I went the first fifty years of my life not knowing I had Asperger’s. I always knew I was different and never fit in but didn’t know why. I thought I was the only person who had all the social difficulties and sensory issues that affected my entire life. I’ve maintained a successful career as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist for the past 26 years, working full time at a high stress, fast-paced job. One day a co-worker’s son was diagnosed with Asperger’s, and that’s how I came to learn of the exciting news that I have it! Receiving my formal diagnosis was the turning point of my life. Until that point, I never had and friends, and had endless social blunders in the workplace. Once I discovered the invisible “disorder” I had, I wrote a memoir about my life, ASPERGER’S SYNDROME: When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemonade. Soon after, Dr. Temple Grandin contacted me to request permission to include me in a book she was working on. Different….Not Less was released in March 2012, and I am Chapter 7, Aviation Writer & Nurse Anesthetist. Because I didn’t know I had Asperger’s, which is associated with intense Special Interests, I couldn’t understand why, when I became interested in something I also became obsessed with it. I’ve thus far had a very exciting life from my obsessions, ranging from jumping horses in competition over six foot high obstacles, ice dancing in shows, and most thrilling, getting a flight in an F-15 Fighter jet!
Just before my mom died in August of 2013, she made me promise to continue my vision for helping others on the Autism Spectrum. I did exactly that when I then Founded my Flying High with Autism Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
When I was in elementary school, the Principle said to my mom that I would never amount to anything. Prior to 1994 when Asperger’s got translated into English, children went undiagnosed, and were simply viewed as the weird kid who didn’t fit in. The school system had no idea what to do with me. As I’ve now come to learn as I meet others my age, this was how it was for us back then. There was no such thing as early intervention, BCBA’s to work with you, no kinds of therapy, nothing. But here’s what I can tell parents with children on the Autism Spectrum: There’s really only one way to get better at socializing and functioning in society- and that’s PRACTICE. Get out there and interact with people. Sure, you’ll make plenty of mistakes. But it’s not about falling. It’s about getting up. I feel like I truly have a gift to share with millions of people. I’ve built a bridge from my Autistic side over to the Neurotypical side. Because I’ve worked at a job that literally forced me to interact with hundreds of thousands of people over the past 26 years, and being the only Autistic person in an ocean of “normal” people, I’ve learned how to interact AND act in the typical world. I never had any therapy, interventions, no drugs, no NOTHING. Just plain old fashioned interactions with others.
It’s only 50 days until my wedding to my beloved Abraham, also on the Autism Spectrum. Yes, I’m getting married! How normal is that! My dear friend, Dr. Stephen Shore, has labeled Abraham and I as the First Couple of Autism. I feel we truly fit the bill. We represent what every parent dreams of for their Autistic child: to grow up and have a happy, productive life. We are both working full time at professional jobs- I work nine hours a day in the Operating Room doing anesthesia, five days a week, and Abraham works the same number of hours as an AutoCAD Draftsman for a large Land Surveying company. When not working, we cook together, eat together, go to baseball games, grocery shop, dine out, manage finances, maintain our household, do lawn work……everything that “normal” people do in everyday life. We work hard and play harder! We laugh and have fun like high school sweethearts! We have an incredible relationship, as we’re best friends, lovers, and soul mates.
We are on a mission to take our message of hope to people on the Autism Spectrum and their families around the world. We decided to get married at the Love & Autism Conference on September 26, 2015 as our first step of this journey.
After our wedding, the next phase of our mission shall begin, planning for a big international Autism Conference in Paris, France. In addition, we will be speaking at numerous Autism conferences and helping in every way we can to our Autism community.