it did for others. Instead of acknowledging this is who I am, I freaked out. It was so bad that I used to ask my parents to throw me down the stairs and physically punish me in hopes it would make me better.
As I grew, these fits subsided, but did not fully disappear. During my high school cross country and track days, I would become frustrated when I did not run as fast as I wanted. Some meets I handled it as a class act. Other meets I would throw a fit. I would commonly use the words, “I fucking sucked.” The one state meet I competed in exemplifies this. I had the honor of being part of a 4X800 team that made it to the state track and field competition. That race, I ran a personal best by two seconds. Still, I was the slow leg. The team was also six seconds off the school record. I was bound and determined that I was the one who had to run six seconds faster so we could have achieved that school record.
Eventually, I was at a point where my fits occurred about once a year and only in front of my parents and grandparents. Recently, an extra person has the misfortune of seeing those fits, my girlfriend. The fact she was able to witness one and help me through it made me recognize she is the one for me.
Still, finally at age twenty-three is when I learned I was on the asperger’s spectrum. That year, I student taught in a fifth grade class that I could not manage. I also commonly misread my cooperating teacher’s social cues, ultimately leading to disputes between us.
After barely surviving my student teaching, I had to do a lot of soul searching. It was at that point in my life where I was starting to learn about aspergers. When I started to sit down and analyze it, I saw myself in there. I exhibited many of the traits of aspergers. I indubitably had a high-functioning form of it, or else I could not be where I am today. There were similarities I could not deny though. I had speech therapy as a kid, I struggle with temper tantrums as an adult still, I want to be a perfectionist, I become obsessive compulsive about topics and worry about them, I will misread social cues, and I was afraid of loud noises as a kid. These are all explained by aspergers. For once in my life, it all made sense. It explained who I was and limited me at the same time. I became painfully aware that some things that I wanted to do, I probably could never do because of it. For example, I would be better teaching elementary school students than middle school students, because aspergers has made it easy for me to relate to elementary children’s innocence, but makes it hard for me to understand the hormone-filled minds of adolescents.
I write this article to simply take pride in myself for the first time. Aspergers has given me both strengths and weaknesses. In summation, aspergers presents many challenges, I know I would not be the great man I am today if it was not for it.